Oakland’s surprising success in 2018 came despite its rotation devastation, but repeating such a high-wire act would be next to impossible.
So the A’s quest going into the winter meetings, which open Monday in Las Vegas, is to add starting pitching — and lots of it. After non-tendering Mike Fiers on Nov. 30, the team returns zero starters from its end-of-season rotation and only one healthy semi-regular starter, Daniel Mengden.
Oakland also doesn’t have a primary catcher; backup Josh Phegley is back, but the A’s are on the lookout for a veteran on a one-year deal, with young catcher Sean Murphy waiting in the wings. The team is focused on bringing back Jonathan Lucroy on a one-year deal, according to sources, but it’s unclear if he’s interested in anything less than two years, or a year and an option.
Starters are the main thrust, though, even with top prospect Jesus Luzardo considered an option coming out of the spring. Luzardo is 21 and has only four games at Triple A, so the A’s will be cautious — if there’s the slightest chance he’s not ready for the big leagues, he’ll get at least a little more time in the minors. So the A’s really need to add three or four starters, minimum.
Given the A’s strong young core and promising future, based on last season’s wild-card playoff appearance, the team has no wish to deal any of its top prospects, especially Luzardo or Murphy. Free agency will be the team’s primary market, and anyone with a decent track record and reasonable salary demands will be a possibility.