Series Preview

2023 Series #1 Preview

Oakland A’s fans head into the 2023 season with hopes for development on the field and dreams of positive developments off it.

In other words, the same as in 2022 only with things being a bit further along.

Off the field, the only thing we can state with confidence is that by the end of the year we will have a good idea of where the A’s future lies. Given that the two possible outcomes resemble Heaven (staying in Oakland for generations to come) and Hell (moving to Vegas and creating baseball orphans of us all), it’s a painful subject to ponder but one that is impossible to ignore.

That will be the biggest game of the season; the most wonderful win or the most awful loss

On the field, improving on last season is the initial objective, one that should be easy in theory given the low target that this sets of bettering a 60-102 win-loss record. Manager Mark Kotsay is having none of it, though, as he explained to reporters on Monday:

“Getting to the playoffs would be a successful year”, Kotsay said. “That’s our goal. I don’t think there’s any other way to start the season than looking at it like that”.

It’s a noble sentiment for sure, one that merits a serious response of admiration for setting a positive tone in the clubhouse and a less series response of “LOL”.

Whichever tone you choose to take, there are 162 Oakland A’s games ahead of us over the next six months. We should know better than any fanbase that we shouldn’t take a single one for granted.

It starts with the Angels

Our season gets underway with the LA Angels visiting the Coliseum.

The Angels ended up closer to the A’s in wins (13) than they did to even the second-placed Seattle Mariners (17) last season despite the Halos’ star talent and our owner’s shameful miserly ways. The final series of the season, in which we swept them over three games, summed up how far short they had fallen from their expectations.

Shohei Ohtani started the final game of last season and he’ll be on the mound for the Angels in the opening game of this season. The Japanese star is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of 2023 and much is being made of the importance of the Angels contending this year, either to make the most of him before he leaves or as part of convincing him to stay.

They’ve added a bunch of experienced Big Leaguers over the off-season with that in mind: Brandon Drury, Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urshela joining the position player ranks and Tyler Anderson joining the rotation.

However, they all come with the risk of slipping back from previous performance levels. This is exemplified by them giving former Rockies closer Carlos Estévez a two-year/$13.5M contract only for him to look so out of sorts during Spring Training that Manager Phil Nevin has stopped short of endorsing him as their closer to start the season.

Series Schedule

It’s a strange series format to start with, caused by the mandate that every MLB team has to play on “Opening Day” Thursday. As this is a three-game series, that means the teams will have an off-day on Friday before resuming on Saturday and Sunday.

From a UK perspective, watching the opener live means giving up some sleep. That’s helped slightly by the game being in the early hours of Friday March 31st, making it a good excuse for a long weekend at the end of the UK financial year.

The games on Saturday and Sunday are at the usual A’s weekend time of 1.07pm locally, so 21:07 here in the UK.

Don’t forget the rule changes

The big change we will experience this season is how long the games will last.

MLB has introduced a variety of rules that are designed to eliminate ‘dead time’ and to increase the pace of play.

The most notable, some would say jarring, is the presence of a pitch clock that requires pitchers to start their delivery within 15 seconds if no one is on-base, increasing to 20 seconds when there are base-runners.

That is joined by other measures – such as limiting the number of throws a pitcher can make to a base, and limiting the number of times the hitter can call for time (once per plate appearance) – that should counteract the dilly-dallying that has seen average game times increase significantly over the past 15 years.

This year’s Spring Training games were approximately 25 minutes shorter on average than in 2021, closer to 2 hours 40 minutes than the previous 3 hours or so. The games really did feel more sprightly when watching Spring Training action on TV and it should be a change for the better.

Rule changes also mean there should be more base-stealing (the A’s stole 40 bases in 31 Spring Training games this year – third highest – compared with 12 in 18 games in 2022) and less shifting of fielders.

A’s Roster

Oakland are projected to use Kyle Muller, Shintaro Fujinami and James Kaprielian as the three starting pitchers for this series.

New recruits Jace Peterson (third base) and Ryan Noda (first) are likely to step into the line-up as left-handed hitters against Ohtani on Thursday, before potentially making way over the weekend as the Angels send left-handed pitchers Patrick Sandoval and Tyler Anderson to the mound in games Two and Three.

The right-handed hitting outfielder Brent Rooker, acquired off waivers from the Royals over the off-season, is a good bet to start in those games. He’s hit 57 home runs combined over the past two seasons (mostly in Triple-A) and there’s hope among the A’s Top Brass that he is finally ready to tap into that raw power consistently at the Big League level.

In total, seven of the thirteen projected Opening Day position players will be new to the A’s alongside Conner Capel who joined – and impressed – in September last season. Add on Muller and Fujinami in the rotation, plus Trevor May and the returning Jeurys Familia in the bullpen, and you certainly can’t accuse the A’s Front Office of merely sitting back and hoping for improvement.

On paper it is a better roster than last year, not one likely to satisfy Kotsay’s criteria of a successful season but at least capable of making the loss column more respectable. Whether they will prove to be better or worse than that is, as they like to say, why they play the games.

And that’s exactly what they’ll start to do on Thursday.

A's Sunday Summary

Projecting the A’s 2023 Roster

The Oakland A’s boarded a flight yesterday and headed to the Bay Area after the completion of the 2023 Spring Training camp.

It was the first time since 2019 that MLB teams were able to enjoy something close to a normal Spring, albeit with the very welcome distraction of the World Baseball Classic. All of the A’s likely Opening Day roster candidates stayed in camp, so Mark Kotsay and his coaching staff were able to get some good work in ahead of what will be another development season.

With the usual A’s roster churn, and general disillusionment due to the shameful way fans are being treated by ownership, it would be understandable if you need a refresher on who may be wearing the Green and Gold on Thursday.

Let’s take a look.

Rotation Plans Revealed

Projected rotation:

  • Kyle Muller
  • Shintaro Fujinami
  • James Kaprielian
  • Ken Waldichuk
  • JP Sears

Kyle Muller has been announced as the A’s starter for the season opener on Thursday night at the Coliseum.

The big left-hander was acquired in the Sean Murphy trade over the off-season and has quickly settled into the team, helped by reuniting with his previous Braves Minor League catcher Shea Langeliers. In true A’s style, Muller celebrated this moment by getting shelled for 8 runs (4 earned) by the White Sox on Friday. Hopefully that has seen him get those jitters out of the way as he’s generally looked impressive during Spring.

Muller’s assignment was the source of disappointment for some A’s fans as it scuppered their hopes of having a Shohei Ohtani – Shintaro Fujinami match-up on Opening Night.

Whilst that would have been a great story, it also would have placed a huge amount of pressure on the A’s Japanese import. The A’s had to organise an auxiliary press area at Hohokam to cater for the Japanese media interest even when the two squared off in the Cactus League. Fuji’s Big League debut will be a big enough deal for him already without pitting him against Ohtani, so it looks like the right call to me.

