A’s general manager David Forst chatted with reporters on Monday evening, discussing a few areas of the roster. Perhaps most notably, the GM said he didn’t expect to trade either starter Paul Blackburn or outfielder Seth Brown this offseason (relayed by John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle).
Blackburn has been the subject of trade speculation as far back as the 2022 deadline. The right-hander has turned in serviceable back-of-the-rotation numbers for the past two seasons, combining to post a 4.35 ERA in 215 innings. That has arguably made him Oakland’s most reliable starter, although he battled some injuries on his throwing hand late in 2022 and early in the ’23 campaign.
The A’s control Blackburn, who turned 30 on Monday, for two additional seasons. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects him for a $3.2MM arbitration salary. Brown, who is controllable for three years, is projected at $2.4MM. The lefty-swinging corner outfielder had a down season in 2023, hitting .222/.286/.405 in 378 plate appearances. He’d posted a more robust .230/.305/.444 showing — albeit mostly in favorable platoon situations — the year before.
Those are modest salaries by MLB standards, but there’d been some speculation that the A’s could look to tear spending down even further. Forst suggested that’s not the case, telling reporters he anticipates opening next season with a higher payroll than they ran to end the 2023 campaign.
Of course, that’s not exactly portending massive spending. The A’s ended last year with a payroll in the $59MM range, as calculated by Roster Resource. That was the lowest mark in MLB. Forst estimated their current commitments for next season sit around $43MM, a little north of the $40MM which Roster Resource projects.
That leaves some amount of flexibility to dip into free agency, although they’d surely be for players in the lower tiers. Last offseason’s acquisitions of Aledmys Díaz, Jace Peterson, Trevor May, Drew Rucinski, Jesús Aguilar and Shintaro Fujinami were all one- or two-year commitments that tallied a little over $40MM in overall spending.
Forst suggested that adding to a rotation without many clear candidates behind Blackburn and JP Sears was likely (link via Martín Gallegos of MLB.com). The GM made clear they’re looking to wait out the market for what is likely to be a low-cost veteran flier. “This time of year, the market is peaking,” Forst said. “It’s expensive, nowhere more than starting pitching, which is something we’re out there talking about. We are trying to be patient. I think we know with what we have to spend and what we need to do, patience is probably our friend here.”
One player who doesn’t seem likely to be part of the rotation competition: right-hander Mason Miller. Forst suggested the A’s were planning to move him to the bullpen, potentially as a closer, for the ’24 season (via Gallegos). One of the hardest throwers in the sport, Miller has been limited by injuries as a professional. He pitched only 39 1/3 innings over parts of three minor league seasons and was limited to 33 1/3 frames during his MLB debut this year, missing a good chunk of time with forearm tightness. A relief role will allow the A’s to keep a close watch on his workload next season, although Forst left open the possibility of stretching him back out as a starter in 2025.