In Oakland, trades of stars Chapman, Olson mean opportunity
MESA, Ariz (AP) — For the remade Oakland Athletics, there are opportunities all over the roster.
After trading Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea, the A’s could begin the season with rookies at third base and in center field, two rookie starting pitchers, and a group of new bullpen arms in front of closer Lou Trivino.
They will look starkly different than the team that went 86-76 last season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
“We’ve lost obviously some very important guys, but there are also guys in this clubhouse who will step into those roles and be just fine,” catcher Sean Murphy said.
“Oakland fans may not know who some of these guys are, but they are very talented. They will know. Everybody is nobody until they show that they can.”
It has happened in Oakland before. Chapman and Olson moved into the corner infield spots in 2018 and never left, combining for 215 homers and five Gold Gloves from 2018-2021.
Rookie Kevin Smith and Sheldon Neuse, 27, are expected to make the opening-day roster as possibilities for third base. Rookie Cristian Pache is expected open the season in center while Ramon Laureano serves the final 27 games of his 80-game PED suspension.
Right-handers Daulton Jefferies and rookie Adam Oller are in the starting rotation behind opening-day starter Frankie Montas, who won a team-high 13 games last season. Bassitt (12) and Manaea (11) were second and third.
Smith was obtained in the trade that sent Chapman to Toronto. Pache was acquired in the Olson deal with Atlanta, and Oller came over from the New York Mets in the Bassitt deal.
“The learning curve is something that everybody in baseball” goes through, first-year manager Mark Kotsay said. “The pressure, the expectations you put on yourself.
“The message is just to go out and try to focus on having fun, even though at the end of the day it is a result-oriented business. We’re here to win baseball games.”
Veterans Murphy, Elvis Andrus, Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty are back, but the trades enabled Oakland to cut its 2022 payroll to about $33 million, according to Spotrac.com, the second-lowest in the majors.
Max Scherzer is slated to make $43 million this season in the first year of his free agent deal with the Mets. Mike Trout ($37 million), Jacob deGrom ($36 million) and Carlos Correa ($35.1 million) are among nine players who will earn at least $35 million in 2022.
Projected No. 5 starter Oller, whose journey has included stops at Windy City of the independent Frontier League and Sydney of the Australian League, is a beneficiary of the Mets’ largesse.
“I knew when the Mets went out and starting buying some top guys ... that some of us were going to have to go,” he said. “I loved it when I was with the Mets, but I was not upset to be traded over here for the opportunity I was going to be presented with.”
Veteran free agent Stephen Vogt is expected to spend time at first base, a position that could be matchup dependent after non-roster invitee Eric Thames was reassigned to Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday. Outfielder Seth Brown started at first base Sunday, non-roster invitee Billy McKinney started there Monday and veteran utilityman Jed Lowrie has played 11 games there in his eight seasons.
Vogt sees similarities to his previous time with the A’s in 2013-17, when he was with a group that included the first two full seasons of third baseman Josh Donaldson.
“A lot of guys are going to get an opportunity to go out and prove what they can do at the major league level,” Vogt said, “and that’s a scary team.”
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports