If you've read any of a number of Oakland Athletics related posts circulating the inter-webs in recent weeks, you've likely heard the topic of their payroll pop up a fair amount. The A's have a current team payroll of just under $51 million according to Spotrac, and that figure will go up by a little once the pre-arbitration players are added to the ledger. Without a big addition, we're likely looking at a payroll of roughly $65 million by season's end.
So why aren't they spending more money? Last year their payroll sat at roughly $86 million, and this winter each MLB team received a one-time $50 million payment for the league sale of BAMTech, meaning more money should be pouring into the team, right?
In an ideal world this would be the case, but if you've been a fan of the Oakland Athletics for any length of time, you know that this is not how the front office operates, and with this winter's crop of free agents, there aren't many great options to hand that money to.
With so many young players on the projected 25-man roster, each making the league minimum of $545,000, the payroll has been slashed due to the way the roster has been constructed, but the product on the team certainly has some potential. We're at that stage of the rebuild where it's nearly time to start spending money (we'll see if that happens) but for now the wise plan would be to let the kids go out and prove their worth and maybe play their way into an early extension with the club. One can dream.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the A's are going into spring training with a more limited list of invitees, currently sitting at 59, so that the brass can get a better look at the team's top prospects, presumably some of which we could see in (kelly) green and gold this year. For comparison, last year there were 72 players reporting to camp, so this year's trimmed crop of talent gives some insight as to why the A's haven't spent more this winter. They're going to let the young guys play and assess what moves need to be made over the course of the year, presumably.
Some fans have been clamoring for a center field addition, which makes sense given the uncertainty surrounding Dustin Fowler as he recovers from injury and Boog Powell being the next-best option. The free agent options are either getting up there in age (Rajai Davis, 37), don't necessarily present a huge upgrade (Cameron Maybin, Jarrod Dyson) or are Carlos Gomez. Those names aren't exactly breathing new life into the fan base and would likely be met with more questions than cheers.
With the A's going all-in on the youth movement and not expected to vie for a playoff berth, taking playing time away from a potential staple in the lineup for years to come seems like a silly idea. If Fowler struggles, he struggles, but he'll be on the field with his teammates a be a real part of the team, which isn't nothing.
The rotation could use some help, and with Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea locked into the first two spots in the rotation, Daniel Mengden reportedly penciled in as the third starter as camp begins, and Jharel Cotton possessing the tools to have a nice rebound campaign, there is some reason for optimism.
Again, they just have to get the time on the field and the free agent options that are within the A's price range (and even Jake Arrieta) come with loads of question marks. While Oakland has definitely added some intriguing pitchers in recent years (Scott Kazmir, Rich Hill), they could be had on inexpensive short-term deals. Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are looking for relatively lucrative three-plus year deals. That's just not in the team's plans. If they were to sign another Hill or Kazmir type, this year's version could be Clay Buchholtz, who had shoulder surgery in April of last year and was coming off of a 2016 campaign that saw him put up an ERA just over five. A one-year deal wouldn't be a terrible idea, and if he pitches well he could become trade bait at the deadline (which could lead to an A.J. Put call-up).
The A's could use an upgrade behind the dish, but reports suggest that the club is firmly behind Bruce Maxwell, legal troubles and all. Jonathan Lucroy is still available, but his receiving stats have dwindled and his offensive surge in the second half could have been aided by a move to the Mile High city. He also doesn't strike me as the kind of guy that would welcome a deal with the A's.
Outside of a top-of-the-market signing like J.D. Martinez (read this), there isn't really a lot of room on the roster, especially for a marginal upgrade. With the young guys taking over, that should leave plenty of room on the A's payroll for the next few years if they do happen to take a dip in the free agent pool - or sign some of those younger players to an extension.
It's not that the Oakland Athletics are continuing their notoriously frugal ways, it's just that their main roster components just don't have a ton of big-league service time. I see why the figure is so low, but at the same time as a fan you'd hope that they'd invest just a little more into the club. It just doesn't necessarily make sense to do so at the moment. As we've seen this winter, youth is the new coin of the land, and the A's are rich in that regard.
Featured Image: 2017 Topps Gypsy Queen