1- Acquire more arms
The 2019 A’s rotation already has a lot to overcome with Paul Blackburn, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Gossett, Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, A.J. Puk, and Andrew Triggs all shelved for various durations of 2018 - and potentially into 2019, and beyond.
Jesus Luzardo is highly touted at the AAA level, and primed to join Oakland at some point next season - but he alone is obviously not the entire answer. The A’s have a competitive team via bats and gloves, but need to build a supporting rotation of arms in order to keep current pace.
2- Keep KD
Khris Davis is arbitration eligible for 2019 and becomes a free agent in 2020. The A’s would be wise to lock down their biggest offensive threat for those years, and beyond.
He is a proven 40-plus home run hitter in his time with the A's, and has somehow managed a .247 batting average across four consecutive seasons. Davis has already stated his desire to stay with the team, and fits their need for an everyday DH perfectly.
With Davis, it’s equally about his direct contributions to the lineup, but also his presence. Take him out, and the pitches that guys like Matt Chapman and Matt Olson see will be different. Retaining Davis would also send a huge message to the fans how serious the franchise is about keeping star players in town.
3- Lock up Lucroy
What’s amazing is that the A’s acquired Jonathan Lucroy only 17 days before the 2018 season started. Looking back, where would this team have been without him?
The veteran presence, the calming effect on a transitional rotation and bullpen - it’s clear he was one of the most important additions of this season. The A’s would be wise to bring the 32-year-old back into the fold for multiple seasons, as his durability and value was proven immediately and regularly during 2018.
4- Melvin, Beane & Forst
Bob, Billy and David are all signed through 2019. But in baseball, nobody operates comfortably on a contract year.
I’m not here to play top decision-maker for the A’s, but what’s clear are two things -- you have known commodities in a front office that consistently procures high volumes of top talent, and you have a field manager who puts together puzzle pieces with the best of them.
Those are two slices of the pie most major league clubs can’t even claim to have. The team intends to operate differently moving forward with the phasing out of MLB’s luxury tax benefits. But as it relates to finding the right players, and keeping them happy - those aspects of baseball business won’t be changing much soon. Which is why it seems favorable to let Melvin, Beane and Forst see through the current team they began building years ago.
5- Jed or Franklin?
Next season brings a fork in the road for the A’s, Jed Lowrie, and Frankin Barreto.
Entering this past season, not many thought Jed would last beyond the trade deadline in Oakland. But a career performance, combined with continued leadership, kept Lowrie on this team and Barreto still waiting for an everyday opportunity at second base.
I was moved by Jed’s performance and personally believe he has more of the same in store. Simultaneously, I also realize Barreto was procured for a reason and at 23 years old next season, could finally be coming into his readiness at the major league level.
The A’s can’t afford to have him on the back burner many more years without giving Barreto the proper chance. So a difficult decision remains, but in this rare case, it’s one that can’t go very wrong.
6- Announce the new ballpark
Full disclosure, this comes from the personal wish-list.
The A’s were so busy on the baseball field during 2018, most of us somewhat took our eye off the ball in regards to the new stadium. Well, all of us except Dave Kaval. I know firsthand how hard the team President has been working publicly, and behind the scenes to keep the process moving for a new stadium in Oakland.
Imagine building off the momentum of this season, by announcing new stadium plans, including renderings before 2019. It would be a best-case business timing scenario for the franchise. The primary reservation for such an announcement, is what we we remember from December of last year, where plans at the Peralta site unexpectedly fell through.
Certainly the A’s will be extra cautious this time around of what becomes public, before it can be possible. But just imagine the attitudes around this team and its future, if there’s a countdown on the Coliseum before next season even begins.