We reach the halfway point of our preview of the AL West as we take a look at the A’s. Oakland was once again in the playoff mix in 2020, but like so many times before, were unable to reach the pinnacle. Oakland had an underwhelming offseason but they look to make strides and push for the playoffs in 2021.
Key Additions: Elvis Andrus, Jed Lowrie, Sergio Romo, Trevor Rosenthal
Key Subtractions: Tommy La Stella, Joakim Soria, Liam Hendriks, Marcus Semien
For a team on the brink of winning it all seemingly every year, the A’s don’t seem too worried about making a push. Despite them having a solid core they can build around, the team hasn’t looked to take the steps necessary to compete at the highest level. Oakland’s roster overall looks like a pretty solid one, but they might’ve been able to do more if they had spent the money. Losing Semien and Hendriks are really big blows. Marcus isn’t that good in my opinion, but he meant a lot to the team and now they have to live without him. Losing Liam will be big as he’s been one of the best relievers in the game for the past few years. Not having a stud like him to close out the game will be a major blow.
The team did salvage the offseason by making a few moves to help offset the losses they experienced. Lowrie will essentially replace La Stella who actually replaced Lowrie from the year before. Romo and Rosenthal have big shoes to fill as they will act as replacements for Soria and Hendriks. Both were key components of the A’s bullpen in 2020 and it will be hard for the new guys in town to make that same sort of impact. Andrus will replace Marcus and I don’t mind that move at all. Elvis has been an above-average shortstop for the majority of his career and should do it once again for a different team than the Rangers. All this offseason came down to for Oakland was suppressing regression brought on by the losses to the roster. I think they were able to do that, but I’m not sure they were able to find equal value.
Something to look out for with this team in 21’ is how much better their key pieces are. Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Ramón Laureano all had down seasons and they look to bounce back. Olson and Laureano both had career-worst seasons in 2020. After hitting .288 in two consecutive seasons, Ramón hit only .214 in the shortened season while slugging a career-low .366. He’s much better than that and I bet we see him return to form this year. Olson is a three true outcome kind of guy and last year was the first time we saw it not pan out for him. If all he does is return to his average state, it will be a very big leap in the right direction.
Chapman is the prize piece of the team and last year was a lost year for the All-Star caliber third baseman. He had to be shut down during the year thanks to needing hip surgery but it wasn’t before he registered career lows in batting average and on-base percentage. Chapman’s .535 SLG is the only thing that saved him from having 2020 be a downright miserable campaign. He has progressed well during rehab and all signs are pointing up for the 28-year-old as he looks to return to form in the new season. If he and the two previously mentioned cornerstones can have good years in 2021, Oakland will be in prime position to make it to the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Be on the lookout for some of the team’s young guys to solidify themselves as stars in 21’. Sean Murphy and Jesús Luzardo are both in prime positions to take a step forward and become stars. Murphy has quietly been one of the top catchers in the league since he made his debut in 2018 and he looks to keep that going. The big power he shows to go with his acumen behind the plate makes a big believer in what the backstop can do. The data I have seen makes me believe he can be more than just a .240 hitter and if that ends up being true, Murph may be one of the best catchers in baseball. Luzardo has been looked at as one of the best lefty arms in baseball for quite some time. He’s shown spurts of elite talent, but it’s not been consistent enough. With the track record he has plus his age and the determination he shows, there’s no reason to think Jesús won’t make the jump to ace at some point.
Oakland has been good but not great for far too long. They’ve never been able to make it over the hump and win it all and it’s starting to weigh on fans of the club. With the A’s not making any significant moves to improve the team this offseason I don’t think this is the year they reach the mountain top and become champions. Instead, Oakland will be a tough team that wins close to 90 games and exits the playoffs before the ALCS.