By Nick Piecoro, azcentral sports
For the first 17 years of Billy Beane’s tenure as general manager, the Oakland Athletics managed not to lose 90 games. But after a 93-loss 2016, they’ve surpassed that mark two years in a row.
It’s possible 2017 won’t be a whole lot better, but the Athletics are at least hoping elements of their future core begin to coalesce this season.
The A’s can see the makings of a solid future rotation, and it’s possible that by the end of the year their top position-player prospects will have graduated to the majors and, they hope, begun to establish themselves.
Despite a miserable 2016, right-hander Sonny Gray is the A’s most recognizable name – and, potentially, their most valuable asset.
The A’s will be hoping for a rebound from Gray, who posted a 5.69 ERA in 22 starts and spent most of the final two months of the season on the disabled list with a right forearm strain.
If Gray bounces back – and a handful of other things go their way – the Athletics could surprise. But it seems just as likely a rebound for Gray would lead to a potential trade for the still-retooling A’s.
Rookie Ryon Healy was one of the A’s bright spots in 2016, but the offseason signing of Trevor Plouffe likely means Healy’s time at third base is over.
That seems to create questions at first base. Do the A’s stick with the light-hitting but defensively sound Yonder Alonso? Or would they rather not relegate Healy to designated hitter and instead opt for him to get the majority of the time at first base?
After Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman took steps toward solidifying themselves in the rotation last year, the A’s have two more pitchers who could do the same in 2017.
Right-handers Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas, both of whom were acquired in last year’s Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade with the Dodgers, are likely to get extended big-league looks this season. Cotton already impressed the A’s last year, posting a 2.15 ERA in five starts late in the season.
Manager: Bob Melvin.
Last season’s record: 69-93.
Big changes: Added: OF Matt Joyce, OF Rajai Davis, 3B Trevor Plouffe, RHP Santiago Casilla. Subtracted: 3B Danny Valencia, DH Billy Butler.