Results tagged ‘ Oakland A’s ’

Behind the Notes: Sean Manaea

By Mike Selleck

 

Manaea pitching

In today’s behind the notes, we take a look at an item on Sean Manaea, who is scheduled to make his Major League debut with a start against the Houston Astros today, April 28.

FOR STARTERS: Was selected from Triple-A Nashville today and will be making his Major League debut after just 42 minor league appearances, all starts, in three professional seasons…will become the 45th pitcher in Oakland history to start in his ML debut, the first since Dan Straily on Aug. 3, 2012 against Toronto…the last to win was Bobby Cramer on September 13, 2010 at Kansas City…the last complete game was by Mike Morgan June 11, 1978 against Baltimore and the only shutout is by Mike Norris April 10, 1975 against Chicago…the previous 44 have combined for a 13-14 record and a 3.67 ERA.

“For starters” is sometimes a lead note on the starting pitcher page of the daily game notes.  Typical info might include the number of starts for the pitcher this year or in his career, current trends or any other lead note type items.  In the case of a pitcher like Manaea making his debut, we do something like the above.  Below is why and how we came up with that note.

Was selected from Triple-A Nashville today and will be making his Major League debut after just 42 minor league appearances, all starts, in three professional seasons

Anytime a pitcher gets called up, we include transaction information.  After a few starts, it might say “Was selected from Triple-A Nashville April 29 and is scheduled to make his third start of the season and his career”.  In Manaea’s case, we indicate he is making his debut, and we typically follow that kind of note with minor league career numbers.  In this case we highlighted just his appearances, which were all starts, in his brief career.  More detailed information appears in a different note on his page (spoiler alert: He’s 16-9 with a 2.82 ERA and 257 strikeouts in 214.0 innings).

…will become the 45th pitcher in Oakland history to start in his ML debut, the first since Dan Straily on Aug. 3, 2012 against Toronto

Many years ago, we created a chart that includes pitchers who made their Major League debut in a starting assignment for the Oakland A’s.  Exactly when that began, we’re unsure.  It might have started with Todd Van Poppel in 1991, but it was no later than Tim Hudson in 1999.

Either way, there was no baseball-reference at the time (or at least no play index), so we did it the way it was done back then.  We had to walk uphill, in the snow, both ways, to the library.  Well, not quite.  But it did involve going through every year of stats, looking at who made starts for the A’s and determining if that was their debut season.  If it was, we went to the day-by-days.  Back then, teams kept day-by-day logs of all their players on paper. If a player changed teams, the teams would fax (or send via telecopier) the day-by-days of that player to the new club.  Faxes and writing on paper…isn’t ancient history fun!  With the day-by-days we could see the exact date that pitcher made their debut and if it was a starting assignment.  Since we didn’t have any records from the A’s days in Kansas City and Philadelphia, we did limit this chart to Oakland, so we only had to go back to 1968.

After hours of research spread out over several days, we came up with the list that allows us to say that Sean Manaea is the 45th pitcher in Oakland history to start in his Major League debut.  Of course now we can just use the baseball-reference play index and get the answer in around five seconds.  You can see the list here.

…the last to win was Bobby Cramer on September 13, 2010 at Kansas City…the last complete game was by Mike Morgan June 11, 1978 against Baltimore and the only shutout is by Mike Norris April 10, 1975 against Chicago

We’ll add a couple of other interesting notes, such as the last to win as a starter in his debut, the last to toss a complete game and the only one with a shutout.  Long time A’s fans might remember Morgan’s start, since he was only 18 years old at the time.  It’s all in the chart, but sometimes we’ll put out some information to highlight it.

…the previous 44 have combined for a 13-14 record and a 3.67 ERA.

Finishing off the note is just a combined total of the previous 44 pitchers, giving you an idea of what happens historically in this situation.

You can find Manaea’s page and the A’s game notes anytime on our web site.  The notes can be accessed via this link.  In this case, you can find Manaea on page 2 of the April 29 notes.  If it’s not there yet, it will be before he makes his start.

