The Oakland Athletics in 2016 were at the bottom of the Majors in the win department and are predicted to do the same in 2017. The A’s are just a few years removed of being in the playoffs and having a roster that could compare to the top teams in the league.
Looking back at 2014, that team had the likes of Josh Donaldson, now on the Toronto Blue Jays, Yoenis Cespedes, now with the New York Mets, Jeff Samardzija, now with Bay Area rivals the Giants, and Jon Lester, now on the defending champions Chicago Cubs. The one thing they all have in common is each is now on a team that made the playoffs, or have won a World Series.
It’s crazy to think that the A’s had the looks of a super-team, but in 2015 and 2016 the fans of the swingin’ A’s had to sit through two dreadful seasons.
In 2016, the season started with Sonny Grey being bitten by the injury bug and went down with several injuries for a good portion of the season, and once he came back, he wasn’t the same.
Later the A’s traded away star pitcher Rich Hill and longtime Athletic Josh Reddick to the Dodgers, which pulled the heart of fans right out of their chest. Then the clubhouse chemistry dipped to an all-time low, as teammates were fighting in the locker room. At that point, it was safe to say the season was all but over.
However, by the end of the 2016 season the A’s had gotten rid of the players who caused trouble in the clubhouse and those who were not helping in the development of the team, and began having a “rookie revolution.”
Suddenly the team was fun to watch again, with young prospects such as Ryon Healy, Jharel Cotton, Sean Manea, Daniel Mengden and many more hitting the scene, eager to get their careers started. And not to be forgotten was outfielder Khris Davis, who hit 42 homers, good enough for 3rd in all of baseball.
Rookie third basemen Healy was in consideration for the AL Rookie of the Year award, and finished the year with a .305 batting average with 13 homers and 37 RBIs in only 72 games.
The A’s youngsters are fun watch, from the raw power of Healy to the handlebar moustache of Mengden, the team was able to end the year on a bright spot with many of their young prospects finding success in the majors.
The 2017 season officially began for Major League front offices as soon as the World Series was over, and the A’s were quick in making a difference this off-season.
They immediately went out and signed players who have had positive impact on clubhouses and team chemistry. Oakland signed Rajai Davis, an outfielder from the Cleveland Indians who played for the A’s before in 2010. They also went out and signed 2011all-star Matt Joyce who is looking to rejuvenate his career with the Green and Gold. They also added some heat to the bullpen with 3-time World Series champ and former Giants closer Santiago Casilla, who as well played for the A’s when he was rookie.
All together the offseason wasn’t a bad one for the team, but these were very low-profile signings that can be hit or miss. Yet all the players signed have the ability of being potential all-stars and leading the young team to a winning season.
In addition to the signings, A’s fans got a new breath of life as longtime owner Lew Wolff stepped down from baseball operations, and handed them to now-team president and part-owner David Kaval, who has experience in rebuilding sports teams. Kaval recently moved the San Jose Earthquakes into a new stadium and created a winning culture by signing key players.
With a new man in charge, there is a new urgency in Oakland. If they are going to have success this season and years to come, they must be active in signing top free agents. The A’s did just that, as they went after all-star Edwin Encarnacion and were willing to offer him a contract over 120 million dollars, though he opted to sign with Cleveland instead.
Although Oakland missed out, the team’s strong effort to pursue displays the A’s are willing to spend money to keep or get the players they want, which should bring hope for the future of the franchise.
For the new upcoming season, the A’s can be a sleeper team in a very competitive AL West. Although the other teams in the competitive division are very talented. The Angels have AL MVP Mike Trout, the Houston Astros are young and ready, current division champs the Texas Rangers had another solid year with one of the better records in baseball, and the Seattle Mariners have a great lineup that can match up with every team in the Majors.
All in all, the race for the AL West title will be wild and the A’s shouldn’t be ignored. Their roster may not have a superstar or the next big rookie, but Oakland is young, competitive and hungry. With veterans to look out for the young prospects, the A’s can make some noise this year, and show that the Green and Gold are here and ready.