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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.

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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.

Why???

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.

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MLB Roster moves

ALL the Utility Players!

The Oakland A’s reportedly have agreed a two-year, $14.5M contract with Aledmys Díaz, the former Houston Astros utility player.

Yes, you read that right; $14.5M! Whatever has come over A’s owner John Fisher?!

My thoughts on the Jace Peterson signing yesterday provide the context to the spend here. The Frugal Fisher A’s do have payroll space to play with this season, even if the amount of money that involves is very modest relative to the rest of the MLB competition.

Adding Peterson, and projecting Murphy’s 2023 salary to be on another team’s budget, left the A’s Front Office with $20M or so even just to get to the Opening Day payroll at the start of last season.

Not really surprising?

Signing players like Peterson and Díaz was what I expected from this off-season. Referring back to yesterday’s blog again, they’re not exciting signings but they make a lot of sense for a rebuilding team. You are adding experienced Major Leaguers to help an otherwise young group on and off the field, whilst also creating some decent trade assets too.

That both Peterson and Díaz got two-year deals is part of that plan. The extra year is a big incentive for such players to take our money over another team’s offer, creates a bit of stability to the roster and also gives us more options when it comes to future trades compared with a players on just a one-year rental deal.

Díaz has been used as a utility player by the Astros over the past four seasons, although we shouldn’t use that term in a negative way. That’s particularly the case with Díaz as for much of his time in Houston he had an elite infield of Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman ahead of him. His role on the team was to cover for injuries, give the regular starters days off and to provide a league average bat whilst turning his hand to whatever position was needed. In 2022, he played all four infield positions and also spent some time in left field.

He’s the sort of player who doesn’t stand out to fans on a World Series winner, but everyone in the clubhouse appreciates how important they are to a successful team.

V is for Versatility

The versatility fits nicely with similar attributes displayed by fellow newcomer Peterson and Tony Kemp.

What these players bring is the ability for Mark Kotsay to mix-and-match with his line-up and, most especially, creates flexibility depending on the progress of some of our younger players.

As an example, let’s say Kevin Smith finds something with his swing over the off-season. If he shows up well in Spring Training and carries that on into the early Minor League season then that’s the perfect time to bring him back up to the Big Leagues. If we had signed a dedicated third baseman then you have a logjam, but by signing Peterson we have someone who can shift to another position to make space if needed.

Signing a couple of utility players essentially means we can bring some experience into the line-up without blocking a fielding position for a prospect depending on who grasps the opportunity.

We need to talk about Pinder

A few A’s fans on Twitter have reacted to the Díaz signing by wondering why we didn’t just sign Chad Pinder to a new contract? I appreciate that sentiment is coming from a good place; we all have a soft spot for Pinder and have hoped for years that he would come good.

The thing is, sadly, he never has come good. He had a very encouraging campaign in 2018, but it’s been downhill since due to injuries and struggling for any sort of form or consistency. Looking at the basic hitting stats and then FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (that factors in hitting and fielding value), we see the following:

Chad Pinder: 553 Games, .242/.294/.417. 2.5 fWAR.

Aledmys Díaz: 582 Games, .266/.320/.443. 7.7 fWAR.

The batting lines look fairly similar at a superficial level, but when you dig into them and add defence to it too then Díaz has clearly been a much better player.

The Pinder/Peterson comparison is closer:

Jace Peterson: 741 Games, .231/.321/.343. 4.3 fWAR.

The difference here is that nearly all of Pinder’s value came from that 2018 season (2.2 fWAR). Over the last two seasons, Pinder’s fWAR has been precisely zero (0.1 in 2021, -0.1 in 2022) whilst Peterson’s has been 3.2. In fact, Peterson’s 2022 campaign (2.2 fWAR) was the equal of Pinder’s best season.

Taking the emotion out of it, Peterson is an upgrade and Díaz potentially a considerable upgrade. What we all hope for, I’m sure, is that both players produce the goods for the A’s whilst Chad succeeds in a part-time role on another team.

What Next?

Now we’ve got the taste for spending some money, let’s keep the dollars flowing! MLB Trade Rumors sums it up neatly:

“Given the lack of experience on the roster and the defensive fluidity many of the current starters bring to the table, the A’s could still make a play for a free agent at just about any position. There’s also clear room for multiple veteran arms, be they starters or relievers, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see a handful of comparably modest signings in the weeks and months ahead”

Steve Adams on MLB Trade Rumors

“Comparably modest” is a good way to describe the signings made so far and what we should expect between now and the start of Spring Training.