Fujinami will pitch on Saturday instead and that is part of a wider plan to have him pitch once per week, every “Shintaro Saturday”, at least in the early going. That’s the schedule starting pitchers are used to in Japan and trying to adjust from six days’ rest between starts to only four is always a crucial part of the transition to MLB.

Usually a team would need to move from a five-man rotation to a six-man rotation to accommodate this; however, the MLB schedule deliberately builds in some additional off-days in April to allow for weather-related postponements and that will mean Kotsay will be able to make it work just with a couple of bullpen games thrown in.


Paul Blackburn (fingernail issue) and off-season signing Drew Rucinski (light hamstring strain) are both dealing with minor injuries that shouldn’t keep them out for long, but have held them back over the last week or so to prevent them from getting fully ready by Opening Day.

Freddy Tarnok, the other key pitcher acquired in the Murphy trade, was an outside bet for the rotation, but unfortunately has been shutdown due to discomfort in his right-arm. The soreness and tingling he is experiencing in his pitching arm can be a sign of a more serious injury, so the A’s medical team are taking a cautious approach.


Projected relievers:

  • Trevor May
  • Domingo Acevedo
  • Dany Jiménez
  • Jeurys Familia
  • Sam Moll (L)
  • Zach Jackson
  • Chad Smith
  • Adam Oller.

The notoriously unpredictable nature of relief pitchers means that a whole load of arms will cycle through the A’s bullpen at some point this season. The above is currently looking like where we will start.

Trevor May was the main headline signing on a one-year, $7M contract and he will get the first opportunity to be our closer. Chad Smith was a more low-key acquisition in a trade with the Colorado Rockies and quietly has looked very promising during Spring.

The provisional name on the list is Jeurys Familia. At time of writing, the A’s haven’t officially confirmed that he has signed, but he was with the team yesterday after being released by Arizona and the reports are that he has signed a Major League contract.

It will mark a return for Familia as he joined the A’s in 2018 as a mid-season rental before re-signing with his previous team, the New York Mets, on a 3-year, $30M contract in the 18/19 off-season. After a one-year, $6M deal with the Phillies in 2022, he agreed a Minor League deal with Arizona ahead of their 2023 Spring Training camp. He performed quite well, but they didn’t have a Major League roster spot for him so they released him just ahead of the league-wide end-of-camp roster cuts to give him the best chance of finding a good fit.

It’s a slight gamble, but that can be said for most of the A’s roster additions. He’s been good enough to earn $36M over the past four seasons, so that’s a sign of the quality he has shown previously and at 33 years old he could still have some good years ahead of him.


Kirby Snead, acquired from the Blue Jays in the Matt Chapman trade last year, has been shut down due to shoulder soreness experienced after his first Cactus League appearance. There’s no timetable yet for his return, but the lefty is likely to start out the season on the Injured List and then spend time in Triple-A.


Projected catchers are Shea Langeliers and ???

Langeliers will take over as the primary catcher, but we don’t currently know who will be the back-up.

It should have been Manny Piña, the experienced catcher we got in the Sean Murphy trade, but he is dealing with inflammation in his left wrist and will start the season on the Injured List. He missed most of last season after undergoing surgery on that wrist, so that’s not a great sign.

In Piña’s absence, it appears that the back-up will be either Kyle McCann or Carlos Pérez.

McCann was a 4th-round draft pick by the A’s in 2019 and has worked his way through the Minor League system. Scouting reports from leading prospect evaluators would suggest that he’s unlikely to be a Big Leaguer longer-term, but he’s well thought of within the A’s organisation and if he gets the chance he might just prove people wrong.

Carlos Pérez was signed to a Minor League deal one week ago when it was clear that Piña would be sidelined. He’s played just over 200 games in the Big Leagues, mainly for the Angels, and was in the A’s Minor League system in 2020 and 2021.

The A’s 40-man roster is full, and neither McCann nor Pérez are on it, so someone will have to be cut to make way for whichever one gets the nod (unless Piña’s injury is worse than has been made public and he gets placed on the 60-day IL).

The Other Position Players

With 13 pitchers and two catchers, that leaves space for 11 other players on the roster. The A’s have a bunch of players who can switch between the infield and outfield, so it’s easiest to group them together.

The Eight certainties (subject to injuries):

  • Jesús Aguilar
  • Nick Allen
  • Seth Brown
  • Aledmys Díaz
  • Tony Kemp
  • Ramón Laureano
  • Jace Peterson
  • Esteury Ruiz

Aguilar, Díaz, Peterson and Ruiz are the new recruits. Díaz has been playing at shortstop more regularly than expected during Spring, so Nick Allen will need to take his opportunities at the plate to convince the A’s that he deserves to remain the starting shortstop (his fielding, of course, is not in question).

The A’s got creative when trading Sean Murphy because they really wanted to acquire the ultra-speedy outfielder Esteury Ruiz from the Brewers, even though Milwaukee weren’t quite in the position to acquire Murphy. Ultimately, Atlanta traded a good young catcher in William Contreras to Milwaukee to make the three-team trade work and for the A’s to get the extra piece they craved.

Therefore it was no surprise when Mark Kotsay confirmed a couple of days ago that Ruiz would be on the Opening Day roster. The A’s think very highly of him and he will come into the season as the starting centre fielder.

That leaves three more positions to fill and all three are still to be determined. Currently, it looks to be leaning towards:

  • Conner Capel
  • Ryan Noda
  • Cristian Pache.

Capel impressed during his late-season stint with the A’s last year, so he has earned the chance to carry on where he left off.

Noda and Pache are on the bubble and it may depend on whether their respective contract status is a help or a hindrance.

Noda was a Rule 5 pick from the Dodgers and so the A’s would lose him if he doesn’t make the roster, or if he gets demoted at any point in 2023. He’s not hit much in Spring, but he’s got a solid Minor League track record so they may want to have a good look at him before making a decision on whether he’s got a future with the A’s.

As for Pache, the aggressive pursuit of Esteury Ruiz appeared to signal that the team was moving on from one of the key pieces from the Matt Olson trade. Pache’s defence in centrefield is elite, but his approach at the plate left him totally overmatched against Big League pitching and the A’s had no choice but to demote him to Triple-A last season.

Pache is out of Minor League options so if he doesn’t make the roster then he will be made available to the other 29 teams and it is very likely that he will be claimed by one of them. He has worked hard over the off-season to make adjustments at the plate and the initial results have looked promising.

Jonah Bride, Jordan Diaz and Dermis Garcia, who all spent time in the majors with the A’s last season, have been optioned to Triple-A, as has the outfield prospect JJ Bleday who was acquired in the A.J. Puk trade with the Marlins. That leaves outfielder Cal Stevenson and off-season waiver-claim Brent Rooker as the remaining two players most likely to challenge Noda and Pache, although both of those can be optioned to the Minor Leagues.

