If anyone is qualified to discuss starting pitching, it's NBC Sports California analyst Dave Stewart.
Stew pitched for 16 major league seasons, including eight for the A's, and won three World Series, one World Series MVP and two ALCS MVP awards. He also has served as a general manager and a player agent, so he has experienced contract negotiations from every possible side.
As the A's roster currently stands, Stewart believes their starting rotation would feature Mike Fiers, Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Paul Blackburn and Chris Bassitt, with top prospect Jesús Luzardo potentially sliding in at some point. Stewart expects Oakland to add at least one more starter this offseason, though it might not happen right away.
"You wait as late as you possibly can to sign a starter," he said of the A's strategy. "At that point, the starter will be distressed because he hasn't received any offers. So now you end up getting probably a decent starter at a decent price."
Earlier this week, Oakland re-signed Fiers to a two-year contract worth just over $14 million. Stewart said he'd also try to re-sign Edwin Jackson.
"He pitched healthy last year, and he pitched well," Stewart said. "In my opinion, between Jackson, (Trevor) Cahill and (Brett) Anderson, he was the best of the three starters."
Stewart added that he would have no problem bringing back Anderson, with one caveat.
"Because his health history just wasn't good again last year, you can take a flyer on him," he said. "But you'd bring him in as a non-roster invitee, the same thing as they did last year, and see what happens."
While the A's primary objective this offseason has been improving their starting pitching, it hasn't been their only focus. Oakland added to its already strong bullpen last week, signing veteran right-hander Joakim Soria to a two-year deal. Stewart believes the bullpen can be just as important as the rotation because it can reduce the load on each starter.
"You have to configure your bullpen to do exactly what it did last year," he said. "Make your bullpen your strength, and don't push your starters much past the fifth or sixth inning."
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A's fans got more good news Monday when Billy Beane announced injured left-hander Sean Manaea could return as early as the All-Star break. With fellow starters Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk also expected to return to action midway through the season, Oakland's rotation could become a strength just in time for the stretch run.