You know baseball is getting close when the clocks go forward one hour in the UK.
The hour less of sleep this morning is easily forgiven with lazy Spring Training games to listen to or watch in the British evening. There’s something very relaxing about spending an hour or so listening to Ken and Vince, or Vince’s son Dom, at the end of a long work day.
The A’s have just 10 Spring Training games left before the real action gets going. This year, more than most, it’s difficult to know quite how close we are to knowing what our Opening Day roster will look like.
Putting the band back together
For all of the cost-cutting going on, it always seemed likely that the A’s would make some veteran additions to fill out the roster and bring some more experience into the camp.
I wrote about Stephen Vogt’s return on Thursday and yesterday he was joined by Jed Lowrie signing another one-year contract with the team.
Lowrie was a very pleasant surprise last season after the A’s took a chance on bringing him back after two lost seasons with the New York Mets. His performances did tail off as the year wore on, but he still gave us more than even the most optimistic fan would have projected when he signed a Minor League deal with the club.
Mark Kotsay is going to need to manage his workload so that he can stay productive; however, it’s a low-risk situation so very worthwhile trying to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time.
Pushing up the payroll!
Stephen Vogt’s contract is worth $850k, with another $100k possible if he’s on the roster for more than 60 days. Jed’s deal is likely to be in the similar price range, so we are not exactly looking at A’s owner John Fisher diverting from his cost-cutting course.
The A’s projected Opening Day payroll sits at $52.6M, 27th out of the 30 teams. That figure includes the salaries agreed with Sean Manaea ($9.75M), Frankie Montas ($5.025M), Lou Trivino ($3M) and Ramón Laureano ($2.45M) ahead of the arbitration deadline this past week.
It’s all gone a bit quiet on the Manaea/Montas trade-away rumours recently, although that may in part have been due to the arbitration deadline getting closer and it being easier all round for the A’s to agree contract terms first. I still think it’s possible Frankie will be a mid-season trade chip, given that he has two years left under contract rather than Manaea’s one, but the coming week will probably give us an answer.
The main question then will be if the current $30M reduction in payroll from last year is what Fisher has set for the Front Office or if any salary commitment traded away will be added to the savings pot?
This looks like being our starting rotation as things stand, with James Kaprielian starting the season on the Injured List:
Whilst it’s dangerous to put limits on Fisher’s cheapness, you have to assume that some of the money saved if/when Manaea and/or Montas are traded will be spent on a veteran free agent starter in the $2M-$3M range.
The Vogt-Lowrie comeback immediately makes me think of a player like Brett Anderson also making another return. He signed a one-year, $2.5M contract with the Brewers last season and that’s the sort of price range at which the Front Office would be shopping.
As with the other recent returnees, I do think there’s real value in having some experienced players on the roster, irrespective of how much their direct contributions will change the win-loss column.
The success of this season on the field will come from seeing a bunch of players taking a step forward, whether that’s the likes of Irvin, Kap and Seth Brown adding to their experience or the likes of Daulton Jefferies, Kevin Smith and Nick Allen really getting their Big League careers going. Those guys will greatly benefit from having some experienced heads around them.
New podcast episode now available
On Tuesday we recorded our first podcast since the MLB lock-out came to an end. That meant we had to tackle the less-than cheery topic of A’s players being traded away, but we find plenty to have a chuckle about in any case. In this episode, Dom and I were joined by our good friend Jay from the New York A’s.
You can find the podcast at all the usual platforms, with an eleven minute excerpt also available on our YouTube channel. This version allows you to enjoy the full effect of Jay trying to dress up as Dom!