Mike Selleck is the A’s Baseball Information Manager

A’s in the Community

The A’s continually strive to be a leader in our local community. Last week’s homestand included a number of events and activities that brought A’s players, partners, employees, and fans together to make a difference in the communities we live and serve.

Volunteers built playhouses for Habitat for Humanity

HABITAT COLLAGE

A’s employees, season ticket holders, volunteers from PG&E, and students representing Home Run Heroes, a branch of the One Desk Foundation, built and painted four playhouses on Tuesday, April 12 to benefit a Habitat for Humanity housing development in Martinez, Calif. Chris Bassitt and Liam Hendriks made an appearance at the build to thank volunteers. This community event is part of the A’s Community Fund’s “#A It Forward” program, presented by PG&E, which creates unique ballpark experiences for nonprofit organizations.

“Habitat for Humanity is thrilled to continue our partnership with the Oakland A’s with this exciting playhouse build,” said Janice Jensen, President & CEO of Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley. “We value the A’s support of Habitat’s mission to build to more affordable homeownership in Oakland and across the East Bay.”

 

Players’ Partners collect food and donations on Food Bank Wednesday

FBW

On Wednesday, April 13, A’s players’ partners, wives, and girlfriends collected food and monetary donations to benefit the Alameda County Food Bank. With every five cans donated or $5 contribution, fans received a buy one get one free ticket voucher for a future game. Food Bank Wednesdays are hosted throughout the season.

 

Vogt hosts students for a day at the Oakland Zoo

ZOO COLLAGE

Stephen Vogt, Liam Hendriks, Rich Hill, and Billy Butler hosted students from the School of Imagination on Thursday, April 14 at the Oakland Zoo. The visit included a special zoo tour, educational activities, and lunch. The School of Imagination, located in Dublin, Calif., provides support and services to more than 300 children, many with special needs and disabilities such as autism.

To learn more about the A’s community initiatives, visit athletics.com/community.

Planting the Seed

While A’s players get their winter R&R, the Arizona grounds crew is hard at work prepping for Spring Training

By Chris Gabel

grounds-crew-1

As A’s fans back home in the Bay Area endured a freezing and wet December, and others across the country hunkered down through winter snowstorms, Chad Huss stood under a warm midday Arizona sun and lamented the unseasonable cold.

It was in the low 60s.

After all, Huss, the head groundskeeper at the Oakland A’s Spring Training and year-round Minor League headquarters, Hohokam Stadium and the Lew Wolff Training Complex in Mesa, had the seedlings to consider.

While December typically means holiday breaks from work or school, for Huss, it signifies the most critical stretch of the year. His team had recently seeded eight diamonds at the complex. So that cold front—and another that threatened to blow in just before Christmas—presented a problem.

“Near-freezing temperatures may not seem like much,” Huss explains, “but a new seedling doesn’t have the strength to fight.”

With players reporting to Arizona earlier and earlier each year, Huss and his team cannot afford the slightest setback. Contrary to its label, Major League Baseball’s offseason is actually the busiest time of the year for the Arizona-based grounds crew.

From October through January, the eight-man team rebuilds pitching mounds, repairs fences and backstops, reseeds the infield and outfield turf, and readies the fields for the players and fans who come out each March and make Spring Training look so inviting.

“There really is no offseason,” says Joe Pun, the team’s Arizona sales and operations manager. “In reality, it’s a yearlong activity.”

Even after the Major League team breaks camp at the end of March and heads back to Oakland to start the regular season, the Arizona operation remains alive.

grounds-crew-2

Extended Spring Training for players who were not assigned to a Minor League affiliate starts immediately and rolls into the summer Arizona League for rookies. Meanwhile, injured players from all levels of the organization rehab at the facility throughout the summer—and into the fall and winter.

Instructional workouts for younger players start in early fall, before activity at the complex finally hits a lull in late October. Then it’s back to square one.

