As the Oakland A’s look to continue the momentum that was a pleasantly surprising 97-win campaign last season, they are proving and establishing themselves as a team that should never be counted out. As such, we will treat the A’s as a potential playoff contender, as their main competition for the second wild card spot in the American League appear to be the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels.
In order to maximize their potential however, the A’s have a couple glaring holes in their roster that they need to address. Since the A’s aren’t known to be a team that makes big splashes in free agency, here we will examine a couple of low-cost additions that could help the A’s in their upcoming 2019 season.
Evan Gattis (C/DH)
Despite Evan Gattis’ lower-than-usual production with the Houston Astros last year, his bat is still a major upgrade over what the A’s had and have. As it stands, the starting catcher role would go to Josh Phegley, whose career as a backup catcher is less than impressive, slashing a mere .223/.264/.372 over the past six seasons. After Phegley, the A’s best option would be Chris Herrmann who the A’s signed this offseason in hopes that he will have a breakout season. Since Herrmann’s career offensive numbers are similar to that of Phegley’s, slashing .205/.282/.351, the catcher situation with the A’s doesn’t look pretty.
In 2018, Oakland A’s catchers combined for an OPS of .606, ranking them 27th among the 30 teams across MLB, and they combined to hit an MLB-low seven home runs. In contrast, Gattis in his down-season with the Astros slugged 25 home runs in only 407 at-bats while slashing for a line of .226/.284/.452. While these aren’t the numbers you want from a catcher in a playoff contending team, he spent the large part of his time as a designated hitter last year, which can be an explanation for his decrease in production. For him to be an upgrade over last year’s catchers, all Gattis has to do is stay as consistent as he’s been.
Clay Buchholz (RHP)
Apart from the A’s weakness at the catching slot, another apparent weakness that the A’s have attempted to address is the starting rotation. With Sean Manaea down for a large part of the first half of the season, the A’s acquired Marco Estrada, but the back end of the rotation could still use some help. Although it’s expected that the A’s might call up top prospects like Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, it never hurts to have rotation depth. Clay Buchholz, despite his history of injuries, has proven to be a productive and potential top-of-the-line starter when healthy. In 16 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, Buchholz worked 98.1 innings, posting an ERA of 2.01 and a magnificent WHIP of 1.04 while striking out 81 and walking only 22.
Despite his stellar performance between injuries, Buchholz asking price shouldn’t be over-the-top for the A’s to be able to afford given his history of inconsistency. Therefore, signing Buchholz would be an ideal signing for the A’s as they love to bargain with low-cost, medium-risk, and high-reward type of players.