Consequently, I would expect Noda and Pache to be given a chance to start the season with the Big League team, unless one of them needs to be sacrificed to create a space on the 40-man roster for the back-up catcher.

UK Schedule

Spring Training 2023

The first two weeks of Spring Training for the A’s

Oakland A’s baseball is almost upon us for another season.

The Cactus League action in Arizona gets underway on Saturday with the A’s hosting the Diamondbacks at Hohokam Stadium. It’s a convenient evening start time for us in the UK, as are most games during Spring Training, and the NBC Sports California crew will be on hand to cover the contest.

Plenty to play for

In the majority of MLB camps, the Spring Training period will be a case of the established players slowly building up for the season whilst the coaching staff runs the rule over a few players who may claim the last bullpen spot or a place on the bench.

It’s quite different for our A’s.

There are a bunch of new players to get to know, with current projections suggesting as many as 10 or 11 players on the Opening Day roster could be new recruits, as well as some of the exciting young players we’ve got coming through.

Spring Training stats should always be treated with caution, but with so many spots up for grabs it promises to be a very competitive camp. Players know that a strong Cactus League showing could be the difference between getting the first opportunity on the Big League roster or starting the season in Triple-A.

Following the games

As always, only a small selection of Spring Training games are being broadcast on TV Stateside, either by NBC Sports California or the opposing team’s crew; however these will be supplemented by a decent number of games covered by a basic camera set-up and radio commentary.

The 2023 MLB.TV subscription details were announced recently and, whilst there was an always-unwelcome small price rise, there are some nice new features. The main one is that the Minor League TV subscription has now been bundled into the main MLB.TV deal.

In previous seasons you could buy MiLB.TV at a discounted rate if you were an MLB.TV subscriber; however the MiLB “First Pitch” app was quite basic and buggy (I ended up uninstalling it from my iPad early last season in frustration and watched games from my laptop instead).

The new approach will allow you to use the MLB.TV app for MiLB affiliate games of your chosen Favourite Team, whilst improvements for the “First Pitch” app are in the works too.

A few things to note

The weekend of the 4th and 5th of March will involve the A’s using a split-squad, with half the camp playing in Arizona and the other half travelling to Las Vegas to play a two-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.

The A’s did this back in 2020, prior to the Covid-19 shut-down, and it’s a nice way to reward our Triple-A affiliate; however this time it has a different feel to it given the ongoing threat of relocation. It will put Mark Kotsay and the players in a difficult position when they are bombarded with the inevitable questions and creates a distraction I’m sure they could all do without.

The A’s will also diverge from the usual Cactus League schedule on Wednesday 8th with a game against the Colombia national team, who will be warming up for the World Baseball Classic.

Don’t forget the World Baseball Classic!

This spring will also be complemented by the return of the WBC for the first time since 2017 after the 2021 edition was postponed due to Covid-19 and the MLB lock-out.

As an ‘international’ fan, the WBC is particularly important to me as I know how much of a difference it can make in promoting the game outside of North America. That has a special resonance this year as Great Britain has qualified for the tournament for the first time.

It’s inevitable that the event does cause some disruption to the preparation of MLB teams; however I strongly feel that it’s a small price worth paying given the uniqueness of the tournament in the baseball calendar and how marketable the WBC is to an international audience.

The A’s WBC contingent predominantly are Minor Leaguers, with Jordan Díaz (Colombia) and Adrián Martínez (Mexico) being the only ones who have played in the Majors. Take that as a small silver lining to the cloud of not having many established Big Leaguers that WBC teams are desperate to call on.

A's Sunday Summary

There’s Always Another Trade

I was going through my A’s notes yesterday afternoon and contemplating quite what I might write about today.

I skipped the column last week as we’re firmly in the pre-Spring Training camp news lull when nothing much is happening, but I didn’t want to go two weeks without writing something if I could help it.

Maybe I tempted fate? Maybe it’s just that the A’s are liable to trade away anyone with a pulse? Either way, today’s subject appeared when I checked my phone upon waking up this morning.

Puk heads to the Marlins

A.J. Puk is the latest ex-A after being traded to the Miami Marlins on Saturday for outfielder JJ Bleday.

My initial reaction is similar to that of the recent trade of Cole Irvin to the Baltimore Orioles.

Whilst no trade is truly a surprise given the position the A’s are in currently, this is another transaction that has come out of nowhere for a player that we assumed would be one of the certainties for our Opening Day roster. All the same, it’s a move around the edges of a squad with modest expectations for the season ahead.

Hopes unfulfilled

Puk promised much ever since the A’s took him with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft. He came out of the University of Florida with a blazing fastball-slider combination that caught the eye as much as his 6ft 7 frame and long-flowing hair. Puk had rock star starting pitcher potential in more ways than one.

Then he blew out his arm, cut off his hair and moved to the bullpen.

There was always some reliever risk with him as a prospect and that was increased with the troubles he experienced in staying on the mound, including undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery.

Consequently, Puk’s 2022 season, in which he finally stayed healthy and made 62 relief appearances, was seen by many as the start of him settling in to a good Big League career as a lefty-handed reliever. It wasn’t quite what we hoped for on draft day back in 2016, but could still be considered a success given that there were times we feared he may flame-out completely.

Rotation Rumblings

That made it all the more curious when GM David Forst and Manager Mark Kotsay announced early in the off-season that Puk would be coming to Spring Training camp with the opportunity to earn a spot in the starting rotation.

They always noted in their comments that this was a decision driven by Puk and that they felt they owed it to him to give him a shot. Even so, I’m sure I’m far from the only A’s fan who kept him in the bullpen for my Opening Day roster thoughts.

Puk’s 2022 campaign offered reasons for optimism without clear signs that he was ticketed for a promotion to the rotation.

He settled into a strict fastball-slider mix that even in a reliever role made him susceptible to more damage than you’d like by right-handed hitters. A return of his change-up to his pitching arsenal seemed a necessity if he was going to address that flaw and it was difficult to know how ready he would be to start mixing it into at-bats against righties given we haven’t seen it for a few years.

Add to that his sometimes wayward control – including 10 hit-by-pitches across 66.1 innings pitched in 2022 – and the ever-present injury risk and the odds seemed stacked against Puk from making it work.

On to Miami

Presumably those plans have been squarely squashed upon his trade to Miami.

The Marlins have been crying out for a quality left-handed reliever all off-season. The fact that this trade was completed on a day in which Andrew Chafin (D-Backs) and Alex Reyes (Dodgers) both came off the free agent market tells me that Puk was a name on the Marlins’ list and became their best option to fill the role.

This could be a great move for A.J. Whilst I understand his preference is to be a starter, he has the tools to be a high-quality relief pitcher and being traded to a new organisation may be the thing he needs to really commit to being the best reliever he can be rather than holding on to hopes of something else.

The trade takes him back to Florida and also back to playing with his good friend Jesus Luzardo, so I’m sure from Puk’s point of view it’s a great opportunity and one that I hope he will grab with both hands.