“Most of what we do during Spring Training and the summer is maintenance,” Huss explains. “But once fall comes around, that’s when we go to work on the fields and get them ready for Spring Training, and do it all over again.”

After Spring Training, the stadium hosts several non-A’s-related events: high school games and graduation ceremonies, and in October, a big senior men’s baseball tournament that attracts teams from across the country and Canada.

This year, Huss’s staff couldn’t reseed the fields until after that tournament, meaning a later-than-ideal start to the process. Thus the consternation with the unseasonably cold temperatures in the “Valley of the Sun.”

“We do a lot of looking ahead at the weather—temperature highs and lows,” Huss says. “It’s supposed to warm up here soon, and then the grass should take off.”

As the perennial rye grass establishes itself, Huss’s team begins rebuilding each pitching mound at both Hohokam Stadium and the Lew Wolff Training Complex. Between the game mounds and those in the bullpens, the crew rebuilds 27 mounds each winter. Each practice station, consisting of eight mounds, takes three weeks to rebuild. Then assistant groundskeeper Zach Ricketts and his crew move on to the next set.

The goal is simple: “We want to have the bullpen mounds exactly the same as the game mounds,” Huss says. “I don’t want a pitcher to get out there and feel a difference from one mound to the next.”

grounds-crew-3

Players’ feedback plays a big role in the fields’ upkeep. Huss points to former A’s infielders Eric Chavez and Mark Ellis as players who offered consistent and helpful critiques, both positive and negative. Third base coach Ron Washington, who works with the team’s infielders every day, also chimes in. By early January, some 30 or 40 players from throughout the organization begin showing up at the facility to work out in advance of Spring Training. As they trickle in, Huss’s team opens more fields, bullpen mounds and hitting cages.

Players usually start their training in the indoor batting cages, getting their timing down against pitching machines. But it’s not long until they want to hit on the field. Then comes the official reporting date in February for pitchers and catchers, then position players, and by the first week of March, the Cactus League’s season is in full swing.

Although as Huss stands under the December sky, the report date is still a couple of months away. For now, anyway, the facility is mostly quiet.

“It can get nice in the offseason,” Huss says. “But we’re preparing. We know the storm is coming.”

Chris Gabel is a frequent contributor to Athletics magazine.

 

Behind the Notes

By Mike Selleck

_X0U1564

Behind the Notes will be a regular feature of Clubhouse Confidential where we take a look at an A’s note and explain how we came up with it.

Our first example is this note for Opening Day:

FOR OPENERS: The A’s snapped their Major League record 10-game Opening Day losing streak with an 8-0 win over Texas last year on April 6…have not won back-to-back openers since 2002-04 when they won three straight…are now 5-17 on Opening Day dating back to 1994…will open in Oakland for the fourth consecutive season and will be the home team for the seventh straight year (2012 in Tokyo)…this is the third time in Oakland history the A’s have faced the White Sox on Opening Day…it is the first time since 1975 when the A’s won 3-2 in Oakland…also squared off in 1969, a 5-2 A’s win in Oakland…prior to moving to Oakland, the A’s and White Sox met once on Opening Day, a 10-9 White Sox win over the Kansas City A’s in Chicago in 1960…since moving to Oakland in 1968, the A’s are 21-27 on Opening Day, including 17-13 in Oakland, 4-11 on the road, 0-2 in Tokyo and 0-1 in Las Vegas…all-time, the Athletics are 53-62 in openers.

This note is a regular part of the A’s Game Notes on Opening Day from year-to-year.  It breaks down into three sections: current Opening Day trends, trends against this years opponent and historical A’s trends.

Current Opening Day trends

The A’s snapped their Major League record 10-game Opening Day losing streak with an 8-0 win over Texas last year on April 6

While most of the A’s notes will involve some on-line research, this first line was done the old fashioned way.  We opened a book.  The Elias Sports Bureau publishes a baseball record book and one of the listings is for Most Consecutive Opening Day Losses.  The A’s broke the previous record of nine in 2014, and Sonny Gray made sure it didn’t go beyond 10 last year.

