The so-called MLB off-season Hot Stove is still not exactly threatening to boil over. That said, we are starting to see some deals being completed and that includes a few that relate to the A’s.
The inevitable loss of Liam Hendriks as a free agent was finalised after he signed a multi-year contract to join the Chicago White Sox.
It’s a great deal for Liam, guaranteeing him $54m one way or another, and no one can begrudge him a single dollar given the way he has come through numerous ups and downs over the years. Whether it’s a smart deal for the White Sox, given the tendency of relief pitchers to be inconsistent, is another matter, but one we don’t need to worry about outside of the games we play against them.
The fan in me is disappointed that the A’s didn’t engage with him in any way about a return, although it is probably more courteous to not string someone along when you know the market price is going to make it a non-starter. He clearly loved being an Oakland A and the positive approach is to be glad of his time here, rather than bemoaning it coming to an end.
Sticking with the positives, the A’s announced on Friday that they had agreed contract terms with all the remaining arbitration-eligible players. I’ve copied below the complete list of one-year contracts for the 2021 season, courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. As the arbitration process rewards length of service, I’ve grouped them in respect of their time remaining under the standard pre-Free Agent MLB service period (i.e. this is why Canha gets a fair slice more than Chappy and Oly).
Free agent after this season
Mark Canha – $6.75m
FA after 2022
Sean Manaea – $4.85m
Chris Bassitt – $4.7m
Chad Pinder – $2.275m
FA after 2023
Matt Olson – $5m
Matt Chapman – $4.95m
Frankie Montas – $1.25m
Tony Kemp – $1.05m
Burch Smith – $705k
FA after 2024
Lou Trivino – $850k.
Another lefty for the ‘pen
News flash: the A’s completed a trade. It was for a 31-year old relief pitcher with 39 MLB innings to his name who the Pittsburgh Pirates had designated for assignment, but it’s still a new player!
Let’s be fair to both our new pitcher Nik Turley and the A’s Front Office. As mentioned above with reference to Liam, relief pitchers can often be a lottery ticket. It’s all about looking for a player or two that you can acquire cheaply (in this case for a bit of cash) and have something that makes you think there may be some untapped potential to take advantage of.
This process is now increasingly based on the use of technology to understand a player’s skills and where he’s not currently seeing the results you would expect. We can see some of this on the great Baseball Savant website. In Turley’s case, he showed in 2020 that he spins the ball at a very high rate. He was in the 95th percentile of all MLB pitchers last year for the most spin on his fastball, and 84th percentile for spin on his curveball.
It may be that there are other flaws that negate those qualities and explain why he’s not had any big league success so far; however, the A’s believe something has changed for Turley and that the results will come with a few more tweaks and a bit of time.
There’s a chance Turley may not even make the A’s Opening Day roster depending on how he looks in Spring Training (performances rather than results, I should add), but, with Jake Diekman the most likely candidate to take on the closer role, there is a clear need to add another left-handed option to the bullpen.
Turley may be just the ticket.
And as for lottery tickets, the 2021 International Free Agent signing period occurred over the past couple of days. The A’s added 11 new players to their development system, including talented Dominican outfielder Pedro Pineda. Reports state that the signing bonus for Pineda will be $2.5m.
I’m currently reading Future Value by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel, which is all about how MLB teams scout, sign and develop prospects. They note that the bigger international deals are often agreed 12-18 months ahead of time as part of managing every team’s allocated bonus pool for the year. The A’s overall pool budget this year is $5,348,100 so they’ve invested almost half of that in Pineda.
The A’s are no stranger to spending on international talent. One of the A’s top prospects is 18-year old shortstop Robert Puason, who we signed for $5.1m in July 2019 (second highest that year behind the Yankees signing of Jasson Dominguez). The A’s made sure he was in their alternate training camp at San Jose last season and by all accounts he impressed with not only his athletic ability but also his maturity and willingness to learn.
It’s a long and varied path from talented kid to the Major Leagues, one that the majority never complete, so it will be a number of years down the road before we find out what the A’s get for their investments.
However, these calculated gambles are all the more necessary for the Front Office given the ownership’s unwillingness to spend on established Major League talent.