What about us?!

Where it leaves the A’s is more of an open question. A’s beat writer Martín Gallegos wrapped up his report on the trade by stating: “despite Puk’s departure, the A’s still have a plethora of starting rotation options they’ll look to sort through in Spring Training”.

As above, I don’t feel that Puk was ever particularly likely to end up in the rotation so I would look at it more in terms of the impact on the bullpen. In that context, it fits into the category of our efforts this season being focused on working out what we’ve got for the future.

Some of the “plethora of starting rotation options” that Martín refers to may switch between starting and relieving this season as we assess if they can stick as starters in the Big Leagues or are headed for a future in the bullpen. In other words, they are the next wave behind Puk and are therefore the pitchers who will get opportunities to earn a spot on the next competitive A’s team.

A strong first half to 2023 from Puk would have resulted in him being traded anyway, so from a player asset perspective the question is whether we got good value for him?

Bleday is an A

As so often is the case, the answer to that question will take a few years to come to light.

JJ Bleday is in some ways the position player equivalent of Puk: a former high first-round pick (4th overall in the 2019 draft) who should have a Big League career ahead of him but one of high variance in terms of quality and length. He may be a useful roster piece for a while as a decent outfielder or he may turn out to be better than that.

It’s a roll of the dice and, as I’ve written plenty of times already this off-season, precisely the sort of low-risk gamble that we should be taking in the hope that one or two will pay off. He does have three Minor League options remaining (i.e. he can be optioned back to the Minors without being exposed to a wavier claim by other teams) as the Marlins fast-tracked him to the Majors last year in part due to the lost-2020 Minor League season, so he comes with some useful flexibility in terms of how we develop him.

That’s important given that a decision needs to be made on Cristian Pache ahead of Opening Day, as he is out of Minor League options, and that the A’s Front Office appear to be bullish on Esteury Ruiz (acquired in the Sean Murphy trade) being able to play centre field in the Big Leagues this season.

Other notes

In case you were wondering, JJ’s surname is pronounced bluh-DAY.

We’ll start to learn more about the shape of the roster over the next week as players report to Arizona. The official first workout for pitchers and catchers is this coming Wednesday (15th), with position players joining in from the following Monday.

The A’s Cactus League schedule has now been finalised. It includes a Big League weekend in Las Vegas on the 4th and 5th of March with games against the Cincinnati Reds at the Aviators’ ballpark.

The A’s did that before in 2020, with 2021 and 2022 editions being cancelled due to Covid and the MLB lockout, and the Rockies and Royals are playing two games there later in March too. It’s therefore not particularly linked to the potential relocation plans, but clearly that’s going to be hanging over the A’s series there in a few weeks’ time.

The A’s have gone completely silent over the past three or four months on plans for a new ballpark at either Howard Terminal or in Vegas, although unofficially there has been news of progress at both ends very recently. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred reiterated this past week that the A’s need to get something done this year. The visit to the Aviators’ home in early March will be telling as to whether they have news to share (a site chosen, potential finance plans in place).

And along those lines, it will be interesting if we hear from the owners of the Aviators during that weekend. Their $150M Las Vegas Ballpark only opened in 2019 and has been a big success so far, something that surely will be impacted if an MLB team moved in (the two reported potential sites that the A’s are looking at are 20 minutes or so drive away). They can’t be exactly thrilled that the MLB team they are an affiliate of is threatening to move into their patch.

A's Sunday Summary

Four weeks to go

We’re now only four weeks away from the start of Spring Training and it’s been a busy couple of weeks for the Oakland A’s as they get ready for the 2023 season.

That gave Dom and I a whole host of topics to discuss in our latest podcast episode when we recorded it on Friday night. You can find it on all the major podcast platforms and today we published a video excerpt on the YouTube channel talking about the ‘Elon Musk in an A’s jersey’ story.

We’ll leave that story to one side and catch up on some of the others.

Saying Goodbye to Cole Irvin

This off-season has been relatively easy to cope with as most of our tradeable assets had already been shipped out, so we just had the inevitable Sean Murphy trade to process.

That changed on Thursday when it was announced that Cole Irvin had been traded to Baltimore.

It was surprising in the sense that it came out of the blue without any rumours to prepare us for the news, beyond the fact that A’s fans are always prepared to some degree for any player to be traded away at the drop of a hat.

As so often is the case, when you take the emotion out of it there is a fair amount of logic behind the decision. Cole is 29 and a back-of-rotation starter with quite extreme home-road splits in his performance, so he wasn’t considered to be a longer-term building block, for all that his competitiveness and personality endeared himself to the fans.

The fact that he was the one guy that Mark Kotsay had previously said would be locked into the rotation is the main issue. Form, injuries and inexperience of others meant that Irvin was the anchor in an otherwise unproven plethora of starting pitcher options; however, the amount of other options we have is the crucial context.

In another situation there would be more value placed on having a steady-hand around which to give starting opportunities to the likes of Shintaro Fujinami, Drew Rucinski, JP Sears, Ken Waldichuk, Adrián Martínez, Kyle Muller, Adam Oller and maybe A.J. Puk.

The honest truth is that, in our current state, it’s probably not so important. We may as well get a good young infield prospect for Irvin – in the form of Darell Hernaiz – and then share out those 30 starts to others to see what they can offer.

A’s General Manager David Forst also confirmed on Friday that Paul Blackburn and James Kaprielian are progressing well in their injury rehabilitation programmes. The expectation is that they will be “ready to go” for Opening Day, so that has played a part in making the team comfortable in letting Irvin go.

Jesús Aguilar signing confirmed

There is still a balance to be struck between youth and experience and that comes into play with the signing of Jesús Aguilar.

The first baseman was available at a modest one-year, $3M cost following a down year in 2022. There’s a chance that his form last season was a sign of things to come, but that risk is what made him available within our budget.

Aguilar is an experienced hitter with a reputation as a great character in the clubhouse, so he falls squarely into the category of being a low-risk, decent-upside signing who can share time at first base with Rule 5 pick Ryan Noda and also pick up at-bats as a Designated Hitter.

Minor League Coaching Assignments Announced

Of course, the A’s 2023 is as much about development at the Minor League level as it is in the Big Leagues. With that in mind, the team announced the Player Development staff assignments this past week.

There has been the usual moving around of some coaches within the system, with the main newcomer to the organisation being someone with plenty of links to the A’s already. Gregorio Petit will be the manager at Low-A Stockton this season having previously managed the Astros’ Double-A affiliate.

Petit was signed as an amateur free agent by the A’s back in July 2001 and made his MLB debut with the team in 2008. He played in 25 games for the A’s and then had spells in the Big Leagues with the Astros, Yankees, Angels and Twins before retiring at the end of 2018.

Johnny Doskow joins the broadcast team

The A’s also made a signing to the broadcast crew by adding long-time Sacramento River Cats announcer Johnny Doskow to the radio booth. He’ll be doing pre and post-game shows as well as play-by-play across at least 65 games in the coming season.

