Thrifty spending has been a hallmark of the A’s franchise throughout the 21st century.
Billy Beane and the front office have been tasked with making a competitive team despite usually having one of the league’s lowest payrolls. Don’t expect much to change this offseason, especially given the revenue shortfall during the 60-game, fan-free 2020 MLB season.
The A’s have discussed their desire to add a left-handed hitting outfielder to the fold and could find an unorthodox, bargain option in third baseman Jake Lamb.
Before Lamb's 2020 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cameron Cox of 12News in Phoenix asked if he’d be open to playing outfield.
“I just want to win,” Lamb said. “Wherever I can go and we win, that’s all I want to do.”
That’s a pretty vanilla answer from Lamb in front of a camera, but at least he seemed open to the idea.
"I'm one of those guys who's going to be competing," Lamb said with a laugh. "In the infield, whether it's first, third, wherever. I'll play left, I'll play right, I'll catch, I'll pitch."
Lamb has played almost exclusively at third base throughout his career, save for some spare days at first base and designated hitter. He’s never played a MLB inning in the outfield, but it could make sense for him at this point in his career. He has the athletic ability to handle left field and might need to make himself more versatile to find a suitor this offseason as a free agent.
He struggled mightily with the Diamondbacks to begin the 2020 campaign, slashing just .116/.240/.140 with just one extra-base hit -- a double -- in 43 at-bats before being designated for assignment. But Lamb may have resurrected his career after signing with Oakland to fill in for the injured Matt Chapman, as he posted a .267/.327/.556 slash line with three homers and nine RBIs in 13 games with the A’s.
It’s a small sample size, but Lamb’s time in Oakland unlocked the power potential he showed earlier in his career. Lamb averaged 30 homers and 98 RBIs while slashing .248/.345/.498 during the 2016-17 seasons. He made the All-Star team in 2017 but had a steep drop in production until last season’s spike with the A’s.
Lamb would also give the team some insurance at third base for Chapman, who was limited to 37 games last year and underwent hip surgery in September. The idea of Lamb playing outfield is pure speculation, but his price tag would probably be within Oakland’s budget. A's manager Bob Melvin likes to play matchups, and it’s conceivable to see something of a platoon with right-handed hitting Mark Canha and Lamb in left field.
Unfortunately for Lamb, and his bank account, his two biggest seasons came at the end of his rookie deal. He agreed to contracts worth a total of $14.6 million in 2018-20 during his arbitration years, topping out with last year’s deal that would have been worth $5.5 million in a 162-game season.
Lamb likely won’t be able to command the same price tag this winter given his past three seasons. But he looked like he found his rhythm at the plate in Oakland, and returning on a one-year deal to prove his skills for a nice payday in 2022 would make sense for both sides.