Oakland A's best-case and worst-case scenarios for 2024 season

Mar 20, 2024; Mesa, Arizona, USA;  Oakland Athletics second baseman Zack Gelof (20) grounds out in
Mar 20, 2024; Mesa, Arizona, USA; Oakland Athletics second baseman Zack Gelof (20) grounds out in / Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

There are probably seven or eight teams entering 2024 with no reasonable expectation of achieving anything meaningful. But it’s safe to say nobody’s goals are as minimalist as the Oakland A’s, whose fondest wish for this season is to find a place to play next season.

The A’s have announced they’re moving to Las Vegas in 2028, and their lease on their current stadium expires at season’s end. That leaves the franchise in vagrant status for 2025-27, a concern far eclipsing their 50-112 record of 2023.

Best-case scenario for 2024 Oakland A's season

Aside from finding temporary shelter in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Oakland or parts unknown, the principal 2024 focus of management will be on player development. In this respect, the A’s actually have a few weapons.

Right-hander Paul Blackburn and left-hander J.P. Sears have at times displayed the potential to become reliable leaders of a functioning rotation. Blackburn, entering his eighth major league season but only his third as a full-time starter, was 4-7 in 2023 with a 4.43 ERA.

Sears, 28, led the staff with 32 starts in his first full season. The 5-14 record and 4.54 ERA are not impressive, but in eight of his starts, he delivered at least six innings while allowing two or fewer runs. The talent is in there; the problem is inconsistency.

Offensively, the A’s have a couple kids who could develop into dudes. Second baseman Zack Gelof was the eye-catcher last season, hitting .267 with 14 home runs after his All-Star break call-up. Stretched over 600 plate appearances, Gelof was a 35-home run guy.

Center fielder Esteury Ruiz needs to learn to get on base. His .309 on-base average undermined his best trait, phenomenal speed. Despite the limited opportunities, Ruiz still stole 67 bases in 80 attempts last season, and while that .309 on-base mark doesn't exactly evoke Rickey Henderson, there's something to build on here.

If you give Gelof a full season with a batting average upgraded to something resembling .285, and if Ruiz can find his way on base at some rate modestly better than the league average .320 rate, the A’s will have a couple of very interesting talents.

There’s also hope for Shea Langeliers, back for a second season as the team’s regular catcher. The only direction is up for Langeliers, who hit .205 last year with a .681 OPS and desultory defensive numbers.

Worst-case scenario for 2024 Oakland A's

There really is no worst-case scenario for the A’s because it can’t get much worse than losing 112 games – which is what Oakland did in 2023 – and losing your home. There’s only a continuation of bad.

On the field, the bad news would begin with the failure of Blackburn, Sears, Ruiz and Gelof to make positive individual strides this season. It would also be unfortunate if the A’s don’t find a useful role for Mason Miller, a 2021 draft pick who debuted in 2023 with a fiery heater.

Miller made 10 appearances, six as a starter, before being sidelined by forearm tightness. He’s projected for bullpen duty, possibly as a closer, this season.

Behind Blackburn and Sears, pitching is problematic. No surprise there, given that Oakland (5.7) ranked ahead of only Colorado in runs allowed per game in 2023. The A’s are banking on journeymen Ross Stripling and Alex Wood for regular starter duty. Wood took the ball opening night and got shelled by Cleveland for six earned runs inside of four innings, while the Giants dumped Stripling after he went 0-5 with a 5.36 ERA in 11 starts.

Off the field, the true worst-case scenario arrives Oct. 1 if the A's haven't found at least temporary shelter for 2025-27. Fortunately, it's unthinkable that MLB would allow that scenario to play out.

Most realistic scenario

The A’s are obviously destined for last place in a crowded AL West, but they’re used to that, having averaged 107 losses since 2022. At least nobody will notice; Oakland’s forsaken fans are staying away in droves. Only 832,000 of them showed up all of last season. Opening Day attendance Friday night was listed as 13,522, but at least some who purchased tickets chose to protest outside rather than come in.   

Last year, only 34 of the club’s 81 home dates attracted 10,000 fans, and it is unlikely that 2024 will be better.

This should, however, be the season when Gelof and Sears establish themselves as building blocks of the next competitive A’s team, wherever it takes the field. Those two are genuine talents. And if Ruiz, Blackburn, Langeliers, Miller or Brent Rooker can do the same, the A’s may, by season’s end, view 2024 as at least a partial success.  

Chicago White Sox best-case and worst-case scenarios for the 2024 season (calltothepen.com)