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Roster moves

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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Roster moves

A’s 2023 Arbitration Salary Estimates

MLB Trade Rumors have published their annual estimates for the salaries that the arbitration-eligible players are likely to receive in 2023.

This is always an interesting list, but it’s all the more so for the A’s this off-season as our roster is devoid of any guaranteed contracts.

We have a group of pre-arbitration players, plus six confirmed arbitration players and two more (A.J. Puk and Cole Irvin) who may be added to the list once the qualification point for Super Two players is finalised (a certain number of the best performing players become eligible for arbitration after two seasons rather than the standard three) .

Here are the six currently-confirmed arbitration eligible players and what the projection system has produced as a potential 2023 salary for each of them.

Tony Kemp (5.098): $3.9MM

We all love TK; the energy he brings and everything he stands for fits perfectly with Oakland. That doesn’t change the fact that he had some struggles at the plate in 2022 (yes, I know that can be said for virtually A’s hitter) and his value is more as a 25th/26th roster guy who can fill in at multiple positions than as a regular starting player.

Kemp made $2.25M in 2022 and I can’t help but feel that if signing him will take close to $4M then the A’s may not tender him a contract. To be honest, I was surprised that the projection system gave him such a big raise as I was looking at him being more in the $3.25M-$3.5M range. If he’s prepared to accept that level of contract, on the basis of staying somewhere he knows and where he’ll get plenty of playing time ahead of becoming a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, then a deal might still be possible.

Deolis Guerra: $900K

Not much to be said here, other than Guerra will be making his way back from Tommy John surgery and there’s every chance he won’t be tendered a contract.

Austin Pruitt: $1.2MM

Pruitt did okay for us out of the bullpen this season, pitching in 39 games. He gave up 11 home runs, which hurt, and he’s not a strike-out pitcher, but he does a good job in limiting free passes and can do a steady enough job in 6th-7th inning situations. It doesn’t seem overly likely we’ll spend a 7 figure sum on him, though.

Ramón Laureano: $3.6MM

2023 is going to be a big season for Ramón. We hoped that he would come back in a big way in 2022 once he finished up his suspension, but things didn’t quite turn out like that and his season was ended early by a hamstring injury.

Selfishly, the difficulties he faced in 2022 increase the chance that he will stay with the team heading into 2023 and hopefully we will see the old Ramón firing on all cylinders once again (albeit, that likely meaning he gets traded at the deadline).

Sean Murphy (3.029): $3.5MM

Comfortably our best player in 2022, Murph is a steal at a salary of $3.5M; however, unfortunately that factors into him being comfortably our most valuable trade asset this off-season.

Any team that is seeking an upgrade at catcher will be a potential trade match, with the most obvious fit being the Cleveland Guardians. They boast a strong farm system to trade from, have a need at the position and Murphy’s contract status (three years of arbitration-eligibility left) puts him in an affordable bracket for the cost-conscious team.

Paul Blackburn (3.018): $1.9MM

Paulie All-Star was having a break-out season until he ran into some performance struggles in the second-half and then ultimately was shut down for the season in early August with an injury to his pitching hand. There was talk that he may need to undergo surgery, although that doesn’t seem to have been needed to this point.

In any case, that puts some uncertainty against him that will affect his trade value this off-season, so there’s good reason to expect him to be back with the A’s in 2023.

All Comes Back to the Budget

As always, the options available to the A’s Front Office will be dictated by the budget constraints John Fisher places them under.

It shouldn’t be possible for Fisher to set such a ridiculously low payroll again without penalty ($47.7M 26-man Opening Day, just under $61M 40-man for Competitive Balance Tax purposes); however this is a system with little to prevent him from doing so.

It’s best not to underestimate how cheap a cheap Billionaire can be.

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MLB Roster moves

Oakland A’s Trade Deadline Preview

The next act in the Oakland A’s latest rebuilding project will conclude on Tuesday August 2nd at the MLB trade deadline.

The official deadline is 6pm Eastern, meaning 3pm Pacific and 11pm here in the UK. That’s when deals have to be agreed by, although – as with the football transfer deadline – late agreements can become public during the hour or so after the buzzer has sounded.

So far, the A’s only departure of note has been Christian Bethancourt, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays on July 9th. We can expect at least one more name to be added to the list by Tuesday night. Here are the main candidates.

