The Oakland Athletics have made one major move so far this offseason – signing free agent starting pitcher Rich Hill to a one year, $6 million dollar deal. Even though it has not been officially announced by the team since his signing is still pending a physical, it is expected that Hill agreed to come to Oakland because the A’s promised him a position in the starting rotation. So, it seems as though the A’s have officially begun to shape their rotation for next year. With Hill and Sonny Gray already guaranteed spots, who else might make the starting five for the 2016 season?
The Athletics have a surplus of young starting pitching depth. Unfortunately, the majority of them ended up on the disabled list by the end of the 2015 season. But, when spring training rolls around, they are all expected to be healthy and vying for one of the three remaining starting pitcher positions.
There are definitely a few obvious starters who will compete for a spot in the rotation. This would include Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt. These three probably received the most playing time and found the most success out of all of the rookie starters the A’s had on the mound in 2015. Hahn pitched 96.2 innings, Graveman threw 115.2, and Bassitt tossed 86. All three of these pitchers have undeniable talent and deserve a spot on the rotation. But, there is a chance that a prospect could rise to the Major League level and steal one of those spots from either of these three starters.
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One of those prospects is Sean Manaea. Manaea came to Oakland in the Ben Zobrist trade this season and is the A’s top pitching prospect. Even he has not pitched above Double-A, he excelled while in the Arizona Fall League this year and is expected to be called up to the big leagues at some point in 2016. So, there is the possibility that Manaea will not earn a spot on the rotation right away, but he will be waiting in the wings for his chance to shine sometime next year.
Then there is veteran Jesse Chavez, who was another pitcher that spent the majority of the season on the mound as a starter. However, there is some talk that Chavez may be traded this offseason since there are numerous teams interested in his versatility as a pitcher. Additionally, compared to some of the younger pitcher talent the Oakland Athletics have on their roster, Chavez will likely be bumped to the bullpen for most of the 2016 season.
Lastly, there are still some question marks regarding Sean Nolin, Jarrod Parker, and A.J. Griffin. Nolin supposedly had a good chance of earning a rotation spot in 2015, but an injury sidelined him for most of the year. Interestingly enough, Nolin has not been talked about that much even though he has returned from the DL in August. He will be one to watch during spring training.
Parker and Griffin still need to fully recovery from their Tommy John surgery. Out of the two, Parker is more likely to make a full comeback. But at that point, he will have to compete against an already established starting rotation since it is likely he will return mid-season.
The Athletics have a lot of decision to make regarding the remaining spots on the rotation. Most likely, the A’s will evaluate the potential starters during spring training and decide based on their performances then. For now, let’s just sit back, relax, and see what other moves the Oakland Athletics’ front office will make this offseason.