There isn’t much wiggle room on the A’s roster, even with some extra spots afforded in this unique, 60-game season brought upon us by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We have 30 spots to work with, a number general manager David Forst seemed comfortable with setting a while back.
"It sounds like we’re going to start the season with 30," Forst said on A's Cast. "We almost know exactly what our roster looks like given everybody’s health."
That steals some drama from this summer training session, where position battles don’t carry the same drama as they might have during a spring where manager Bob Melvin had to whittle the team to 26.
The A’s have 30 spots available right away, with the list trimmed to 28 two weeks later, and 26 two weeks beyond that.
Given the short, three-week runway leading into the regular season, we added extra pitchers and quite a few capable of going two-plus innings on the original roster. A’s baseball czar Billy Beane was frank about the starters being limited going deep into games the first few times through the rotation during a recent interview on the TK Show, so options will help should things go wonky in the early going.
While we reserve the right to completely change our minds during summer camp, here’s the initial 30-man roster projection for a team that should compete for a championship:
We’ve got three catchers in the early going, which hurts depth in other places. This is baseball’s toughest position, and you can’t have enough quality there when the schedule is so compacted. Murphy should be an every-day starter and is young enough to become a lineup fixture, but three's still the right thing to do. Hein deserves a spot and should get one.
First base (1)
Olson should be a superstar. Hang a poster of him on your kid’s wall.
Second base (3)
The one primary position battle on the A’s roster is settled by having some extra spots. Barreto’s out of options, but that’s not the only reason why he should be included. He’s a good player who deserves a shot. That said, Kemp’s experience is invaluable, and he should get most starts. Machin was a savvy Rule 5 pickup who should be kept.
He should play every game and take every at bat. Oh, and he should get an extension.
Third base (1)
Melvin was convinced back in the spring that Chapman could be an MVP this season. There’s no reason that opinion should change.
This group has great talent and versatility. Pinder can play anywhere. Canha’s in a contract year and could blow up. Grossman deserves at bats, but might have to fight for them.
Designated hitter (1)
The A’s will only live up to their potential if Davis goes back to his normal self. 2019 has to be an outlier.
Naming six starters should not imply that we think the A’s will go with a six-man rotation to start the year. Five sounds right, even in a weird year. Bassitt deserves the distinction even outside the starting five, considering his value and the fact he’ll be the man to often take the A’s through middle innings early in the year. And, in a pinch and over a compacted year, he could be called into action.
Liam Hendriks (closer)
We went heavy on relief pitchers in the early going, with several capable of pairing with a starter to reach the seventh and eighth innings until starters get properly stretched out. The number will get trimmed after two weeks, when rosters go to 28 and starters can go longer. That would set up a normal shut-down at the end, with Hendricks a legitimate closer. Mengden was on the 60-day IL, but reports suggest he could be ready for this opening day. That would be a benefit.