…have not won back-to-back openers since 2002-04 when they won three straight

In some cases, we try to anticipate a question that might arise from the media and include it in the notes.  Should the A’s win the opener again in 2016 after losing 10 straight from 2005-14, we figure the question, “When was the last time the A’s won back-to-back openers?”, might follow.  The Oakland A’s Media Guide has a list of the A’s results in season openers since the club moved to Oakland in 1968 and a quick look at that list gave us the answer.

…are now 5-17 on Opening Day dating back to 1994

While looking for the last time the A’s won back-to-back openers, we noticed more losses following a six-game winning streak from 1988-93, so we extend the note a little farther back.

…will open in Oakland for the fourth consecutive season and will be the home team for the seventh straight year (2012 in Tokyo)

If it seems to you like the A’s always begin the season at home, you’re right.  The A’s will be the home team on Opening Day for the seventh consecutive season in 2016, but one of those games was in Tokyo so we added the clarification.  In this case, being the home team and opening in Oakland are two different things.

Trends against this years opponent

…this is the third time in Oakland history the A’s have faced the White Sox on Opening Day…it is the first time since 1975 when the A’s won 3-2 in Oakland…also squared off in 1969, a 5-2 A’s win in Oakland

The second part of the For Openers note takes a look at the A’s Opening Day opponent.  The source is once again the media guide.  In most cases, we would list the A’s record against that opponent, the result the last time the two clubs met and any significant streaks.  With only two meetings against the White Sox, and none since 1975, we’ll list both results.

…prior to moving to Oakland, the A’s and White Sox met once on Opening Day, a 10-9 White Sox win over the Kansas City A’s in Chicago in 1960

Since the White Sox and A’s are two of the original eight American League franchises, we also take a look to see how many times the two clubs squared off while the A’s were in Philadelphia and Kansas City.  To find that data, we have a spreadsheet with game logs for all A’s games since the franchise was born in 1901.  That data is courtesy of the good folks at Retrosheet, whose stated goal is computerizing play-by-play accounts of as many pre-1984 major league games as possible.  Filtering for the first game of the season and the White Sox as the opponent reveals just one other meeting in 1960.

Sometimes while researching a note, you learn a few things about baseball history.  At first it seemed odd that the A’s and White Sox have been playing for 115 years but have only met three times previously on Opening Day.  A further look at the data reveals the Philadelphia A’s faced only Boston, Washington, New York and the 1902 Baltimore club — teams close by geographically.  By 1955, when the A’s moved to Kansas City, opponents were a little more varied, but Detroit and Cleveland were the most common opponents and although Chicago and Kansas City share a time zone, the two clubs met just once to start the season.

Historical A’s trends

…since moving to Oakland in 1968, the A’s are 21-27 on Opening Day, including 17-13 in Oakland, 4-11 on the road, 0-2 in Tokyo and 0-1 in Las Vegas…all-time, the Athletics are 53-62 in openers.

To finish off the note, we list the A’s all-time marks on Opening Day.  Since we repeat this note every year, it’s just a matter of updating the records from the previous year.  But the Oakland part originally came from the media guide and the last line takes advantage of our internal spreadsheet.

That’s it for openers.  Look for more Behind the Notes when the season begins.

Mike Selleck is the A’s Baseball Information Manager. 

A look inside Spring Training

Here’s a quick peek into the first week at Hohokam Stadium.

Photos by A’s team photographer Michael Zagaris

ST overview

A’s Media Week Peek

A Look Inside the Pet Calendar Shoot, Photo Day and More

By Adam Loberstein 

A’s pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training February 20. The full squad reported February 25. Their Cactus League home opener is today.

So what happened in between?

Yes, a lot of baseball happened. A lot of BP, PFP and other acronyms happened. But it was also an opportunity to take care of a lot of non-baseball happenings.

That includes A’s Media Week, where we fulfill as many requests for players as we can the week before games start. Below is a sampler platter of things we’ve asked A’s players and coaches to participate in.

