The Red Sox and A’s are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, and the former might have the chance to take advantage of the latter’s developing plight this winter.
Oakland on Thursday let manager Bob Melvin walk away, as the well-respected veteran skipper reportedly agreed to take the San Diego Padres’ managerial job. Adding Melvin, one of the best managers in baseball, reinforces the Pads’ standing as a good team ready to become a great one.
The A’s, meanwhile, are once again staring at another rebuild of sorts.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale on Thursday connected the dots between Oakland letting Melvin and his $4 million salary walk amid an effort and desire to cut payroll. That’s nothing new for the A’s, of course, and given the financial horizon, it stands to reason there could be more economic bloodletting on the field this winter.
That’s where the Red Sox could come in. Boston is seemingly ahead of schedule in its own rebuild. A few days after coming within two games of the World Series, Red Sox management recommitted to its commitment to building long-term sustainability while also trying to improve. Spending wildly in free agency might not check those boxes for Chaim Bloom and the baseball operations department, but picking at the scraps from yet another Oakland firesale certainly could.
The A’s have a handful of very good young players set to get raises in arbitration this winter, adjustments that could make for an uncomfortable financial situation for the Bay Area penny-pinchers. Compounding Oakland’s issues is a toiling farm system. The A’s prospect pool ranks 28th in baseball, per MLB.com. Bloom has done extremely well in his remodeling of the Boston farm system (MLB.com ranked them 12th), and it could make sense to cash in a chip or two for a major league player who could improve the club and be under team control.
Here are a few A’s up for arbitration that might make sense for Boston (MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections for 2022 in parentheses).
1B Matt Olson ($12 million): This one feels unlikely, and it probably depends on what the Red Sox really think of prospect Triston Casas. There’s no denying first base is an area of need; Sox first baseman ranked 21st in baseball in 2021 by WAR (Fangraphs), and Olson was a 5-win player, who hit 39 home runs for Oakland.
SP Sean Manaea ($10.2 million): He’s a solid, dependable left-handed starter, who just started 32 games for Oakland. It’s a bit of an adventure at times for Manaea, but when he gets locked in, he’s nearly unhittable — as the Red Sox already know.
SP Chris Bassitt ($8.8 million): Bassitt will be a free agent after 2022, so it would be a rental without any sort of extension. If he pitches like he did this season, though, it might be worth a look. The 32-year-old was a first-time All-Star in 2021, finishing the year with a 12-4 record to go along with a 3.15 ERA and 1.055 WHIP.
SP Frankie Montas ($5.2 million): The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham floated this idea, too, regarding a reunion with the former Sox farmhand who was dealt as part of the 2013 trade that landed Jake Peavy. Montas, who is signed through 2023, proved durable in 2021 by making 32 starts for Melvin. He struck out 10 batters per nine innings to go along with a 121 ERA+. He flashed borderline dominance in 2019 with a 2.63 ERA with a career-best 4.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Just reaching his floor while making 30 starts would make him a perfect middle-rotation option — especially if Eduardo Rodriguez walks.
2B/OF Tony Kemp ($2.2 million): Kemp, who improved his plate discipline and saw his productivity increase in 2021, feels like the kind of low-risk, high-versatility player Bloom might covet. The soon-to-be 30-year-old played the majority of his games at second base, and his left-handed bat seemingly makes him a strong platoon candidate alongside Christian Arroyo. He actually has played more outfield than second base for his career, so he’d be an asset for an organization like Boston that adores position versatility.
One name that could also be on the list is Matt Chapman, who would represent a defensive upgrade at third base, should Boston get bold and move Rafael Devers to first. That doesn’t seem like it’s on the table, but it sure would be interesting.