Black Friday is all about finding deals, and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing today. MLB Trade Rumors released their top-50 free agent list along with predictions of how big of a contract they’ll sign, and where they’ll end up. Using that as a guide, which free agents could become bargains later this off-season that could tempt the Oakland A’s into actually signing them?
The only top-50 free agent that was mentioned as a possibility by MLB Trade Rumors is the guy they ranked #50, reliever Drew Rucinski.
Rucinski is 33 years old and projected for a two year, $9M contract. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2018 with the Marlins, getting into 32 games as a reliever and posting a 4.33 ERA. In the time since, Rucinski has been pitching in Korea, making at least 30 starts a season for four straight years, and his ERA has been right around three in each season. He has been an extreme ground ball pitcher in the KBO and has always been good at limiting walks. He could be a nice fit for a team like the A’s, but he’s not quite a Black Friday deal.
Sean Manaea is the #17 ranked free agent on the market, and the A’s could be in the market for a veteran arm in the rotation. Projected landing spots for him are the Cubs, Royals, and Orioles and they think he’ll be getting a four year, $52M deal. The A’s aren’t going to touch the years or that total, but if his market fails to materialize, then a soft landing spot could be more his speed, with the likelihood of being traded at the deadline.
Manaea posted a 4.96 ERA, the worst of his career, in 2022 with the Padres. Part of that is due to the Dodgers continuing to have him figured out, leading to him going 0-3 with an 11.72 ERA in five games, three starts.
His ERA was also more than a run higher against teams with a .500 or better winning percentage, which could limit his market to teams either trying to make a push towards the postseason, like Baltimore, or teams that don’t seem likely to figure into postseason action, like the Cubs or Royals. If he’s only getting short-term offers, the A’s could be an appealing landing spot to see if he can re-build some of his value for next off-season with the added bonus of potentially land with a contender at the deadline.
Joey Gallo could be another popular option for the A’s to consider. He’s not listed as one of the top 50 free agents, so that gives you a sense of where his stock currently is, but he’s also a name brand on the market.
Gallo hit .160 with a .280 OBP with the Yankees and Dodgers in 2022 in 410 plate appearances, and he hasn’t hit above .200 since 2019. He was hitting .223 in 2021 before the Rangers traded him to New York and was 38% above league average with a 138 OPS+ with Texas through 95 games.
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Gallo is likely looking for a short-term deal to rebuild his value after stints in New York and Los Angeles with the hope of cashing in a little later. If playing for a big market team was in any way involved in his decline, then coming to play for the oft-forgotten Oakland A’s, who are coming off a 102-loss season, will tuck him away pretty well and allow him to focus on getting right without any distractions.
Usually a solid defender, Gallo’s defense took a hit in 2022 as well, with him ranking in the 19th percentile in Outs Above Average after ranking in the 89th the previous year, primarily with Texas.
An outfield with Gallo, Pache, and Laureano would at the very least be a solid group defensively, with some hope for improvements at the dish.
Craig Kimbrel will be entering his age 35 season in 2023, and he hasn’t been the same lights-out reliever that he was earlier in his career since signing late with the Chicago Cubs in 2019 after having a qualifying offer that he’d rejected attached to his free agency. He signed in June of that year and he accrued a 6.53 ERA in just over 20 innings. He followed that up with a 5.28 ERA in 15 1/3 innings in 2020.
Since then he has rebounded fairly well, posting a 2.26 ERA between the Cubs and White Sox in 2021 and this past season with the Dodgers he tossed 60 innings and held a 3.75 ERA.
Contenders that need a closer may end up looking elsewhere for someone to close out their games, but the A’s could use a proven veteran at the back-end of the bullpen. He’s not likely to get a long contract, and if he wants to close out games, then Oakland could be where he ends up. Bringing in Kimbrel at this stage in his career is also very on brand for how the A’s have operated in the past.
The A’s like to dabble in the free agent market a little later into the winter, and all of these free agents will likely be on the market past the new year. The longer they’re there, the better the odds are that the A’s actually have a chance at signing one of them.
Any free agent the A’s do sign has a pretty good chance of being the highest-paid player on the roster in 2023 with Tony Kemp’s $3.9MM arbitration projection currently leading the pack.