Pet Calendar

A favorite of Arizona groundskeeper Chad Huss, puppies (and A’s team photographer Michael Zagaris) are basically running all over the field before and after workouts for two days.

We asked 14 players to participate in this year’s shoot for the popular April 29 giveaway, presented by Central Garden & Pet. Many players brought their own dogs and the rest were provided by Arizona Small Dog Rescue. The pet calendar is no joke among players. As part of his agreement to attend FanFest last year, former A’s starter Scott Kazmir negotiated that he and his French bulldog, Frito, be placed on the cover of the calendar.

This year, Sean Doolittle’s pup, Stella, participated in her fourth pet calendar shoot, which is believed to be some sort of record.

doolittle

A’s Productions

Those fun player features you see running on our fancy new O.co Coliseum scoreboards? They’re shot inside the visiting clubhouse at Hohokam Stadium.

The shoots generally start each day around 7 a.m., because there’s no better time to ask 20-25 players “coffee or energy drink?” on camera with a blinding lights in their faces than right after their alarm clock goes off.

Last year, Stephen Vogt delivered a perfect, emphatic read of the question, “Would you rather go back in time and meet 10-year-old you, or forward in time and meet 60-year-old you?” He was just supposed to answer the question. The read – too good not to use – was instead played on the boards before other players gave their answers.

The best lines of this year? Well, you’ll just have to come out to the O.co and find out.

valencia

MLBPA Head Scans 

Each year, the Major League Baseball Players Association provides us with a list of 10-15 players who need head scans taken for the popular MLB The Show video game series. These are mostly players who weren’t on 40-man rosters the year before, have since grown a giant beard/look different or some combination of the two.

Players are shot by 41 cameras at the same time. They repeat the process three times, each time facing a different angle. The result? The fantastic hair of A’s prospect Sean Manaea will be in the game this year. Sean will be in the game, too.

canha

Photo Day

All 62 players plus coaches in camp are asked to participate in this two-hour, 10-station photo shoot. Photographers arrive on-site as early as 6 a.m. and the shoot begins at 7 a.m. sharp. Why 7 a.m., you ask? Because workouts start at 9 a.m.

These shoots range from video for CSN California, to trading cards for Topps, to content for our in-house social media use.

Most of the 10 stations are in the visiting clubhouse and things can get a little crammed in there. Last year, USA TODAY shot from the bathroom while Getty Images shot from the showers. This led to great shots of USA TODAY shooting Getty and Getty shooting USA Today from the bathroom and showers, respectively.

sonny

Adam Loberstein is the A’s Player Relations Manager. Follow him on Twitter @adamloberstein.

Back to Basics

Veteran additions join a promising young core as Oakland aims to bounce back into contention in ’16

By Ian A. Stewart

AZG_5021

 

After an uncharacteristically down season, the Oakland Athletics enter 2016 Spring Training with a new mantra: back to basics.

That’s why, when it came time to address the team’s needs during the offseason, the A’s brain trust—led by Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane, General Manager David Forst and Assistant GMs Dan Feinstein, Dan Kantrovitz, and Billy Owens—decided to focus on the element that’s been at the heart of the team’s success the past decade: pitching.

With several new arms being worked into the fold for the upcoming season—as well as the continued development of an emerging core of young and returning position players—the A’s hope to turn around the fortunes that saw them fall to the bottom of the AL West last year.

“Our ability to throw strikes and pitch is always going to be the foundation of our success and something we rely on every year to compete,” Feinstein says. “Last year, fans saw firsthand that injuries hampered our season, especially in the starting staff. That put our pitchers in situations that they may not have had the requisite experience with, so obviously, one of our focuses was strengthening the pitching staff as a whole to weather a 162-game season.”

Indeed, with 1,018 games missed by players on the disabled list last year—fourth most in the American League—simply making it to the finish line became a battle of attrition. The A’s used 13 different starting pitchers in 2015, and 30 players threw a pitch for the team, a new record.

