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A’s reportedly sign Jace Peterson

Forget those Sean Murphy to the Astros/ Cubs/ Cardinals/ Guardians/ Rays/ Red Sox/ White Sox/ Twins rumours for one moment, the first deal agreed by the A’s at the MLB Winter Meetings involves Oakland signing a player.

Wonders never cease.

FanSided’s Robert Murray has reported on Tuesday that the A’s have agreed terms on a two-year deal with Jace Peterson, subject to completion of a medical. He’ll be 33 years old next May, so the A’s being prepared to offer a two-year deal and regular playing time would make for a nice opportunity for him.

If your first reaction to this news is “who?”, well that’s understandable; however we know to keep our expectations low this off-season when it comes to the A’s player budget. Any addition to the team that will actually make us better should be welcomed even if they’re not a future Hall of Fame candidate.

And Jace Peterson will make us better.

His .236/.316/.382 batting line with the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2022 season may make you question that, but – let’s be honest – the bar to make our 2023 team better than the 2022 version isn’t very high.

In fact, if we add in his defence, and use FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement as a way to measure the value of his contributions, he would have been our second most valuable player in 2022 behind Sean Murphy. Peterson’s fWAR was 2.2, far below Murphy’s 5.1 but ahead of Seth Brown’s 1.8.

Does that mean he’ll be our best player when the inevitable Murphy trade is agreed? That’s probably pushing the argument too far, but he is a decent all-round player to plug into our infield. With the ridiculous budget constraints that the Front Office is under, that’s nothing to sniff at.

How Does This Affect The Roster?

Peterson made 86 of his appearances at third base in 2022, whilst in previous seasons he’s mainly split time between second base and the outfield.

His value as a utility player means that that if you were holding out hope that Chad Pinder might re-sign, that now looks even more unlikely. It may also call into question whether Tony Kemp will stick around for his final arbitration year, particularly as both TK and Peterson and left-handed hitters. I suspect if Kemp wasn’t in the A’s plans for 2023 then they might have just decided not to tender him a contract, so I can see both being in Green and Gold at least for the first half of the season.

Although we do have infield options to look at (Jonah Bride, Kevin Smith, Jordan Diaz, Vimael Machin etc), there is something to be said for making them play their way onto the team rather than them simply getting a go through lack of other options. Lining up left-to-right with Peterson, Nick Allen and Kemp, with a first baseman based on the pitching match-up, is a steady starting point and if someone else pushes past Peterson or Kemp for an everyday role (pushing Kemp into more outfield duty, for example) then that should be a positive for a rebuilding team.

Counting the Money

Peterson earned $1.8M with the Brewers in 2022. Financial terms of the A’s contract aren’t yet known, but I’d guess the two-year deal will be worth in the region of $5M or so. That’s not only very affordable for the A’s, it also helps with his trade value if he gets hot in the first half of the season.

If it seems pessimistic to be looking to him leaving already, it really shouldn’t do. A rebuilding team like the A’s should be looking to sign a few veterans on these types of deals. They add some quality and experience to the group whilst they’re here and if they do play well then you’ve got yourself another asset to trade. Players like Peterson wouldn’t net a leading prospect, of course, but you can never have enough depth players in the Minor Leagues.

To prove the point, just today the similarly cheap Pittsburgh Pirates signed relief pitchers Jarlín García and Vince Velasquez to salaries of $2.5M and $3.15M respectively. They’ll add a bit of experience and you only need one of them to have a good first half and you can turn that into a young relief pitcher who could be on your books for the next six years.

It’s not exciting, but it’s very sensible roster management by a Front Office when your owner won’t give you a competitive budget to work with.

If we put Peterson’s unknown salary to one side for a moment, the A’s are currently estimated to have a 26-man roster payroll of $31.3M (per the Cot’s Baseball Contracts site). That includes an estimated arbitration salary of $3.9M for Murphy that will surely be someone else’s bargain by the end of this week.

Take Murphy out, add Peterson in, and we’re looking at approximately $30M. Our 2022 Opening Day payroll was $47.8M and it would be surprising if we weren’t above that in 2023, if only to keep up appearances to avoid another grievance being filed by the Players’ Association.

If we call it $50M (still a pathetically low figure given the MLB national revenues) then that gives the Front Office space to bring in several more $3M-$4M players. That’s maybe a couple of relief pitchers, another starting pitcher (Mark Kotsay said yesterday that only Cole Irvin is locked into the rotation right now) and a hitter or two.

What areas we look at on the bargain-basement Free Agent market will depend in part on what we get back for Murphy, with Ken Rosenthal reporting yesterday that the A’s, as so often is the case, are more focused on getting some young MLB-ready talent than higher-risk/reward prospects who will be a few years away.

Not exactly exciting times, with the greatest of respect to Jace Peterson, but interesting times at least.

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