Frankie Montas

Contract status: Earning $5m this year, plus one further year of salary arbitration

Frankie may have been with a new team already had an ill-timed bout of shoulder soreness not put him on the sidelines just before the All-Star break. As a genuine high-quality starting pitcher, and one with another full season under contract after this one, he is a very desirable addition for a number of teams hoping to make play-off runs.

Montas has been grouped in the trade rumour mill with Cincinnati Reds pitchers Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle as the three top starting pitcher trade targets (Reds fans being in a similarly depressing situation as us in going through another rebuild).

The Seattle Mariners jumped head-first into the trade market on Friday by dealing away four prospects, including two particularly highly-valued shortstops, for Castillo. That has put Montas at the top of the available starting pitcher list, with Mahle a slightly cheaper alternative option.

The A’s don’t have to trade Frankie now. He’ll still have plenty of value left in the off-season; however history shows that teams will be prepared to pay a premium to add a player for an additional play-off push, so the only way Montas will still be in Green and Gold come Wednesday is if his shoulder starts acting up again. He isn’t scheduled to pitch again until Tuesday night and you can guarantee that the A’s will be keeping him in cotton wool between now and then.

Where might he land? Well, the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals are the two teams most heavily linked to him at the moment, whilst the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins could clearly do with rotation reinforcements, and the Rays and Blue Jays might get in the mix too.

Chad Pinder

Contract status: $2.7M this year, then a free agent this off-season

After Frankie, everyone else falls into the camp of being potentially trade-able, but only if a particularly worthwhile offer is on the table.

Chad falls into that category on the basis that he’s a free agent at the end of this season, so if the A’s can get anything for him rather than walk for free then it may make sense to do so.

Pinder’s a fan favourite for many of us, but he has a desperate .268 on-base percentage this season so there won’t be a huge demand for him. He does bring some good defensive flexibility, being able to handle a host of positions, and a bit of power, so we may find a team that sees some value in adding a utility player to their roster whilst only giving up a controllable Minor League depth piece for him.

Ramón Laureano

Contract status: Approx. $2m this year, plus two further years of salary arbitration

Ramón’s name is being mentioned because we all know the level of talent that he possesses; however, 2022 has been an awkward season for him coming off the drug suspension and he still has two years under contract after this one.

It seems more likely that he will stay with the team for now, with the hope that he will continue to rebuild his value either for the off-season market or for next season’s trade deadline.

Sean Murphy

Contract status: $725k this year, plus three further years of salary arbitration

As for Murphy, beyond the obvious point that there will always be interest in good players, I really can’t see a situation in which the A’s are likely to part with him over the next couple of days. There is no financial reason to do so given that he is on a small salary and still has three years under club control after this one.

The trade rumours are predominantly coming on the back of the form being shown in Triple-A by our top prospect Shea Langeliers, but unless we are really bowled over by a trade proposal right now I don’t think that will change our Front Office’s thinking.

Langeliers has all the tools to establish himself as our catcher for years to come and, whilst the excitement he creates make us fans eager to see him as soon as possible, the priority for the Front Office should be to do the best thing for his development.

Hitting in the Big Leagues is a completely different proposition to hitting Triple-A pitching in Vegas. Add on the demands of catching in the Majors to that workload and it could be to the detriment of Langeliers’ development, and some of our pitchers, to expect him to jump into an almost full-time role over the final two months of this season (Stephen Vogt would be a great teammate for Shea to learn from, but we have to be realistic about the workload Vogt can shoulder behind the plate).

We also have to remember the benefits a gold-glover like Murphy brings to our pitching staff and how he can help them finish off this season strongly to set them up for a step forward next year.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the best development path for Langeliers is to get a full Spring Training under his belt, working with Murphy and the Big League pitching staff, then sharing the workload in the first half of 2023 and assessing things from there. It just depends on whether a team really pushes to add Murphy at the deadline and if the prospect package is too enticing to ignore.

Lou Trivino

Contract status: $3M this year, plus two further years of salary arbitration

Lou is the last man on my list on the basis that plenty of play-off chasing teams are looking for another bullpen arm and, given our situation, any potential offer for Trivino is worth listening to.

I have taken to referring to him as Liability Lou after some of his recent blow-ups, but in fairness he has pitched well at times this season (including his last two outings) and we’ve seen him operating as a high-leverage reliever in the past.

