2022 season preview – Oakland Athletics:  There’s a rebuild on the horizon

A photo of the Oakland Coliseum

The A’s might surprise some people this season 

It looked unlikely at times, but we are actually going to get some major league baseball in 2022 after the league and the MLBPA kicked the can down the road for a couple of years at least and came to a new collective bargaining agreement. 

If you’re an A’s fan, the MLB lockout simply delayed the inevitable, with the team losing to free agency or trading away many of last season’s best players – Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Chris Bassitt have all gone to the Mets, for example, while Matts Chapman and Olson have been traded to the Blue Jays and Braves respectively.

The thing that worries me greatly about all of these trades and free agent losses though is, in his assessment of the Olson trade and Bassitt trade, ESPN’s David Schoenfield used terms like “mass exodus” and “fire sale” and predicted the loss of the likes of Sean Murphy, Ramon Laureano, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas in the coming weeks.

On this, you’re never going to compete if you gut the bullpen of all of its experienced major league pitchers, and yet, other than Manaea and Montas, we don’t have any starting pitchers that have more than a season of major league experience. Which does rather beg the question in my eyes, why didn’t we re-sign Mike Fiers? I know he was coming off an elbow injury to his pitching arm, but surely someone of his calibre and experience still had something valuable to offer to a Major League team?

To me, the expected fire sale Schoenfield highlights also runs completely contrary to what a ballclub should be doing too; in the NBA, they talk about Championship contenders having a Big 2 or a Big 3 – Joel Embiid and James Harden at the Philadelphia 76ers, or LeBron, AD and Russell Westbrook at the Lakers (although the Lakers are not doing well this season, but non-basketball fans have actually heard of LeBron and the Lakers…). For me, a very good team could have been built around a solid bullpen and Matts Chapman and Olson, particularly given the A’s also have young players like Murphy, Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder, all of whom got better last season and promise to keep getting better this season. Alas, the hope that the A’s are going to build and make a concerted effort to compete is like a Tom Brady retirement party; it doesn’t last long.

Ultimately, this is what it means to be an A’s fan; we watch on as players like Bassitt, Chapman and Olson develop into All-Star players that win Platinum and Gold Gloves before they either get traded away or leave in free agency because John Fisher and Dave Kaval can’t afford (or simply refuse) to pay them the kind of money other teams are willing to given the calibre of their play. The Matts are a fine example of this; Olson was traded to the Braves, who promptly signed him to an eight-year extension before he’d even played for them, while Chapman has also signed a contract extension since being traded to the Blue Jays.

There are, thankfully, some bright spots; I liked what I saw from Chad Pinder towards the end of last season after he returned from injury, and hope we will continue to see that upward trajectory from him. The same is true of Seth Brown – I’ve always liked what I’ve seen of him at the plate, and I look forward to continuing to see him develop this season. The thing that has pleased me most is that we’ve re-signed Stephen Vogt, who was my favourite player before we traded him to the Brewers in 2017, and have also re-signed Jed Lowrie, who I feel has always been a very solid contributor to the A’s and a much-undervalued player in the MLB. A classic Moneyball player then. Before the lockout, we also signed Tony Kemp for the 2022 season too. I really liked Kemp last season. He was fantastic to watch, particularly on defence, and was certainly our most-improved player. I can’t help but think that, after another season of performing the way he did last year, another team will snap him up as a big-money free agent signing after this season though. 

Given how many of last season’s best players we’ve lost, the prediction among many is that the A’s will not do well this season. At the time of writing, we still have Manaea, and Montas, and Murphy, and Laureano. If we can also retain one or two more of the as-yet-unsigned free agents from last season – in particular, I’d like to see us re-sign Mitch Moreland – that to me would still look like a decent roster, albeit one that could and should be better.

Despite so much being less-than-ideal and so many people thinking otherwise, I can’t help but be optimistic and think that the A’s are going to surprise folk this season then. We may not ultimately make it, but I think we will still be in the hunt for a play-off spot towards the end of the season. The A’s have been over-achieving and surprising folk for over 20 seasons now in spite of a relatively-small payroll and an owner who clearly could invest more into the team but just doesn’t want to. Why not the same in 2022?

As for some of the issues I’ve raised in this preview (and I haven’t even really touched upon the fact it’s looking more and more likely the A’s are going to move to Las Vegas…), I think I might need to be more like the Philadelphia 76ers and Trust The Process.

Featured Image – Team Contributor’s own

Brett is the team contributor for the Oakland A’s, and can be found on Twitter @BrettWalkerPR.

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