The River Cats were the A’s Triple-A affiliate from 2000 to 2014 before switching to the Giants, so Doskow is well known in A’s circles and the reaction of fans and media members to the news tells you he will be a wonderful addition to Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo.

Listening to the Silence

The plans for a new ballpark hover above everything and, as the A’s “Spirit Week” wraps up in modest style, the continued silence from President Dave Kaval is deafening.

Casey Pratt touched on this in his recent video update, rightly condemning the lack of communication whilst also noting that negotiations are continuing behind the scenes. He also pointed out that Kaval has had a habit of making things worse when speaking over the past couple of years – like stepping on a rake and having it hit you in the face, as Casey put it – so maybe the silence is a self-preservation tactic.

In any case, it’s nowhere near good enough. Sadly, that sums up pretty much everything about the way Kaval and owner John Fisher are running their business.

A's Sunday Summary

A’s Rotation Taking Shape

The A’s made their 5th – FIFTH! – free agent addition of the off-season this past week by announcing the signing of Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami.

He was a heralded pitching prospect out of high school whose electric talent – 98 MPH fastball, wipe-out splitter and decent slider – has never quite come together due to control issues. He improved that part of his game in 2022 and the Hanshin Tigers honoured his wish to be made available to MLB teams this off-season.

Fujinami is no sure thing to be successful in the Majors, especially as a starting pitcher, but the old saying rings true: that’s why he’s joined the A’s!

Oakland were prepared to give him assurances that he will begin the season in the starting rotation, rather than the bullpen as some other MLB teams were offering, and signed him to a one-year, $3.25M contract with no additional option years attached to it.

For Fujinami, the ideal scenario will be to prove his worth as a viable starting pitcher and then sign a multi-year deal in twelve months’ time.

For the A’s, he’s precisely the sort of low-risk, good reward signing they should be using a roster spot on in 2023. If it doesn’t pan out then it’s no real loss. If we get a good half-season from him and trade him for a prospect then it will be $3.25M (plus $650k posting fee to Hanshin) well spent.

The unknowns with Fujinami also mean us fans can dream that we might have just signed someone a little bit special to get excited about. The A’s are even holding a press conference on Tuesday to announce his arrival, which doesn’t happen all that often.

We hear that our friends at the Oakland 68s may be getting their drums out to give him a welcome too.

It’s not quite the glitz and the glamour of signing someone to a $300M contract, but something’s better than nothing when nothing is all we got last year.

Options Aplenty in the Rotation

Fitness depending, Fujinami will join our other starting pitcher free agent Drew Rucinski in the starting rotation alongside Cole Irvin and Paul Blackburn, provided the latter is back healthy after the finger injury that ended his break-out 2022 campaign early.

That leaves us with a gaggle of arms to compete for the fifth spot and other starting opportunities as the season progresses. Currently they shape up as follows:

Late Starter?

James Kaprielian – his timetable from shoulder surgery in early December is still a little unclear. Mark Kotsay said at the Winter Meetings that he hoped Kap would be good to go for Spring Training, although given that we have other options, don’t be surprised if the A’s take a conservative approach with his recovery.

Likely Bullpen arms

A.J. Puk – A’s GM David Forst stated at the start of the off-season that Puk would come to Spring Training camp as a potential starting pitcher. I would love to see it work out for Puk; however my hunch is that he’ll be our set-up man again this season.

Adam Oller – 2022 didn’t go well, so he may be better suited to a long-relief role. If not, he’s the type of player who will be Designated For Assignment to make space for younger talent on the 40-man roster.

The Next Generation

Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears – both showed promise at the end of last season and really have nothing left to prove at Triple-A level. Regardless of their Opening Day roster assignment, they’ll get plenty of starts in the Green and Gold in 2023.

Adrián Martínez – Although his 2022 didn’t go to plan, there were moments when his fastball and outstanding change-up made him look like an intriguing prospect. It’s worth giving him another go at Triple-A as a starting pitcher before considering switching him to be a potentially excellent reliever.

Kyle Muller and Freddy Tarnok – Both made their MLB debuts with the Braves last season and, like Waldichuk and Sears, will have made plenty of starts for the A’s by the end of the season.

Arbitration Deals Agreed

In other roster news, the A’s announced that they had agreed terms with Paul Blackburn, Tony Kemp and Ramón Laureano on contracts for 2023.

Blackburn ($1.9M salary for 2023) and Laureano ($3.55M) will both be hoping to have healthy and productive seasons to build on previous success, whilst Kemp ($3.725M) is in his final year before becoming a free agent.

As always, successful starts to the 2023 season for them will probably mean other teams will be paying part of that salary once we get to August and September.

Oakland goes 1-1 in funding agreements

Off the field, the Howard Terminal development plans have taken a blow with the provisional awards from the Federal MEGA grant program ruling that Oakland City Council’s bid for $182M was unsuccessful.

Whilst the naysayers are jumping on this as pushing the A’s one step closer to Vegas, the impact of the disappointing news shouldn’t be overstated. The City Council applied to that funding plot knowing they were extremely unlikely to get the full amount and that it was always possible they would get nothing giving how competitive the bidding process was.

In more positive news, the California Transportation Commission has approved $175 million of funding for the Port Of Oakland’s 7th Street Grade Separation Project, first announced back in December. The project obviously is much wider than just relating to Howard Terminal, but it’s part of the overall mission.

Spirit Week Announced

The A’s finally answered the question of whether they would be holding a FanFest this year by announcing a Spirit Week event.

It will begin on Monday January 23rd with various give-aways and ticket deals before culminating on Friday with an open ‘happy hour’ event.

Around the Majors

First – The Carlos Correa saga was brought to a close by the Minnesota Twins re-signing the shortstop to a contract that guarantees him 6-years, $200M and then has another four option years that could add $70M to it. Credit to the Twins for sticking with it after the provisional deals with the Giants and Mets gave them plenty of reasons to move on.

Second – Just after the Boston Red Sox’s 10-year, $313.5M contract extension with Rafael Devers somewhat appeased the Fenway Faithful, the despondency has built again after the news that Trevor Story has undergone elbow surgery that could put him out for the entire season. It only adds to the anger among Red Sox fans that the team signed Story to a six-year, $140M contract last off-season whilst offering low-ball contract extensions to Xander Bogaerts, who subsequently signed an 11-year, $280M contract with the Padres in December.

Third – There may be similar buyer’s remorse – albeit at a substantially lower financial level – for the New York Yankees when it comes to their mid-season trade with the A’s for Frankie Montas. He struggled down the stretch after being acquired at the trade deadline and the Yankees announced yesterday that Montas’s shoulder soreness has returned. He’s reportedly 8-10 weeks behind his off-season schedule and the fact that his shoulder has been a recurring problem makes this all the more concerning. It’s rough news for Frankie, although from the A’s perspective it shows that the Front Office did the right thing in getting a very solid prospect return for him and Lou Trivino when they did.