Teams with significantly higher payrolls than ours may see a reasonable investment (in a couple of lower-value prospects and salary) in trading for him as a 6th/7th inning guy who could have spells of being more than that over the two years remaining under contract.

Ordinarily we would sit tight and see if he can rack up some saves to then trade him in the off-season or at next year’s trade deadline at a higher prospect value; however, our penny-pinching ways mean that saving the $1M left for this year and some of the approx. $4M that a salary-arbitration bump would give him next season may well be too appealing to overlook.

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Roster moves

Big League Ticket To Bride

I wrote yesterday about “finding the bright spots wherever you can in a season such as this”.

One of them undoubtedly is enjoying players finally achieving their dream of making it to the Big Leagues. We’ve seen nine players make their Major League debut so far this season with the Oakland A’s and in Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox we will see number 10.

Jonah Bride has been called up to the roster ahead of the series at Fenway Park and he will go straight into the starting line-up, playing third base and batting ninth.

Bride came into this season as an unheralded prospect on the national stage, yet if you followed A’s Minor League writers such as The Athletic’s Melissa Lockard you knew he was someone to keep an eye on.

He’s a classic type of prospect who doesn’t have one particular talent that makes him stand out, but rather does everything well.

In Lockard’s excellent profile of Bride, she includes a quote from the A’s farm director Ed Sprague that sums up the player perfectly:

“When people first see him, I don’t think they’re gonna be wild about what they see. He’s a guy that you appreciate the way he does things when you watch him every day.”

That may seem like damning Bride with faint praise, but it’s really not. This is someone who works tirelessly on his game, to the point where he happily started learning to be a catcher last season to add yet another string to his bow. I’ve written about this before, but as a fan you can enjoy watching these players every bit as much as a Matt Olson or Matt Chapman type who come up as a top prospect and develop into a leading player.

Kevin Smith’s demotion to Triple-A to make way for Bride is a reminder that the development path of a prospect is rarely a constant upward curve. There are bumps along the road and learning how to regroup and get back on track is an important part of becoming a Major League regular. We saw enough from Smith with the glove at third base to be optimistic that he can be back up this season once he has regained some confidence at the plate.

Meanwhile, Bride will skip onto the diamond at Fenway Park tonight fielding behind former Aviators teammate Jared Koenig, who will be making his second Big League start after his debut last Wednesday in Atlanta.

And it won’t only be a player making their Major League debut for the A’s against Boston. Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, radio announcer for the A’s High-A affiliate Lansing Lugnuts, will be joining Vince Cotroneo in the radio booth covering for Ken Korach.

There isn’t much that the non-Player Operation higher-ups at the A’s have done to earn any credit this season, but whoever has helped Alex Jensen (Low-A Stockton Ports announcer), Bob Hards (Double-A Midland Rockhounds announcer) and now Jesse to call some Big League games definitely deserves praise.

All we need now is for Bride and Koenig to give him something exciting to talk about.

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Roster moves UK Schedule

Can we turn it around?

Nine games in seven days; that’s what is in store for the Oakland A’s this week.

Normally I would be of the opinion that there’s no such thing as too much A’s baseball; however considering we come into this week on a nine-game losing streak it’s fair to say we’re going to be up against it.

This run of games is either going to be great news for us, giving us no chance to dwell on losses and get straight back at it, or could be a nightmare!

The Tigers series has an odd look to it with a double-header on Tuesday. It will be even stranger in practice as the first-half is a make-up of one of the games that was postponed from what should have been the first week of the season. Consequently, although the game will be at Comerica Park, the A’s technically will be the home team and therefore bat in the bottom half of the innings.

Latest YouTube Video

In our latest YouTube video, I review what was a poor series in Minnesota against the Twins and then look ahead to the games coming up this week.

Roster news

The A’s have made a roster move in the past couple of hours, calling up outfielder Luis Barrera and designating Billy McKinney for assignment.

The latter was worth a shot as an inexpensive off-season pick-up who would bring some MLB experience to the team, but he’s struggled so badly at the plate (only 5 hits in total from 57 plate appearances) that it was difficult to justify him taking up a spot on the 40-man roster, let alone the active 26-man roster.

It’s probable that McKinney will accept the assignment and join the Las Vegas Aviators in Triple-A as it seems unlikely another team would take him right now. He’ll know that if he can get his swing going in Vegas there’s a decent possibility that he could get some more playing time with the A’s later in the season, so sticking in the organisation may be his best option.

