Out With The Old, In With The New
There are some new faces in Oakland’s Spring Training camp to open up the 2021 season
After winning 97 games in 2018 and 2019, the Oakland Athletics continued their solid play in a COVID-19 shortened season, making the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
For the past three seasons, the A’s have become a winning team thanks to a revitalized lineup and deep bullpen.
This offseason, those strongpoints saw key contributors depart, most notably former MVP candidate shortstop Marcus Semien (Toronto Blue Jays) and All-Star closer Liam Hendriks (Chicago White Sox).
How will the A’s fill those gaps in their lineups and bullpen?
Let’s take a look at who is in and who is out for the 2021 Oakland Athletics:
Who is out?
Marcus Semien (SS) – Toronto Blue Jays – one year, $18 million
A Bay Area native, Semien signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason after negotiations with Oakland hit a roadblock.
It was rumored that the deal offered to Semien by the A’s was a very strange one–with the 30 year-old receiving a one-year, $12.5 million deal with $10 million deferred.
That deferral would include ten one-year installments of $1 million, with Semien being paid $2.5 million in 2021.
Alas, Semien is gone after six seasons as the Athletics shortstop.
From 2015-2020 in Oakland, Semien racked up 758 hits, 107 home runs and 345 RBI while batting .256 over 773 games.
Liam Hendriks (RP) – Chicago White Sox – three years, $54 million
Arguably the best closer in the game today, the A’s will miss the presence of Hendriks in their bullpen this season.
The 2019 All-Star posted a 1.97 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 161 strikeouts over 110.1 innings pitched during the 2019-2020 seasons.
Hendriks capitalized on his free-agency opportunity, inking a massive deal with a White Sox team that is loaded with young talent.
Robbie Grossman (LF) – Detroit Tigers – two years, $10 million
The Athletics outfield also took a hit this offseason, with Robbie Grossman departing for a multi-year opportunity in Detroit.
Grossman, a Gold Glove finalist in 2019, played a strong outfield for the A’s while also providing solid offense during his two seasons in green and gold. Over 138 games in 2019, Grossman doubled 21 times and walked 59 times.
In 2020, Grossman’s 826 OPS led all A’s hitters during the 60-game shortened season.
Tommy La Stella (2B) – San Francisco Giants – three years, $18 million
Although La Stella only played in 27 games for the A’s, his impact on the 2020 playoff run was noteworthy.
After being acquired in a midseason trade from the Los Angeles Angels, La Stella batted .289 with 11 RBI and 28 hits over 27 appearances for Oakland, while also providing strong defense at the second third base spots.
With Matt Chapman missing the end of the season due to hip surgery, La Stella filled in and helped lead the A’s to an American League Division Series berth.
Khris Davis (DH) – Texas Rangers – Traded for Elvis Andrus (SS)
The ‘Khrush’ era is over.
On February 6th, Khris Davis was traded to the Texas Rangers in return for shortstop Elvis Andrus and prospects.
The move was needed on both sides, with Davis’ production dramatically having dipped after the 2018 season.
Over 163 appearances in 2019 and 2020, Davis hit .217 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI while striking out 172 times. That is a significant drop from his performance during the 2016-18 seasons, where he hit over 40 home runs and drove in over 100 runs in each of those seasons.
With Davis in Texas and Andrus in Oakland, both teams are hoping that a change is scenery can provide a boost to both of these former All-Star caliber players.
Who is in?
Elvis Andrus (SS)
As previously mentioned, the A’s acquired two-time All-Star Elvis Andrus in exchange for Khris Davis in a move that will fill the void left behind by Marcus Semien.
Andrus, 32, is under contract through the 2022 season and has a player option for 2023 worth $15 million.
Texas sent Oakland $14 million in the deal as well, which would mostly cover the 2023 player option if Andrus chooses to exercise the final year of his deal (which is very likely).
What Oakland is getting in Andrus is a solid defensive shortstop with above-average contact ability and plenty of speed.
Over the course of his 12-year career, Andrus has hit .274 with 1,743 hits and 305 stolen bases over 1,652 games.
In 2019, the veteran shortstop hit .275 with 12 home runs and 75 RBI while swiping 31 stolen bases.
Trevor Rosenthal (RP)
In a move that stunned many, Oakland inked All-Star closer Trevor Rosenthal to a one-year, $11 million deal with contract deferrals.
Rosenthal, 30, will make $3 million in 2021 and 2022 before being paid $5 million in 2021. Oakland does not like to fork out big contracts, which was telling in the way they handled business this offseaon.
The right-hander was a force in 2020, striking out 38 batters over 23.2 innings for the San Diego Padres while picking up 11 saves in 12 opportunities.
In 2020, Rosenthal’s 41.8 K% was among the top 1% of all Major League pitchers.
Oakland will utilize Rosenthal in the closer role behind the likes of Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit, Sergio Romo and Lou Trivino.
Mitch Moreland – DH/1B
With Khris Davis gone and the designated hitter spot open, the Athletics brought in former All-Star and Gold Glover Mitch Moreland to fill the role.
Moreland, 35, is an 11-year veteran that will make $2.25 million with the A’s this season.
The 2018 World Series champion had a very strong 2020, where he hit .265 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI over 42 games with the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres.
Moreland held a 14.4% barrel rate in 2020, which placed him in the top nine percent of all MLB hitters.
The fact that Moreland can play a solid first base brings even more value to an A’s team that will likely want to give two-time Gold Glove Award winner Matt Olson days off every once in a while.
With the slugging first baseman in the fold, the possible opening day lineup for the A’s looks like it could cause some damage in the AL West.
Jed Lowrie – 2B
After two injury plagued seasons with the New York Mets, longtime Oakland A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie is back in Spring Training camp as a non-roster invite.
From 2013-2014 and 2016-2018, Lowrie played in 687 games for Oakland, batting .271 with 60 home runs and 320 RBI over those five seasons.
Lowrie had the best season of his career in 2018 with Oakland, posting career-high’s in home runs (23), RBI (99) and walks (78) while batting .267 over 157 games.
Following the 2018 season, Lowrie signed a two-year deal with the Mets.
After suffering a knee injury, Lowrie only appeared in nine games for New York in 2019. Due to ongoing issues with his knee, the 36-year-old did not appear in any games during the 2020 season.
Lowrie arrives in A’s camp looking to make the roster, while also challenging the likes of Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder for the starting second basemen job.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
Ramon Laureano – CF
Mark Canha – LF
Matt Chapman – 3B
Matt Olson – 1B
Sean Murphy – C
Mitch Moreland – DH
Stephen Piscotty – RF
Elvis Andrus – SS
Chad Pinder/Tony Kemp/Jed Lowrie – 2B