With MLB free agency underway, the notoriously tight-fisted Oakland Athletics are clearly in the midst of a contention window. With three consecutive playoff appearances, including a division title in an abridged 2020 season, the East Bay’s team has shown the roster is just a couple of pieces away from getting over the hump and winning the franchise’s first title since 1989.
While every team would benefit from adding the likes of Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu and JT Realmuto, the heralded trio looks to be out of Oakland’s price range and, in Realmuto’s case, at a position that the A’s will have covered for years.
There are a few other intriguing targets for Oakland this offseason, however, that could help move the needle closer to a long-awaited title in 2021.
Michael Brantley: A thorn in the A’s side over the last two years with the Houston Astros, Brantley has finally stayed healthy for a prolonged stretch and continued to hit to all fields, posting a .309 average over two years in Houston. The biggest concerns surrounding Brantley will likely be contract length, as the 33-year-old may be searching for a long-term deal for his last major payday.
Ha-seong Kim: By far the most enticing name on the international free agent market and a logical replacement for Marcus Semien, Kim is coming over from Korea and will carry a $7.625 million posting fee to the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes. While American scouts couldn’t venture overseas to see the 25-year-old Kim in 2020, ESPN carried more than 100 KBO games, and he posted a remarkable .946 OPS with 30 homers and 21 stolen bases. Oakland’s last international signing, Hiro Nakajima, was a flop, but that shouldn’t deter the A’s from pursuing Kim.
German Marquez: Ex-Colorado Rockies have a habit of thriving after leaving the Mile High City, and if the A’s could swing a trade for Marquez, he would likely be no different. A strikeout machine who’s fanned over a batter per inning across his first five seasons and has posted a 3.51 ERA away from Coors Field, Marquez could be a hot commodity to round out a contending rotation if the Rockies look to rebuild. He’s under contract for three years with a team option for 2024. Should Colorado not want to part ways with the 25-year-old Venezuelan, perhaps the A’s could kick the tires on rotation mates Jon Gray or Antonio Senzatela. Gray was certainly scouted heavily by the A’s during his days at the University of Oklahoma, as Oakland drafted his teammate Dillon Overton, while Senzatela is a ground ball machine who has excelled in three starts against the Athletics over the last three seasons.
David Peralta: With Robbie Grossman entering free agency and Stephen Piscotty underperforming, corner outfield will have to be a priority for the A’s this offseason. The Arizona outfielder has been a logical fit for years, and even at age 33, he remains productive. He hit 29 doubles in just 99 games during an injury-riddled 2019, and as a career .291 hitter, he’d fit a hole in the top of the order left by Jed Lowrie and the possible departure of Marcus Semien.
Garrett Richards: When he can actually stay on the field, Richards has been an excellent pitcher, and injuries have forced him to expand his versatility. A starter who could not only fill the hole left by Mike Fiers but serve as a significant upgrade, the hard-throwing right-hander also pitched in relief for San Diego in 2020, making him valuable for postseason appearances, whether that’s as a swingman going for two innings or in a setup role. A longtime member of the Los Angeles Angels before his brief Padres stint, signing Richards would also spare the A’s the struggles of facing him, as he’s always been masterful when pitching in Oakland. On September 4, he scattered just four hits and four walks over seven innings in a 7-0 Padres win.
Dan Straily: The A’s are extremely familiar with Straily, who they drafted and primed until a 2014 trade to the Chicago Cubs. He pitched for the KBO’s Lotte Giants in 2020 after a nightmarish 2019 and regained his slider, becoming the ninth pitcher in KBO history to post 200 strikeouts in a season. The Oregon native also posted just a 2.50 ERA and, judging by his comments on his podcast, “The Journeyman,” he still holds the A’s organization in high regard. Miles Mikolas was a revelation for the St. Louis Cardinals after returning for Korea, and Straily could fit the same mold.
Tony Watson: After three years with the San Francisco Giants, Watson is on the market and could provide a veteran presence in what will likely be a very young bullpen. With Liam Hendriks expected to leave this offseason, Lou Trivino may suddenly be one of the most experienced members of the relief corps, and Watson would provide a steady hand plus a bit of closing experience. Additionally, he wouldn’t even need to be the primary lefty after Jake Diekman put up an incredible 2020, propelled by a new slider grip. Watson would be an upgrade over T.J. McFarland and combine with Diekman to make an electric 1-2 punch.
Kolten Wong: Should Tommy La Stella not re-sign in Oakland, Wong would be a venture in the complete opposite direction at second base. While La Stella is an excellent hitter who leaves something to be desired defensively, Wong is a stellar defender who hit just one homer in 2020. The Big Island native won his second consecutive Gold Glove over the abbreviated season but was non-tendered by St. Louis, sending him to free agency for the first time. Slotting Wong in at second base, perhaps in a platoon with Chad Pinder, would allow the A’s to take priority off of defense at shortstop, as anyone manning the position would be flanked by Wong and Matt Chapman.
Other possible targets include starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Chris Archer, who would be bounce-back projects after injuries and struggles in Texas and Pittsburgh, respectively.