A’s Notes: Front Office, Stadium, Lacob

The A’s have been frequently compared to the Rays in recent years, as both clubs typically run payrolls at or near the bottom of the league, struggle with attendance issues, and have been the focus of relocation rumors in recent years due in part to dilapidated stadiums. One area where the two teams couldn’t be further apart, according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, is their respective analytics departments.

While the Rays run a low player payroll relative to the league’s norms, they’re among the highest spenders when it comes to investing in their analytics department. As noted by Shea, the club had 44 full-time employees in the department during 2023, the most in all of baseball. Meanwhile, Oakland has largely neglected to invest in their analytics department, with their eight-person staff being the smallest in the majors last year.

Shea notes that the club plans to add to the department this offseason with four new full-time hires increasing the total staff to 11 after accounting for the impending departure of advanced scouting analyst Leo Pollack, who Shea relays will not return to the club in 2024. The 11-person staff would still leave them tied with the Rockies and Marlins for the smallest analytics department in the majors. It’s also unclear if the A’s will have any members of the analytics department travel with the team next year, as Shea notes Pollack was the only member of the department who did so in 2023.

Oakland is coming off a brutal 50-112 season that saw it post the second-most losses in franchise history, outpaced only by the 117-loss Philadelphia Athletics back in 1916. The club’s second consecutive 100-loss campaign comes on the heels of a protracted tear-down that saw the club trade away a core of Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Murphy, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea that led the club to four consecutive winning seasons from 2018-2021 and playoff appearances in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Those trades have largely yet to bear fruit, though players like catcher Shea Langeliers and outfielder Esteury Ruiz have shown some level of promise at the big league level.

Shea notes that GM David Forst would “love” to have a more robust analytics staff, though payroll constraints have limited the department’s ability to expand much as they left Forst unable to retain Oakland’s core of successful players as the team cut payroll from $92MM in 2019 to just $47MM come 2022 and $56MM this year. It’s certainly fair for A’s fans to wonder if the club could have fared better in 2022 and 2023 if a larger analytics staff had been employed as the club searched for potential trade targets over the past two offseasons.

More rumors from around Oakland and the A’s…

  • Per a recent report from Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Las Vegas Stadium Authority’s board of directors will meet with Athletics brass this week to discuss the team’s planned ballpark. Akers adds that the meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, will see presentations on community engagement, benefits, and the lease agreement from both the A’s and the project’s construction manager. Though relocation has yet to be put to an official vote among MLB owners, the scheduled vote next month is expected to be little more than a formality, leaving completing agreements with the stadium authority as a primary focus for the club as they continue to pursue relocation. A 30-year non-relocation agreement, financial commitments to the community, terms of the lease, and stadium naming rights are among the topics that Akers notes are expected to be discussed during Wednesday’s meeting.
  • As the A’s continue moving ahead with their relocation effort, a report from Shea earlier this month indicates that Joe Lacob, owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, remains interested in pursuing ownership of an MLB club in the bay area even as the A’s prepare to move out. Lacob spoke about the matter at a recent news conference, telling reporters (including Shea) that he’s been “very interested” in acquiring the A’s in the past, and that “if, for whatever reason, (A’s owner John Fisher) decided it wasn’t going to work, sure, we might be interested” in acquiring the A’s and keeping them in Oakland. Lacob also left the door open to a potential bid for ownership of a different MLB team, adding that he “might” be interested if an ownership opportunity presented itself, whether or the A’s or another team.

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