Home – And finally, fans of the similarly pathetically-owned Pittsburgh Pirates received a much-deserved bit of good news on Friday with the announcement that Andrew McCutchen has signed a one-year deal to return to the team. He reportedly turned down better financial offers from other teams as he wanted to go back to where his career began and to help their rebuild.

Looking forward to 2023

Even though 2022 was as difficult on the field as we expected for the Oakland A’s, it still brought a full season of baseball to watch with friends and loved ones.

After the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021, both in baseball and beyond, that was something none of us could take for granted.

More than anything, it allowed us to finally travel to the States once more to watch the A’s in person and to catch up with friends in New York and in Oakland.

We’ll be travelling to the States again in 2023 and also holding several meet-ups in the UK, with details to be finalised in the next few months.

Here are some other things to keep in mind for 2023.

Key A’s Dates

The A’s regular season schedule begins with a home-stand against the LA Angels and the Cleveland Guardians. The opener is on Thursday March 30th, with a (weird) off-day on Friday before the series against the Halos concludes on the Saturday and Sunday.

The A’s finish up the season with a 6-game road-trip taking in Minnesota and Anaheim, with the final game against the Angels coming on Sunday October 1st. So if any wise guy jokes about the A’s not playing in October you can throw that back at them.

The Cactus League action begins on Saturday February 25th, although Spring Training will be disrupted this year because of the World Baseball Classic.

UK/Great Britain stuff

The WBC is always a fun event, but it has an additional level of excitement for us this year because the Great Britain national team managed to qualify for the full event for the first time.

Team GB are in a 5-team pool with the U.S., Canada, Colombia and Mexico. The games from this pool are being held in Phoenix between March 11-15.

We also have the long-awaited return of the MLB London Series. The Cubs and Cardinals were due to play at the London Stadium in 2020 before the Covid pandemic got in the way, but the two teams are making the trip across the pond in 2023 with the games being played on June 24-25.

We’ll be staging an A’s UK meet-up of some sort that weekend close to the Stadium, so keep an eye on the blog for details nearer to the time.

MLB Schedule Changes

2023 will also mark the first year of the new schedule format that will see every team play each other every season. Traditionalists may not be so keen, but for those of us who like travelling to different cities to watch the A’s it does make it much easier to tick off new places.

The new format works as follows:

  • Division Rivals: 13 games against each of the other four teams, down from 19 in the previous format.
  • The rest of the AL: 6 or 7 games against each of the other 10 teams.
  • Interleague rival: 4 games against the Giants, split into two series of two. That’s down from 6 games in the previous format.
  • The rest of the NL: 3 games against each of the other 14 teams in the NL, with home/road series alternating year-to-year.

The full NL split for the A’s looks like this:

TeamOdd Years (2023 etc)Even Years (2024 etc)
LA DodgersAwayHome
St. LouisAwayHome
Chicago CubsHomeAway
NY MetsHomeAway
San DiegoHomeAway
SF GiantsBothBoth

MLB Rule Changes

We’ve got a few new rules to get used to in 2023.

The extreme defensive shifts that have become all the rage in recent seasons are being curtailed. The fielding team must now have at least four players on the infield (prohibiting four-man outfields), with at least two infielders completely on either side of second base (prohibiting the common shift where teams have put three infielders on to the pull-side of the hitter).

A pitch timer is being introduced to try to quicken the pace of play, something that has increasingly crept up over the past 10 years or so. The pitcher will have 15 seconds to make their pitch when the bases are empty, increased to 20 seconds when there are runners on base.

There are also going to be limits placed on the amount of times a pitcher can throw over to bases to keep the runner from getting too big of a lead. The pitcher can only throw over twice per plate appearance, unless the runner advances in which case that gets re-set.

Base stealing is also being encouraged by increasing the size of the basepads, from 15 inches square to 18 inches square. This slightly reduces the distance between the bases and also gives the base stealer a better chance of staying on the base when they slide into it.

As an A’s aside: outfielder Esteury Ruiz, one of the players the A’s received in the Sean Murphy trade, stole 85 bases in 114 Minor League games last season. The average for an entire MLB team in 2022 was 83. He’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this season.

The most important deadline

This actually spills over into 2024; however it will be hugely important this year too.

The MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the A’s a deadline of January 15th, 2024, to get a “binding deal” for a new ballpark.

If the A’s fail to get a ballpark deal, whether in Oakland or Las Vegas, by that date they will be removed from the ‘small market’ revenue-sharing group. If they meet that deadline the A’s will be guaranteed to remain as recipients of that money until the new ballpark opens.

When the A’s were previously kicked out of this bracket in 2016 it was reported by then A’s beat writer Jane Lee that it had been worth $30M to the A’s in the 2016 season. With all MLB revenues increasing since that point, it’s fair to assume that a full share will be worth even more than that now (note that the A’s got a 25% share in 2022 and will get a 50% share in 2023).

You don’t need me to tell you that A’s owner John Fisher will be very keen to avoid missing out on $30M+ in additional revenue every year during the period before a new ballpark opens. That means, after nearly two decades of uncertainty, 2023 is very likely to be the year in which the A’s finally secure a deal to move from the current Coliseum site.

We all have our fingers firmly crossed that this will mean coming to an agreement with new Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and the rest of the Oakland City Councillors to develop the Howard Terminal site and to secure the team’s future in Oakland for decades to come.

And if that happens, 2023 will prove to be an historic and successful year for the A’s irrespective of what happens on the field.

Roster moves

Deals Done

It’s been a day of high drama for Bay Area baseball, brought to a head by an official statement in the past couple of hours addressing the big news.

Yes, the rumours were true: the Oakland A’s have indeed signed free agent pitcher Drew Rucinski.

The contract guarantees him $3M in 2023 and there is a club option of $5M for 2024. Everything has been signed; he’s even completed his medical examination. Bad luck New York: you won’t be able to sneak in and steal this one.

Who Is Drew?

If you are reading this and sheepishly admitting to yourself that you’ve never heard of Rucinski then do not worry. He’s been pitching in the Korean Baseball League for the past four seasons after making 41 appearances in MLB between 2014 and 2018.

Rucinski was primarily a reliever during his time in the Big Leagues, but was a reliable innings-eater in Korea and figures to be given a shot in the A’s starting rotation.

MLB Trade Rumors included him right at the end of their Top 50 Free Agents and their assessment of where he might end up was spot on:

“Since he’ll be looking for his first MLB payday, Rucinski probably won’t care whether he signs with a rebuilding club who might flip him at the trade deadline or a postseason hopeful. Whichever club is willing to dole out the largest number of years and dollars will win the day here, and Rucinski’s likely price point should be affordable enough that even low-payroll teams can make competitive bids. Teams like the Pirates, D-backs, Royals, Rangers, A’s and Tigers might even be preferable, as they’ll have an easier time making the promise of guaranteed innings to Rucinski”.