The outlook for 2016 is considerably brighter. Several key hurlers will return, most notably staff ace Sonny Gray, a 2015 All-Star who finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting last year and cemented himself as one of the top pitchers in the game. Gray went 14-7 in 2015 and finished with the third-best ERA in the league at 2.73 to go with 169 strikeouts in just his second full season. Entering his age-26 season, Gray figures to again lead the A’s starting corps.

Gray will be followed in the rotation by a group of impressive young pitchers, including Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt, both of whom showed flashes of their potential during their rookie seasons. Graveman, who rose from Single-A to the Majors in 2014 with Toronto before being acquired by the A’s, made Oakland’s Opening Night roster last year after a dominant spring. He struggled out of the gate and was demoted to Triple-A, but quickly righted himself in Nashville and earned a recall. Following his return to the Big League club, the righty posted a 3.36 ERA, including a streak of nine games early in the summer in which he allowed no more than three runs in any start.

Bassitt, too, spent time with both the Triple-A team and the A’s, where he initially appeared out of the bullpen. After rejoining the Major League team in July as a starter, the righty impressed, posting a 2.59 ERA over 10 starts before hitting the DL with a shoulder injury, which he recovered from in time to make three late-season starts.

The A’s also looked outside their own organization, signing lefty Rich Hill to a one-year deal in November. Hill, who at 35 is the veteran of the bunch, returned to the Majors last year following several years of dealing with injuries. In four late-season starts with Boston, Hill—who’d been pitching for the Independent League Long Island Ducks—posted a 1.55 ERA in 29 innings. In that span, the lefty struck out an incredible 36 batters and walked just five.

Feinstein says Spring Training will flesh out the rest of the rotation. Jesse Hahn—who posted a 3.35 ERA in just under 100 Major League innings last year before an elbow injury—and Jarrod Parker join a group that includes Sean Nolin, Aaron Brooks and Felix Doubront fighting for the last spot. Henderson Alvarez, two years removed from going 12-7 with a 2.65 ERA for the Marlins but coming off an injury-shortened 2015, also signed a one-year deal with the A’s this winter. Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter on the last day of the 2013 season, will likely start the season on the disabled list, but he could figure into the rotation’s plans once he recovers from a shoulder injury.

“We have four quality pieces of the rotation,” Feinstein says. “And then we have numerous candidates to fill that fifth spot. There is no shortage of options to round out the rotation.”

AZG_5212

Another reason for optimism is that the A’s have constructed what appears to be a formidable group of relievers—an area of particular struggle last season. Former All-Star closer Sean Doolittle returns healthy after missing nearly all of 2015. In his absence, A’s relievers led the American League last year in runs allowed, posted the highest group ERA and finished second in blown saves. Overall, the A’s lost 35 games last season by one run.

But with Doolittle slotted back in as the closer and a group of experienced relievers ready to bridge the gap from the starter to Doolittle, the A’s expect to virtually shorten most games from nine innings to six for their opposition.

That group begins with Ryan Madson, who agreed to a three-year deal with Oakland in November. Madson, who didn’t pitch in the Majors for three seasons from 2012 to 2014 while recovering from injuries, looked like the old version of himself last year as part of a dominant bullpen in Kansas City, posting a 2.13 ERA in 68 appearances—his highest number of outings since 2009. Prior to his injuries, the 6-foot-6-inch Madson was one of the top relievers in the National League, saving 32 games in 2011 with the Phillies.

Another new member of the bullpen, John Axford, also has experience pitching at the end of games. In 2011, “The Ax Man” saved a league-leading 46 games with Milwaukee. Last year, with Colorado, the Canadian closer tallied 25 saves.

Those two will be joined in the bullpen by lefty Marc Rzepczynski (pronounced zep-CHIN-skee), a member of the 2011 World Series winners in St. Louis and one of the top situational lefties in the game. Australian-born Liam Hendriks, 27, acquired this offseason from the Blue Jays for Jesse Chavez, went 5-0 with a sub-3.00 ERA for Toronto last season, and should round out the bullpen along with holdovers Ryan Dull (who struck out 17 batters in 16 innings late last season as a rookie), Doubront, R.J. Alvarez and Fernando Rodriguez.

