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How Oakland Athletics are acing their MLB standing

Robbie Stratakos

Sources tell Sportsnaut that the Oakland Athletics have traded away another All-Star player on the cusp of his prime. Okay, not really, but it wouldn’t be surprising, right?

Notable Oakland Athletics’ offseason trades

  • Traded Chris Bassitt to the New York Mets for J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller
  • Traded Matt Olson to the Atlanta Braves for Cristian Pache, Shea Langeliers, Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes
  • Traded Matt Chapman to the Toronto Blue Jays for Zach Logue, Gunnar Hoglund, Kirby Snead and Kevin Smith
  • Traded Sean Manaea and Aaron Holiday to the San Diego Padres for Adrian Martinez and Euribiel Angeles

Has the past month been painful for the Oakland faithful? Of course. They traded away four highly productive and/or All-Star-caliber players and are subsequently out of American League contention for the foreseeable future.

All that said, Oakland’s transactions of the last month were painfully necessary and put the franchise back on a prosperous path.

The Oakland Athletics peaked in 2021

Yes, Bassitt was the A’s best starting pitcher last season. At his best, Manaea was a top-of-the-rotation starter. Olson is one of the premier first basemen in the sport. Chapman was superb at the hot corner and has considerable pop.

All that said, this team held the same fate with these players as they do in the present: they aren’t advancing past the American League Divisional Round. This core peaked. Two years ago, they had the golden opportunity to win the AL and get past the Houston Astros, as their divisional rivals lost Gerrit Cole to free agency and Justin Verlander to injury.

Instead, they lost to the Astros, who went just 29-31 in the regular season, in the ALDS. This came after back-to-back losses in the AL Wild Card Round. Long-time manager Bob Melvin left Oakland in favor of the budding San Diego Padres this offseason.

Oakland replaced Melvin internally with Mark Kotsay, who enters his first MLB managerial gig. All the while, the AL West has become stiff. While they lost Carlos Correa to free agency, the Astros remain in the AL pennant race from a sheer talent standpoint.

The Seattle Mariners, who won 90 games last season, and Texas Rangers had monumental offseasons. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels are healthy and signed former New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The A’s, who missed the playoffs last season, had their hands full if they ran it back.

Related: Euribiel Angeles is the latest Oakland Athletics gem

Oakland Athletics are getting considerable value in trades

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Atlanta Braves
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

None of the players Oakland traded were under contract past 2023; Bassitt and Manaea were free agents after 2022 while Olson and Chapman were originally free agents after 2023. Keeping the organization’s budget-conscious ways in mind (Oakland traditionally sports one of MLB’s lowest payrolls), the A’s would’ve likely retained just one of those players.

As for what they actually did, the A’s have done quite well in these trades. They acquired three of Atlanta’s top 10 prospects for Olson and two of Toronto’s top 10 prospects for Chapman per MLB Pipeline. That’s incredible. In other words, they potentially turned a pair of players they likely wouldn’t have re-signed into five blue-chip prospects.

The returns on Bassitt and Manaea were less flashy, but that’s because the two starters are entering contract seasons. A compelling wrinkle to Oakland’s flurry of trades is that some of the players they acquired have already reached or are near their call-up to the big leagues.

For instance, Pache was blocked by star and/or proven outfielders with the Braves but has big-league reps under his belt. In Oakland, he has the chance to be playing every day a couple months into the season, if not from the jump. Logue, Martinez and Langeliers have experience at the Triple-A level.

By the way, the A’s already had their own set of draft picks and/or deep-rooted prospects like infielders Nick Allen and Zack Gelof and catcher Tyler Soderstrom.

Oakland Athletics are set up for a two-year turnaround

The A’s won’t be competing for the playoffs this season. They’re too young and therefore raw to even be remotely in the mix. To boot, they’re arguably the worst team in their division. That can change 12-18 months down the road, though.

Oakland went from having a plausible farm system to having one of the elite farm systems in the sport. They have organizational depth in every part of the game and a handful of highly touted youngsters who are going to get their first licks at the MLB game this season.

The A’s weren’t a legitimate contender prior to the MLB lockout. The worst thing they could’ve done is stayed the course, miss the playoffs again and then trade their core players for half the return they received this offseason. They struck at an opportune time.

In the meantime, their influx of offensive youth will be complemented by reliable and versatile players like Tony Kemp and Seth Brown. On the hill, they still have pitchers with upside like Cole Irvin and James Kaprielian. Maybe Frankie Montas puts together another high-level season and Oakland gets a pair of premier prospects for him in a trade? Perhaps they move some of their top prospects for a budding star next offseason?

Kotsay has a lot of young players, and the organization has some margin for error because of its surplus of youth. The 2022 MLB season could feel like an eternity in the Bay Area, but the A’s did what was best for the organization, that being making a full-fledged investment in youth. It’s feasible to think they’re back in the mix for the AL West crown in 2024.