MLB Trade Rumors

May we have some decent pitchers?

The Rucinski signing follows on from the acquisition of relief pitcher Trevor May.

The right-hander developed into a very effective reliever in Minnesota and earned a two-year, $15.5M contract with the New York Mets ahead of the 2021 season. He was excellent in a set-up role in 2021; however injuries held him back in 2022 and limited him to only 25 innings.

May went into this off-season with the objective of finding a decent one-year deal that would put him in a prominent bullpen role – ideally as a closer – from which he could rebuild his value to head back onto the free agent market next winter.

In other words, he was exactly the sort of quality arm that the A’s were looking for.

We more than had the budget spare to sign him to a $7m deal and to give him assurances that the closer role was his to lose. The contract is structured so that he gets a $1m signing bonus and then a $6m salary, plus a $100k assignment bonus if he is traded. The liability of that bonus payment will fall on the acquiring team, which says quite a lot!

In reality the best-case scenario for everyone is that May returns to form as our closer in the first half of the season, the A’s get to trade him for a prospect (for example, a good young reliever who we’ll have under contract for 5-6 years), the other team picks up the $2.5M-$3M left on his contract (plus that $100k bonus) and he gets to pitch for a contender ahead of seeking a multi-year contract next winter.

As I’ve written previously, this is precisely the type of player a rebuilding team like the A’s should be signing. May’s track record suggests it could be a very astute addition, both in his potential mid-season trade value and that his presence as the closer will let other members of our bullpen slide down a spot to where they are probably better suited at the moment.

Taking Stock

Left-hander Zach Logue had to be Designated For Assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Rucinski and that’s testament to the fact that we do now have quite a few pitching options.

It is much more a plethora of pitchers than an embarrassment of riches, but there’s something to be said for having a whole bundle of arms and seeing if any work out.

If 2022 was Year Zero, 2023 should be a season in which we start to learn more about the group of players currently straddling the Triple-A and MLB divide. Principally, which ones look like they may be able to take the next step and be a part of the next contending A’s team.

Even if 2023 brings plenty of losses on the field again, as it surely will, it at least promises to be an intriguing season. And as we know from previous experience, those seasons can be fun irrespective of what the Win-Loss record says at the end of it.

Roster moves

Sean Murphy Traded to the Braves

I was going to post a photo of our beautiful “Big Boy Home Runs” banner, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

Sean Murphy has been added to the depressingly long list of quality Major Leaguers that have left the Oakland A’s over the past 12 months. The Gold Glove catcher has joined Atlanta in a three-way trade that also includes the Milwaukee Brewers.

As with all of the other departures, there’s a slight sense of happiness for the player that they have been moved to a good new home, one that will probably reward him with a contract extension in short order.

We might as well be happy for someone else, as it’s hard to be happy for ourselves right now.


The emotionless logic for trading Murphy worked on three factors:

  1. It’s Shea Langeliers’ time to become a regular starter.
  2. Murphy was unlikely to sign a contract extension – even if one was offered – to keep him with the team for when we expect to be competitive again.
  3. He is a valuable commodity, with multiple suitors, and would produce a very attractive return to add to our rebuilding effort.

The St. Louis Cardinals were one of many such suitors. They ultimately decided to sign Willson Conteras as a free agent instead and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch had this to say about the A’s negotiating position:

One of several teams chasing Murphy, the Cardinals found the Athletics’ asking price steep. One executive referred to it as “high — like the moon.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch

If we had got “the moon” in return then the blow of losing one of our few remaining good players would have been softened. Unfortunately, the initial reactions from prospect writers suggest the return has fallen somewhat short of the moon.

In fact, quite a long way short.

What Did We Get?

As Stockton Ports broadcaster Alex Jensen sensibly reminds us, it will take a couple of years before we can really assess the value of the prospects that we have acquired. Amid the bashing of David Forst and the rest of the A’s Front Office right now on Twitter, I’m sure you won’t find a single A’s fan who doesn’t hope that the negative reactions are proved incorrect in time.

And what else do we have right now but time? Well, let’s take a quick look.

A catcher for now: Veteran catcher Manny Piña comes across from the Braves. With Sean Murphy heading out, we had to acquire another catcher from somewhere as there are no MLB-ready choices in our Minor League system to join Shea Langeliers on the roster. It made sense for that to be a defense-first veteran back-up and that describes Piña perfectly.

He doesn’t add much at all with the bat – insert your own “well, he’ll fit in with the A’s” joke here – but he has consistently been rated as a good defensive catcher during his time with the Brewers and then last year with the Braves. He should be a help to the pitching staff and also can be someone Shea can learn from too, which shouldn’t be underestimated as part of his development.

One speedy outfielder: The reports on Esteury Ruiz state that he’s a very quick runner, and can knock one out of the park every once in a while, but he’ll need to out-perform the projections if he is going to hit enough to be a regular presence in the line up. It’s the second move in less than five months for Ruiz as he was acquired by the Brewers from the Padres on August 1st as part of the package that saw Josh Hader head to San Diego.

Three pitchers from the Braves: Left-hander Kyle Muller is the pick of the bunch as he was generally rated the Braves’ top prospect, albeit in a farm system that has been depleted over the past year by promotions to the Majors and other trades. He’s very likely to stick as a Big League starting pitcher, and made his MLB debut this past season, although probably at the back of the rotation.

Right-hander Freddy Tarnok is someone that the Braves seemed to like more than some of the prospect writers, so he’s potentially the player who could make this deal look a lot better in a few years’ time. He has a good assortment of pitches, including a 95-MPH fastball, and like Muller he made his MLB debut in 2022.

Finally, right-hander Royber Salinas is more of a project as he was pitching in Single-A in 2022. There’s plenty of variance in how prospect writers assess his potential and whether he will transition to a reliever role as he gets closer to the Majors, but again there is at least a decent chance that he will contribute in the Big Leagues at some point.

What Next?

It’s the development of the three pitchers from Atlanta that will determine how we look back at this trade in future. For every Dan Haren there’s a Dan Meyer. We can only hope that this time the pitching return from Atlanta works out better than those fateful few days in December 2004 when Mark Mulder was traded to the Cardinals and Tim Hudson to the Braves.

As for right now, we’ve traded away by far our best player from a team that lost 102 games.

We don’t yet know if the future will be bright; we do know it looks quite a long way away. Almost as far away as the moon.

A's Sunday Summary

Draft Lottery Losers

The Winter Meetings in San Diego this past week were very eventful. Even our Oakland A’s got in on the act with a couple of reported free agent signings.

However, the most significant news for the Green and Gold was another disappointment for us to cope with.

Down to Sixth

The first ever MLB Draft Lottery took place on Tuesday and the A’s were the biggest losers coming out of it. Previously a second-worst win-loss record would have meant picking second in the following year’s amateur player draft. Adding the lottery element to it has resulted in the A’s dropping down to sixth.

