Oakland Athletics: Early Free Agent Targets

The Oakland A's have major holes on the roster heading into the offseason. Let's explore some inexpensive solutions.

Sep 21, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of baseballs in a bin before the game between
Sep 21, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; A general view of baseballs in a bin before the game between / Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletic’s Jim Bowden released his predictions ($) for the top-40 MLB free agents on Tuesday afternoon. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t have anyone predicted to sign with the Oakland Athletics. However, with the MLB season ending later this week, it does help us get the wheels spinning on some free agent thoughts of our own. We don’t expect the A’s to spend big in free agency heading into 2024 but there are some holes in the roster that need to be addressed that can be solved on the cheap.

The A’s have a hole at third base. Based on the shape of the current 40-man roster, Jordan Diaz and Kevin Smith would be the guys angling for the job. That leaves much to be desired, and the options in free agency are slim.

Earlier in October, we looked at Charlie Culberson as a potential fit. Culberson spent the majority of 2023 on the Braves’ Triple-A roster, and the primary attraction point would be the league-minimum salary required to sign him.

Another cheap option would be Brian Anderson, who spent 2023 in Milwaukee. Anderson got off to a hot start, hitting .238/.339/.425 through the end of May. He struggled through the summer, and toward the end of the season missed time with a back strain.

Anderson has a career .252 batting average with respectable defense at the hot corner. Fangraph’s Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) pegs him as above average, both at third base and in right field. He made $3.5 million in 2023, which may be a bit much for John Fisher to stomach.

Whether the A’s decide to add an outfielder is up in the air. Esteury Ruiz and Lawrence Butler are bright spots, and with Tyler Soderstrom looking more like a DH than a catcher, Brent Rooker might be destined for more time in the outfield in 2024.

One cheap option for the A’s would be Travis Jankowski, who spent 2023 with the Rangers. By both Fangraphs’ DRS and Baseball Savant’s Outs Above Average (OAA), Jankowski is a strong defensive outfielder. Between all three outfield spots, Jankowski put up +6 DRS and +5 OAA this year, above average by both metrics.

Jankowski held his own at the plate, slashing .263/.357/.332 with 19 stolen bases and good plate discipline. He should be in line for a slight pay bump over the $1.25 million he made in 2023, though for less than $3 million that’s a strong player.

The A’s won’t end up with any of the top free agents. It's fair to assume that much. However, there are options in free agency that could help the A’s on the field in 2024. Whether John Fisher is willing to pony up more than the bare minimum…we’ll have to wait and see.