Roster moves

Roster almost set?

Ka’ai Tom and Burch Smith make the team

Spring Training is officially finished for the Oakland A’s and two more players have been confirmed as making the Opening Day roster.

Rule 5 selection Ka’ai Tom has made the team despite a slow start to Spring when a minor injury kept him out of the line-up for the first couple of weeks of the Cactus League.

The A’s selected him in the Rule 5 draft from Cleveland over the off-season and he now has to remain on the Big League roster all season long, otherwise he gets sent back to them. We’ll see how that goes over the months ahead, yet I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the A’s do keep hold of him.

We have a good recent history of finding players whose versatility can make them decent roster additions. Tom is unlikely to ever become a leading light, but his fielding versatility (comfortable at all three outfield positions) and developing bat give him a chance to be someone whose worth to a winning team goes beyond his individual stat line.

If he does stick around then he will be the A’s first real direct Rule 5 success story.

The A’s most recent Rule 5-acquired players – Vimael Machín last year and Mark Canha back in 2014 – were not technically selected by us. In both cases we cut a deal with a team that had a much earlier draft pick that they were not going to use, so that they selected them and then immediately traded them to the A’s for a small fee. Machín was selected from the Cubs by the Phillies last off-season, whilst Canha was selected by Colorado from Miami over the 2014-15 off-season.

Tom was an under-the-radar acquisition this off-season and the same could be said for the transaction that saw pitcher Burch Smith join the team a year ago in a rare Bay Area trade with the Giants.

Smith impressed in six relief appearances last year before a forearm injury brought his season to an early end. The A’s brought him back on a $705k salary for 2021 and he will round out an eight-man bullpen to start the season, probably serving as Bob Melvin’s first choice when a starter gets knocked out early and we need 2-3 innings from someone.

With the bullpen and the position players sorted, the only question is who will take Mike Fiers’ place in the rotation? (*)

I still think Puk is likely to start the year at the alternate site, as much to keep his workload down as anything, so it would seem to be between Jefferies and Irvin, with the former my guess as to the person who will make it on to the Opening Day roster.

(*) Subject to Frankie Montas’s finger issue lingering, although that doesn’t seem to be too much of a concern right now.

By Matt Smith

Matt has been writing about baseball and football (soccer) for many a year. He's one of the three Oakland A's UK crew and the one you'll most often see blogging at and presenting videos on our YouTube channel. He also writes a blog about Norwich City Football club at

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