Although there can be a drop-off from the players available at the very top of the draft, the significance is more in the financial implications and the A’s ability to add more talent to the rebuilding effort via next year’s draft.

Every single pick in the draft is given a guide value. The combined total of the pick values that an individual team has allocated to them defines their overall draft bonus pool budget. The individual signing bonuses are still subject to negotiation, so you can strike a deal at higher or lower than the guide value for that specific pick; however, the total value of all of your deals has to be within your overall bonus pool budget.

The guide values for the 2023 draft are still to be published, but for 2022 the difference between the second overall pick ($8,189,400) and the sixth overall pick ($6,037,500) was $2.1M. That’s not a lot when it comes to the MLB Free Agency market, but it is in the context of the bonus pools, such as the A’s overall budget of $8.3M for the 2022 draft.

First Round Fails

The A’s Front Office will have to get creative once again, not least because their disappointing record with First Round draft picks in recent years has been a factor in the team going into a full-scale rebuild.

After taking A.J. Puk with the sixth overall pick in 2016, they once again picked at six in 2017 and used that to select Austin Beck. Sadly for the A’s, Beck has never shown a consistent ability to make contact across four and a bit Minor League seasons. He split time in High-A and Double-A during 2022 and, although he displayed some power in Lansing (8 HR in 43 games), it’s still questionable if he will make it to the Majors at all, let alone be productive at that level.

The swing-and-a-miss on Beck in 2017, as well as late First Round pick Kevin Merrell, was compounded by the Kyler Murray debacle in 2018.

The A’s used their ninth overall spot to select University of Oklahoma’s two-sport star, came to terms on a $4.6M signing bonus and then allowed him to continue his college football season. He subsequently won the Heisman Trophy as the outstanding college football player of that season, was selected first overall in the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals and in July this year he signed a five-year contract extension that guarantees him $160M and could be worth up to $230.5M.

It worked nicely for Murray, but the only thing the A’s got out of it was most of their bonus money back. It left a hole in the farm system and that’s one that the 2019 First Round pick hasn’t filled.

College shortstop Logan Davidson was selected with the 29th pick and signed to a $2.4M bonus. As with so many other prospects of that year, Davidson’s development was hindered by the cancelled 2020 Minor League season. The A’s decided to send him to Double-A Midland in 2021 and his struggles there (batting .212/.307/.313) resulted in him being given a repeat assignment at that level this year. The results were better second time around (.252/.337/.406 with 14 HR in 111 games), but still not clearly indicative of someone who will develop into a Big Leaguer of any note.

The A’s left him off their 40-man roster this off-season, exposing him to the other 29 teams in the Rule 5 Draft this week, but nobody claimed him. There’s still a chance he could play for the A’s; however he’s unlikely to push on much further.

The disappointment with Davidson’s development also is now seen with the unflattering comparison to the shortstop taken with the very next pick. The New York Yankees selected Anthony Volpe and’s Prospect Rankings currently list him as the fifth best prospect in all of baseball. He is a prospect with All Star potential and he was considered untouchable by the Yankees’ Front Office this summer when the A’s were negotiating a trade package for Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino.

Every team has its successes and failures in the draft; however, the difference between the two is greatly exacerbated when you don’t compete for premium talent – or even very good talent – on the free agent market. With that approach, if you don’t draft a Matt Chapman or Matt Olson, you never have one.

The A’s will have an early pick this year – even if not quite as early as we had hoped – and likely will again next year too. Converting those into impact Major Leaguers could have a strong bearing on how far the next competitive A’s team can go.

Other A’s Notes

Alongside the Draft Lottery, another new feature of MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that we’re seeing for the first time this off-season is the allocation of a $50M fund to the top performing pre-arbitration players (i.e. those in their first three MLB seasons). Sean Murphy is the A’s sole beneficiary this time, earning himself a $700k bonus that pretty much doubles his take-home pay for 2022. There’s no need to worry about A’s owner John Fisher’s art collection budget though, as teams get reimbursed the full cost of the pre-arbitration bonuses from a central MLB fund.

The A’s selected first baseman Ryan Noda from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Rule 5 Draft on Wednesday. By all accounts, there’s a good chance he’ll be a regular at first base for the A’s in 2023. I’ll provide some more detailed thoughts on that selection, and the trade with Colorado that bagged us reliever Chad Smith, in a mid-week blog.

If you haven’t seen them already, you can catch up on my thoughts on the reported signings of Aledmys Díaz and Jace Peterson elsewhere on the blog (they are both pending completion of physicals, so have not been officially announced as yet). The one additional piece of information to add is that Peterson’s contract is reported to be a two-year deal worth $9.5M. That’s a bit higher than I estimated and is part of a wider trend so far this off-season of teams being willing, or being forced, to table offers with a higher average annual value and/or length than initially predicted.

Around The Majors

First: It’s difficult to know where to start with the flood of big money signings across MLB this past week. The eleven-year contracts signed by shortstops Trea Turner ($300M with the Phillies) and Xander Bogaerts ($275M with the Padres) are as good a place as any. Former (and probably future) A’s scourge Carlos Correa is predicted to beat Turner’s deal in the next week or so.

Second: Will Correa be the player to finally take the Giants’ money? For a few hours on Tuesday they thought they had beaten the Yankees to Aaron Judge’s signature, then it emerged that they had pursued fellow outfielder Brandon Nimmo before he decided to take an 8-year, $162M deal to return to the New York Mets. The Giants have managed to sign former Mariner Mitch Haniger, but the Big Star Splash they are desperately trying to make has yet to come off. There’s only a small amount of smirking towards the Giants here: the pain of narrowly missing out after tabling huge offers is a pain us A’s fans would gladly cope with.

Third: As for Judge, well you have to give credit to both the Giants and Padres for making what seemed inevitable be in doubt for a little while. The Yankees would no longer have been the Yankees if they had let their one beloved star leave the Bronx, so the 9-year, $360M pact was a commitment they had to make. The morale boost of keeping him shouldn’t obscure how badly the rest of their offense struggled down the stretch last season, so they’ll need to keep going if they are to be a true World Series contender.

Home: For a guide on this, the Yankees can look towards Queens. The Mets brought back Nimmo at a fair market price, responded to losing Jacob deGrom by signing Justin Verlander and have just added Jose Quintana and Japanese import Kodai Senga to cover for losing Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt to free agency (although C-Bass is still unsigned). ESPN’s Jeff Passan has done the sums and estimates that the Mets’ payroll will end up at around $345M, requiring owner Steve Cohen to pay a $76M tax bill for blasting through the various luxury tax thresholds. It’s known as a Competitive Balance Tax, although when one team pays more in tax than some teams will pay their entire 26-man roster (including our lot), it doesn’t seem a very accurate name. How about Free Money for Poor Billionaires Fund?