While the 2023 Oakland Athletics are doomed to their second straight season of over 100 losses, numerous players who once donned the Green and Gold are shining for Major League Baseball playoff contenders.
10 Former Oakland A’s Starring Elsewhere in MLB
A Brief History
Since the franchise moved from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968, fans have experienced periods of immense success, followed by roster teardowns and rebuilding campaigns. Led by superstar slugger Reggie Jackson and excellent pitchers Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, and Vida Blue, the ‘Swingin A’s’ were the best team in baseball in the first half of the 1970s, winning the World Series in 1972, 73, and 74. After coming up short in 1975, all of the critical players departed.
Hunter and Jackson signed with the Yankees in baseball’s first free-agency period. A few years later, the team’s eccentric owner, Charlie Finley, traded Blue to the San Francisco Giants. The A’s would not be good again until franchise legend Rickey Henderson and the Bash Brothers (Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco) led the team to the 1989 World Series title.
Under contemporary owner John Fisher, the A’s have taken cost-cutting to the extreme, constantly operating with one of the lowest payrolls in the league, trading players once their salaries get too expensive, and not re-signing players in free agency. After 2014’s collapse to the point of barely making the playoffs, general manager Billy Beane surprisingly traded all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays. Donaldson won the American League Most Valuable Player award the ensuing season.
As we enter the last couple weeks of the MLB regular season, the following former Athletics’ players have contributed significantly to the success of their current teams.
Acquired in a trade with the Chicago White Sox, Bay Area native and UC Berkeley alum Marcus Semien spent 2015-2020 with the A’s, transforming from an error-prone young infielder to an above-average all-around player.
In the wake of the 2020 shortened season, Semien was interested in staying in Oakland, but the A’s failed to offer him what he wanted in free agency. He spent 2021 with Toronto, hitting an MLB single-season second-baseman record 44 home runs. Semien currently is hitting .276 with 24 home runs and 89 RBIs in his second season with the Texas Rangers.
He and shortstop Corey Seager are one of the best middle-infield duos in the league and a big reason why the Rangers’ offense has done so well this season. In addition, Texas’ All-Star catcher Jonah Heim appeared in 13 games for the A’s in 2020.
Drafted in 2014, Matt Chapman debuted for the Oakland A’s in 2017, quickly emerging as a standout third baseman thanks to his outstanding defense and home-run hitting ability. His play helped the A’s reach the playoffs from 2018-2020, although they never made it past the American League Division Series.
Before the 2022 season, the A’s traded Chapman to Toronto, receiving four minor leaguers in return. After some time on the injured list for a sprained right middle finger, Chapman recently returned to action to help the Blue Jays fight for a wildcard spot in his final season under contract.
Like Chapman, the A’s drafted and developed first baseman Matt Olson into a franchise cornerstone, middle-of-the-lineup hitter, and Gold Glove defender, only to trade him to the Atlanta Braves in their 2022 offseason firesale. In his final season in Oakland (2021), Olson totaled 39 home runs and 111 RBIs in 156 games, earning his first All-Star selection. In return for Olson, the A’s received their starting catcher Shea Langeliers, minor-league pitchers Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes, and outfielder Christian Pache, who the As subsequently traded to the Phillies after one season in Oakland.
Olson, whom the Braves extended immediately after acquiring, just hit his 52nd home run to break Atlanta’s single-season home run record. As the first team to clinch a playoff spot this year, the Braves will likely count on Olsen’s power bat and solid glove to help power them deep into the postseason.
The Braves came back for more, trading three of their top pitching prospects for another talented Oakland player before this season. Already an elite defensive catcher, Sean Murphy has developed the offensive consistency to match in his first year in Atlanta. He has made the stacked Braves’ offense even better, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 67 RBIs so far this season.
Unlike these first four players, starting pitcher Sonny Gray is a veteran as he burst onto the scene as the A’s best-starting pitcher from 2013-2017. With the A’s in rebuilding mode, they traded Gray to the New York Yankees at the 2017 trade deadline. Gray (8-7 with a 2.84 ERA) is in his second year with the first-place Minnesota Twins, who will need him and their other starters to pitch well if they want to make noise in the playoffs.
Oakland drafted Max Muncy in 2012 but released the young player in 2017’s Spring Training after he failed to make an impact in limited Major League time over the previous two seasons.
In 2018, the infielder had a breakout season as a Los Angeles Dodger and has not looked back, settling in as an everyday player on a powerhouse Dodgers squad that just won their division for the 10th time in 11 seasons. Former A’s reliever Blake Treinen has not pitched for the Dodgers this year as he is recovering from shoulder surgery.
Mark Canha came to the A’s organization via the 2014 Rule-5 Draft and developed into a versatile defender and clutch hitter during his tenure from 2015-2021. In 2021, he signed a free-agent contract with the New York Mets, spending one and a half seasons there. The Mets traded Canha to the first-place Milwaukee Brewers at this year’s trade deadline. This season, the veteran has hit .270 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs.
The Miami Marlins are Jesus Luzardo’s third team. The Washington Nationals drafted the hard-throwing left-hander in 2016 and then dealt him to the A’s along with Treinen and Sheldon Neuse for relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in 2017. Luzardo made his Major League debut with the A’s in 2019, but by midseason 2021, he was out of the A’s plans and on the Marlins as the player exchanged for outfielder Starling Marte.
In 2023, he has taken a step forward for a Marlins team in Wild Card contention, accumulating a 10-9 record with 194 strikeouts in 166 innings.
Chris Bassitt came to the A’s in the same trade as Semien. In Oakland, he developed into one of the team’s best pitchers before being traded in the 2022 firesale. Bassitt spent last year with the New York Mets and then signed a three-year contract with Toronto. As Toronto seeks a playoff berth, they will rely on Bassitt, who has a 14-8 record and a 3.78 ERA this year.
Despite all the negativity and lack of success surrounding Oakland on and off the field, at least one thing their fans can root for is the success of the players with their new teams in the upcoming postseason.