McKinney only needs to look at the man who has replaced him to understand how quickly things can turn around.

Luis Barrera was somewhat surprisingly DFA’d back on 11 April to clear a 40-man roster spot. He wasn’t claimed by another team, so he accepted the assignment to return to the Aviators and has hit .286 with three home runs in 23 games.

Given the offensive struggles the A’s have had over the past couple of weeks, there’s a roster place for him to grab hold off if he can show some promise. He’s getting an immediate chance to do just that as he’s been named in the A’s starting line-up for tonight’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

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Roster moves

Manaea Traded To The Padres

“He came from the Royals, and no-hit the Red Sox …”

Much as I almost convinced myself he would be here for a bit longer, Sean Manaea is now officially an ex-Oakland A. So “ex” in fact that he has already stood on a Cactus League mound and pitched against us.

The news this afternoon (UK time) that Manaea had been traded to the San Diego Padres was tough to take; all the more so considering he ended up changing dugouts and starting today’s game between the two teams for them rather than for us.

The two prospects in return seem somewhat underwhelming, meaning no disrespect to Euribiel Angeles and Adrian Martinez. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that there was a pressing need to get Manaea’s $9.75M salary off the books immediately rather than holding onto him for a few months and moving him closer to the trade deadline.

I tweeted our popular “Fisher Squirrel” gif in response to the move with him gleefully hording some more acorns/dollars. It’s at 1,500+ views and counting since being posted six hours ago.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I’d expect a few low-value pitching signings if Manaea and/or Montas left the team. The next few days will tell the tale as to whether any of that money is going to be reinvested into the roster or if we are going to head into the season with a $43M Opening Day payroll.

That would be impossible to justify given the national TV money guaranteed to each team and the season ticket prices the A’s are charging. Sadly, it’s the U.S. way that a franchise owner such as John Fisher doesn’t seem to have to justify his actions.

Instead, the Front Office has to work with the budget they are given and trading Manaea ahead of his impending free agency at the end of the season makes sense in that context.

The head understands it; the heart is struggling to cope once more as another favourite ends up wearing another team’s uniform.

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Roster moves

If In Doubt: Vogt!

Who said the Oakland A’s wouldn’t sign any free-agents this off-season?!

It is being widely reported that the A’s are finally going to make their first free-agent signing ahead of the 2022 season by bringing back fan favourite Stephen Vogt.

The only details we have right now are that it is a Major League contract and that a locker with his name and number has been set up in the A’s Spring Training clubhouse.

Vogt earned $3M last year during which he was traded from Arizona to Atlanta. Injury prevented him from being part of the Braves’ play-off run, although he was having a rough season anyway and ended up with a light batting line of .195/.283/.333 with 7 HR in 210 at-bats.

Clearly this is not the Vogt Version 1.0 that we enjoyed so much during his run with the A’s between 2013 and 2017. He’s 37 years-old and all of those years as a catcher take a toll. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful addition, though, as a more-than capable back-up catcher who can provide much-needed experience and leadership on a young team.

The A’s have circled through a few guys to perform that back-up role over the past two years, with Aramis Garcia and Austin Allen being the main options before the team eventually went out and traded for Yan Gomes for the final two months of last season.

We acquired highly-regarded catcher prospect Shea Langeliers from the Braves in the Olson trade and it looks like he’s close to being Major League ready; however, you’d always prefer a prospect to play their way onto a team rather than get the position by default. A couple of good months in Triple-A to start the season would be the perfect springboard from which to launch his Big League career.

Whether that would make Vogt surplus to requirements, or be part of a series of moves that sees Sean Murphy traded away, will be worked out nearer the time.

I might be proved wrong, but I don’t see the Vogt signing as something that would jeopardize the chances of Murphy being in the A’s Opening Day line-up. Vogt’s age and performances in recent years would put him firmly in back-up territory, and he’ll be on a modest salary even for the John Fisher A’s (maybe $1.5M or so with incentives), so it feels like a move that brings a veteran presence into the camp and keeps the Front Office’s options open for how things play out with Murphy and Langeliers as the season moves on.

However, it does further suggest that the team does not have complete confidence in Austin Allen and, as he is out of Minor League options, ultimately he may be the one who makes way on the 40-man Opening Day roster.

So long as the expectations on what he can bring at this stage in his career are suitably restrained, I can see Vogt being a popular and useful addition to the A’s roster.

At the very least, it gives the fans at the Coliseum something to enjoy making a noise about!