Oakland Athletics 2017 Team Preview

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Feb 28, 2017; Mesa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien (10) celebrates with second baseman Jed Lowrie (8) after hitting a 2 run home run in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians during a spring training game at HoHoKam Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics aren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2017, but they could still be a very intriguing team that has a say in who does make postseason play.

The Oakland Athletics are in unfamiliar territory in the Billy Beane era. After taking the reigns from Sandy Alderson in Oakland after the ’97 season, Beane’s A’s had never won less than 74 games up until the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In those years the A’s have won 68 and 69 games, which is typically the mark of a team that has blown up their roster and has started a rebuild–which the A’s haven’t done.

So what went wrong last year? The club was a little thin on the roster already, relying on guys like Danny Valencia, Billy Butler and Yonder Alonso in traditional power positions of third base, designated hitter and first base. They got some of that power from the likes of Marcus Semien‘s 27 bombs and Khris Davis putting up 42 of his own and becoming the first A since Jason Giambi‘s 2000 AL MVP season to hit 40 home runs. Those two were the main forces in the lineup up until Ryon Healy arrived and started carrying some of the load as well. The lineup just wasn’t deep enough, and their team defense ranked last in baseball per FanGraphs.

Then of course there were the injuries to the starting rotation. Sonny Gray missed his opening day start with food poisoning, which could have been an omen for the entire year. Gray just wasn’t the same pitcher that saw him finished third in AL Cy Young voting the year before, perhaps due to injuries throughout the season. Those struggles may be the only reason that Gray is still with the club, as Oakland would be unwise to trade one of their most likable players when his value is on a dip.

Rich Hill was a force in the rotation and he almost didn’t get traded due to a pesky blister than plagued him for the rest of the season with Los Angeles. With Gray on the DL and Hill in L.A., some other options got a chance to shine. Kendall Graveman had his moments, as did rookie Sean Manaea, both of whom came over in trades in recent years.

Another fan favorite, Coco Crisp, seemingly forced his way out of Oakland at the trade deadline when he complained about being sat on the bench so that his option wouldn’t vest. Butler and Valencia got in a fight about shoes. There was probably a sewage problem at some point, because of course there was. It just wasn’t a great season for feel-good stories.

At 69-93, the bar is still relatively low for the A’s to improve upon last season. So what did they do to jump over that bar and potentially surprise us in 2017?

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