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Two paths diverge in Oakland, California

What could go right/wrong, and can it ever really all go right for the A’s?

The Oakland Athletics are not going to make the postseason in 2017. This is about as hot take-y as I’ll ever get but, barring dramatic moves in the twilight of the offseason, the A’s season will end as scheduled in Arlington, Texas on October 1st. Therefore this installation of “if it all goes right/if it all goes wrong” is a bit different from what the other teams’ pieces will be (I’d like to discount the Angels too, out of spite, but am fearful of Mike Trout’s personal brand of karma). As Kate so succinctly wrote earlier this week, “The Athletics aren’t in ‘win now’ mode; they’re in ‘suck less’ mode.” Fangraphs projects them to go 78-84, which feels both rational and reassuring, so the real question now is just how annoying we can expect them to be.

For the A’s to experience any modicum of success in the 2017 season all their pitchers essentially need to gather round and each roll sixes. Maybe one or two can get away with a five here, or a four there, but to be considered anything resembling a threat to the division they’re going to need solid six rolls from their five main starters. If Sonny Gray regains his form, the A’s are irksome. If Gray is back and Sean Manaea can replicate his 2016 second half, the A’s could be reasonably bothersome. If Gray and Manaea both produce, and Andrew Triggs’ absurd four starts at the end of last season weren’t a fluke, the A’s quickly become a threat. Those three have the highest upside, and the highest likelihood to impact the rotation positively; Kendall Graveman and Jharel Cotton simply need to stay healthy, because otherwise depth looks unpromising.

Yeah, if this 2015 version of Gray reappears in 2017 things start to look a little more interesting for the A’s

Sure, it’s worth noting that with the addition of Matt Joyce and the oh-no-he-could-be-real resurgence of Ryon Healy, coupled with the return of Khris Davis, their offense has a chance of being pretty decent too. However, I’m not too concerned about a lineup who’s projected most valuable player is a 32-year-old catcher who was drafted a full decade ago.

If everything falls apart the A’s will play their third consecutive sub-70 win season, and 2017 will look frighteningly like 2016, and we can all laugh and laugh and laugh at the karma they incurred