MLB Hot Stove: Landing Spots For Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt And More As A’s Signal Rebuild

The Major League Baseball offseason has only just begun, but all signs point to the Oakland Athletics having a busy and difficult winter. The A’s have already lost longtime skipper Bob Melvin, who skipped town to join the San Diego Padres. Next, the A’s look likely to begin dismantling a core that has made it to three of the last four postseasons, including once as the American League West champion.

“This is the cycle for the A’s. We need to listen and be open to everything that comes out of this. This is our destiny in Oakland until it doesn’t happen again,” General Manager David Forst told MLB Network’s Jon Heyman on Tuesday. That doesn’t guarantee movement, but the Athletics seem to be in a place where a reset is more likely than not, as our Mike Axisa explained after they missed the playoffs:

This could be an off-season of significant change for the A’s. The roster can change massively, Beane and Melvin can go elsewhere, and the fringe situation looms over everything. Nothing has changed yet, but it’s starting to feel like the end of an era in Oakland. The A’s could look very, very different when everyone reports for spring training in February.

So allow us to present a “buyer’s guide” to Oakland’s six most realistic trade candidates, highlighting some potential landing spots for each of them. (Note that the players are listed in alphabetical order.)

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contract status: $8.8 million (estimated); free agent after next season

Chris Bassitt has emerged as an above average starting pitcher since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2018. He has amassed a 3.23 ERA (129 ERA+) and a 3.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 77 appearances. He made the All-Star Game this summer and received the Cy Young Award last fall, suggesting people are starting to take notice. Bassitt has good command and control over a wide arsenal, allowing him to suppress walks as well as quality of contact.

Potential landing sites: Which competitor couldn’t Bassitt use? On the West Coast alone, the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres all seem like potential attacks. Virtually any team with competitive ambitions for next season should inquire about Bassitt.

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contract status: $9.5 million (estimated); free agent after 2023 season

Prior to the pandemic, Matt Chapman had a case of being recognized as one of the best players in the game. A lot has changed in a short time, and so has the stability of the ground beneath his feet. In the past two seasons, his strikeout rate has risen to 33.1 percent, or the sixth-highest clip among players with at least 500 at bats. Despite homering 27 times in 2021, his overall quality of contact stats also dropped. That’s a worrying combination, and one that teams will have to investigate if they’re going to pay the cost of a superstar in trade and wages.

Potential landing sites: A lot depends on how teams see Chapman forward. The Mets, the Phillies, and the Mariners would all make sense to varying degrees.

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contract status: $10.2 million (estimated); free agent after 2022 season

Zone-pounding Sean Manaea picked a good time to set career records in starts (32) and strikeout rate (9.7 per nine). He doesn’t have the loudest things in the rotation; his three-pitched arsenal is led by a low ’90s sinker, but he has a deceptive throw and a deep release point that reduces opponents’ time to follow the ball.

Potential landing sites: As with Bassitt, there is no wrong answer here. Manaea would make sense for all those West Coast teams by wide margins, as well as several other teams, including the Cardinals, who have shown no penchant for speed.

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contract status: $5.2 million (projected); free agent after 2023 season

Frankie Montas was in the middle of an outbreak campaign in 2019 before testing positive for a banned substance that got him an 80-game ban. He then had a miserable, pandemic-shortened season thanks to inflated home run and walk rates. Montas recovered well enough in 2021, starting a 32-game career, posting a 3.37 ERA (121 ERA+) and a 3.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s about as pure a power starter as there is in the majors: His fastballs averaged 96 mph last season and the slowest of his four offerings, a swing-and-miss splitter, checked in at 87.5 mph. His inconsistencies may hurt his stocks, but it’s hard to deny that he’s an intriguing pitcher.

Potential landing sites: As with Oakland’s other starting pitchers, you can put down pretty much any contender and there’s a fair chance it will happen. We note that Montas was a member of the Dodgers before he was with the Athletics, so it’s possible that the Los Angeles front office would like him enough to acquire him again.

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contract status: $12 million (estimated); free agent after 2023 season

Matt Olson has become one of the game’s biggest sluggers. In the past three seasons, his 89 home runs tie for third most in the majors, behind Pete Alonso and Eugenio Suárez. Olson significantly lowered his strikeout rate in 2021, cutting it from 31.4 percent to 16.8 percent without losing any walks or strength. Provided those gains are sustainable (and he did the best contact rate of his career), he’d be in the midst of setting up a new true talent level.

Potential landing sites: The Yankees, of course, but the Mariners and Rays need to think about it, given the kind of impact he could have on their lineup over two entire seasons. Ditto for the National League contenders if the universal DH is installed.

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contract status: $2.8 million (estimated); free agent after 2022 season

Chad Pinder’s name lacks Chapman and Olson’s cachet, but his playing has its charms. His wOBA against left-handed pitching over the past two seasons is in the 69th percentile, ahead of right-handed sluggers like Pete Alonso, Franmil Reyes and Luke Voit. Unlike those three, Pinder isn’t anchored to a corner or DH spot; he regularly sees action all over the diamond, which makes him a handy starter type.

Potential landing sites: Again, almost any contender could use a player like Pinder. We’ll spotlight the Dodgers, White Sox and Mariners as some of the teams that make the most sense for him given his versatility and low cost.

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