MLB's Winter Meetings started yesterday. The Oakland Athletics have some glaring holes on the roster that need to be addressed, specifically at shortstop and the starting rotation. Whether the front office finds solutions this week in Nashville is to be determined.
Typically there are a bevy of roster moves made during the meetings. Between trades and free agent signings, all of the general managers and agents being in the same hotel at the same time usually begets some modicum of transactions.
It will be interesting to see how active the Athletics are this week. David Forst has acquired a few players already this offseason, including infielders Abraham Toro and Miguel Andujar, as well as right-hander Osvaldo Bido, in addition to a group of minor league signings.
None of the players acquired address the shortstop issue. As constructed, the six will likely be manned by a combination of Darell Hernaiz, Aledmys Diaz, and Jordan Diaz, with Nick Allen sitting at Triple-A.
There are some who want to see Hernaiz get a full shake. He played well in 2023, hitting a combined .319/.385/.452 between Double and Triple-A. He's shown good plate discipline and has an interesting power and speed combo that could land him an every day job in Oakland.
Diaz is the highest paid player on the team, but his performance in 2023 wasn't encouraging. In arguably the worst season of his career, he hit .229 with a sub-.300 on-base percentage. The A's need him to bounce back because he's just dead weight otherwise.
More than infielders, the Athletics need starting pitching
There aren't a ton of great options in free agency in the price range the A's will be looking in so the best solutions are likely coming from the trade market. Unfortunately, Forst has already traded most of the valuable players. The potential loss of Ken Waldichuk only exacerbates the problem.
At present, the A's probably ought to be looking to trade Paul Blackburn, who becomes a free agent after the 2025 season. However, they don't have a great way to replace his innings if he goes so it's a bit of a catch 22.
The conversation around top prospect Mason Miller is whether the talented righty is better suited for a spot in the rotation, or if his durability issues make him more likely to be a reliever. He threw just over 50 innings in 2023, across four different levels.
The talent is absolutely there. If he does end up in the bullpen, he could be one of the better relievers in the game just based on his skill set. The fastball touches triple digits and he has a nasty slider. The best case scenario is having him stay healthy and throwing maybe 100-120 innings out of the rotation in Oakland this year.
Outside of Blackburn and Miller, the A's are looking at JP Sears, Luis Medina, Osvaldo Bido, Joe Boyle, and probably some combination of Adrian Martinez, Kyle Mueller, Hogan Harris, and a couple other Triple-A depth guys.
The A's have neither depth, nor top end talent outside of the unproven Miller. The A's won't be shopping at the top of the market but someone like Tyler Mahle or Wade Miley, who could come in and provide decent quality innings on a short-term, cheaper contract, would be a big plus.
The A's can help themselves this offseason, but doing nothing and only adding fringe major leaguers will put them in a tough spot to compete in 2024.