Spring Training Week 3

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Weekly Wrap Up

Sean Manaea pitching against the Athletics (Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres)

With Opening Day just two days away, the final cuts to MLB rosters are being made. But before we get into the projected final roster for the Oakland Athletics, lets take a look at what else happened during this final week of Spring Training.

Sean Manaea and Aaron Holiday for Adrian Martinez and Euribiel Angeles

They finally did it. Sean Manaea has been traded away. For the longest time Manaea has been one of the best prospects in baseball and has maintained a consistent position in the Athletics’ rotation since 2016. Ever the inconsistent pitcher, you never knew whether you were going to get the pitcher who twice tied for the MLB lead in shutouts (2021 and 2018) or a bottom of the rotation starter. His strikeout ability was certainly on the top end for starters, throwing a 9.7 K/9 in 2021. Overall, with many of the A’s potential starters going down to injury, a high-end pitcher will definitely be missed.

There is not much to say about the other part of the Athletics’ side of the deal. Aaron Holiday is a 13th round relief prospect selected by the Athletics in the 2021 Amateur Draft. He has only pitched 5.2 innings across 3 appearances in Rookie League, so it is difficult to say how much the A’s will regret letting him go. The one thing that seems to be consistent across his experience is his ability to strike batters out, consistently getting over a 12.0 K/9 ratio. He did experience some significant control issues in his last year with Old Dominion, throwing a 10.3 BB/9, but even then, his strikeout upside remained consistent.

One of the main prizes that the A’s received in the deal was starting pitching prospect Adrian Martinez. Martinez is an interesting case, as he has not had a very consistent minor league career. The 25-year-old was originally signed by the Padres to a minor league contract back in 2015. It wasn’t until 2019 when he had his first real breakout, throwing a 3.36 ERA in Single-A. After missing the 2020 season to COVID, he would continue to pitch well in Double-A in 2021, throwing a 2.34 ERA and being named an organization All-Star. Martinez seems to mostly rely on his control while pitching, as his walk rate stood at an impressive 2.7 BB/9 in Double-A in 2021, though he still has enough stuff to strike batters out, as his corresponding 9.3 K/9 would suggest.

One of the more interesting pieces in this trade is 19-year-old infield prospect Euribiel Angeles. Another Amateur Free Agent signing by the Padres, Angeles has quickly become a very promising prospect. After hitting well in the Dominican Summer League in 2019 and, once again, missing 2020 due to COVID, Angeles would start 2021 in Single-A. Euribiel would immediately show incredible potential in Single-A, hitting a slash of .343/.397/.461, stealing 19 bases on 26 tries, and being named an organization All- Star. While this is still the lower part of the minors and he did slow down after getting called up to High-A, hitting a .264/.369/.361 slash, his high on-base percentage looks very promising if some power can come through with his development.

Overall, the Sean Manaea trade seems to be filled with inconsistency, with the Athletics trading away an inconsistent player and unproven prospect for two players who haven’t shown consistent development. While both Martinez and Angeles have the potential to be great pickups, it is hard to say whether or not the Athletics will regret giving up pieces like Manaea and Holiday, even if they were trying to shed salary.

Another Roadblock in Plans for a New Stadium

In amidst the previously mentioned uncertainty with the upcoming Howard Terminal Stadium Plan vote, the Athletics are now facing a lawsuit. This lawsuit centers around local stakeholders claiming that the environmental impact report for the plan inadequately showed the adverse impacts of the redevelopment plan. In a typical response to any kind of impediment to a new stadium, A’s President Dave Kaval once again threatened to move the team to Las Vegas and is planning on looking at optimal sites for a stadium in the city in 4-6 weeks. It unfortunately seems very likely now that the A’s will move to another location, most likely Las Vegas, and that Oakland will once again lose a sports franchise to another city.

Payroll Has Been Obliterated

A brief look at the Athletics’ on-field payroll for this season brings even more dread to a fanbase that was already suffering from the sale of its best players. After the Sean Manaea trade, which freed up $10 million in payroll, the Athletics are sitting anywhere from $44 million to $33 million.

To give perspective on how low that number is, the Oakland Athletics had the highest payroll in the MLB in 1991, which was also $33 million. Simply accounting for general inflation, not even the inflation of MLB salaries, means that an equivalent to this would be about $68 million. This would currently be about the 22nd highest in the league. The A’s also join the elite company of the Cleveland Guardians, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Baltimore Orioles as teams who are paying their MLB roster less than Max Scherzer.

Potential Opening Day Roster for 2022

With this week’s events out of the way, we can finally look at the potential Opening Day roster for the Oakland Athletics.

Beginning with starting pitching, there are still a few familiar faces in the rotation even with the departure of Manaea and Bassitt. Frankie Montas returns to the rotation and looks to be the ace for the upcoming season. He will be backed up by returnees Cole Irvin, who had a solid if not very impressive first full season as a starter, Daulton Jeffries, and Paul Blackburn, who both spent most of 2021 being mediocre in Triple-A. With long-term injuries to potential starters Brent Honeywell and James Kaprielian, the A’s will more than likely go with A.J. Puk or Adam Oller for the  5th starter role, with the other being a reliever.

Speaking of relieving, the A’s bullpen is getting a few fresh faces as well. Lou Trivino will continue as the A’s high-leverage reliever, with Domingo Acevedo, Sam Moll, and A.J. Puk (possibly) taking up greater rolls as the few returnees from 2021. The rest of the bullpen will be filled up by free agent signings Justin Grimm, Dany Jimenez, and Jacob Lemoine, all of which are signed to minor league contracts, and minor league call ups and trade acquisitions in Zach Jackson and Kirby Snead. Overall, this bullpen is very unproven, outside of Trivino, but I have pretty good expectations from Snead, Jimenez, Lemoine, and Jackson, as they all seem to have a good amount of upside.

Starting in the infield the A’s get a bit thinner. Sean Murphy penciled in to start, but unproven hitting ability could lead to a usurpation from veteran Stephen Vogt or another poor-hitting catcher in Austin Allen. The majority of the infield will be governed by Tony Kemp in the middle alongside Elvis Andrus, being backed up by potentially Jed Lowrie, with Kevin Smith and Sheldon Neuse taking the hot corner. First base is still a huge vacancy for the team, with potential suitors being Neuse and Smith, a corner outfielder like Seth Brown, or even Lowrie! Infield is definitely the thinnest position group, but still has some potential to surprise.

Finally, the outfield core of the Oakland Athletics probably sees the most players returning. With Ramon Laureano still suspended, Cristian Pache will take over and dazzle in CF while hitting below the Mendoza line at the plate. Chad Pinder, Seth Brown, and Stephen Piscotty will compete for the starting corner outfield spots and Triple-A superstar CF Skye Bolt will most likely start 2022 on the bench. The outfield doesn’t look to outstanding for the A’s until Laureano returns and even then, the organization is stuck with the somewhat underperforming Pinder, Piscotty, and Brown or unproven Pache and Bolt in the other two spots.

Overall, the A’s will probably struggle this season, with their pitching staff likely taking a smaller step back than their hitting. For the first time in a few years, the Oakland Athletics will not be in the playoff hunt, unless there is some serious progression from unproven talents under a rookie manager. In short, it doesn’t look like a good year to bet on the Athletics’ traditional success with less.

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Micah Dahlvig

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