“The additions we’ve made in the ’pen—and the length and quality of meaningful innings they’ll provide—will help our starters sustain success over the course of a 162-game season,” Feinstein says.

On the other side of the ball, most of the middle of the A’s lineup will return, including 2015 All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt, who launched 18 home runs and hit .261 in his first full season. Back, too, is right fielder Josh Reddick, who hit a team-leading 20 bombs and 25 doubles in his finest season since his standout 2012 campaign. Those two lineup mainstays will be joined by infielder Danny Valencia, a midseason acquisition who caught fire in Oakland, hitting 11 homers and slugging .530 in 47 games after joining the A’s.

Three other breakouts from last year’s group will be back as well: outfielder Billy Burns, the fifth runner-up for Rookie of the Year after hitting .294 and stealing 26 bases; slugger Mark Canha, who hit 16 homers and drove in 70 runs as a rookie (top among first-year AL players), splitting time between first base and left field; and shortstop Marcus Semien, who played a team-high 155 games in his first full season and, according to the FanGraphs catchall stat wins above replacement, was the fourth most valuable shortstop in the AL.

Together, that trio represents a bright spot for both the present and the future in Oakland. “Those are three young guys who can help form the core of this club for a long time,” Feinstein says.

_A7C0044Another reason for optimism is the addition of slugging outfielder Khris Davis, acquired in a trade with Milwaukee. Davis hit 27 home runs last year for the Brewers, and should give the A’s extra thump in 2016. Veterans Billy Butler, Coco Crisp and Sam Fuld round out the lineup, while Eric Sogard returns as a valuable and flexible infielder capable of playing multiple positions. Outfielders Andrew Lambo and Jake Smolinski will fight for time as well.

The A’s also brought in first baseman Yonder Alonso from San Diego. Alonso, a former college teammate of Valenica, hit .282 in a bounce-back year for the Padres and should solidify a position that proved problematic last year.

“[Alonso’s] combination of patience and ability to get on base is something we covet,” Feinstein says. “And he also happens to play elite-level defense at first base. That’s often something that’s overlooked, but he’s as good as they come.”

Additionally, the A’s traded for a familiar face in Jed Lowrie, a member of the A’s playoff groups in 2013 and 2014. Lowrie, capable of manning any spot on the infield, will start the year at second base but will likely fill in at shortstop and third, too.

And should injuries again befall the starters, the A’s have plenty of prospects at the ready. Feinstein points to the team’s Texas League–champion Double-A squad to illustrate the A’s organizational depth. Sean Manaea, one of the team’s top prospects acquired last season in a trade with the Royals involving Ben Zobrist, led the 2015 Arizona Fall League with 33 strikeouts in just over 25 innings, earning a spot on the All-Prospects Team along with fellow A’s Minor Leaguer Chad Pinder, an infielder. Third and first baseman Renato Nuñez is another one to watch: The infielder hit 18 homers in Double-A despite dealing with calf and hamstring strains. Matt Olson, Joey Wendle and Max Muncy could all see time in the Major Leagues, too.

Once again, the man pulling the levers will be 2012 AL Manager of the Year Bob Melvin, back for his fifth full season. “The one thing that remains consistent is Bob’s ability to communicate with his players and staff,” Feinstein says. “He provides a calming influence on the ballclub as a whole. It’s hard to place a value on that.”

In all, the new additions, combined with the return of several mainstays and emerging young talents, has the Oakland brass optimistic about jumping back into contention in 2016. “We’re excited about the possibilities of this team going into 2016,” Feinstein says. “It’s always our goal to play meaningful games in September.”

Ian A. Stewart is the editor of Athletics magazine. This piece appears in the Spring edition. To subscribe, visit athletics.com/magazine.