A's Sunday Summary

Winter Meetings 2023

Given the way the Oakland A’s 2022 season went, you could almost say that the off-season is going to be more interesting than the action on the field.

MLB’s Winter Meetings get underway today in San Diego. Whilst other fanbases are excitedly dreaming about their team reeling in one of the big free agents, we are left looking up details of prospects on teams being linked with a trade for Sean Murphy.

After the blow-out of the last off-season, Murphy is really our only established Major Leaguer of any great value left to trade, subject to Ramón Laureano recapturing some of his previous form in the first half of the 2023 season to entice offers ahead of the trade deadline.

Amidst all of the other chaos, Murphy quietly put together a very impressive season, mixing a quality approach at the plate with his usual outstanding defence at one of the hardest fielding positions on the diamond. Add in the fact that he has three years remaining under contract and it’s no surprise that every potential contending team that hasn’t already got a good everyday catcher is reportedly flirting with the A’s.

Return of the Winter Meetings

The big difference compared to last year is that the A’s Front Office has more normal trading conditions to work within, rather than the mad rush produced by the protracted player lock-out. A’s General Manager David Forst has spoken in the past about how much more difficult the contracted nature of the 2021/22 off-season made it to fully tease out the potential trade packages from interested parties.

The annual Winter Meetings gathering was one of many things that was cancelled last year. With the key Front Office staff from all 30 teams in one place, alongside the leading agents and hordes of media, everything starts moving much more quickly. Even if a deal isn’t finalised before everyone flies off, you’ll often find that a deal agreed over the coming month or so had its roots in discussions that took place at the Winter Meetings.

The A’s are in no rush to trade Murphy due to his contract length and that there isn’t the pressing need to rid everyone off the payroll as there was last off-season. He is one of only four players presently under contract for 2023 who will be earning more than the league minimum, the others being Laureano, Tony Kemp and Paul Blackburn.

Much as I want to keep our “Big Boy Home Runs” flag flying for a bit longer, it still looks inevitable that he will be on another team by Spring Training, if not by Christmas. Demand significantly outstrips supply right now when it comes to quality catchers on the market. It is less a question of whether an acceptable offer is received, more which team is most willing to put together a trade package that best suits our Front Office’s design (MLB-ready talent, young prospects a few years away etc).

Rule 5 Draft

The return of the Winter Meetings also includes the return of the Rule 5 Draft after last year’s was cancelled.

The Rule 5 Draft gives teams the opportunity to pick and purchase (for $100k) certain eligible players who are not currently on another team’s 40-man roster. The caveat is that you have to keep a selected player on your 26-man MLB roster all season to keep hold of their rights from then on. That can be a struggle if the player is talented but a little over-matched in the Majors right now; however, it’s the type of situation that non-contending teams like the A’s can sometimes take advantage of.

An example of that came in 2018 when the Baltimore Orioles made the first pick to select Richie Martin from the A’s. Martin was a sweet-fielding shortstop with a questionable bat that was not yet ready for the Majors and possibly never would be.

Oakland took a small risk in leaving him unprotected ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, partly because it was unlikely he would hit enough to stay up on the Big League roster for a full season at that point.

As the Orioles were going to lose 100+ games in 2019 anyway, they decided it was worth taking the short-term hit. Sure enough, Martin struggled to a .208/.260/.322 batting line in 120 games, but he stayed on the roster and gave Baltimore the chance to see if he could develop in their system.

Ultimately it hasn’t worked out as Martin appeared in only 37 MLB games in 2021, followed by 13 in 2022, and was released by the Orioles at the start of October. Still, it’s the sort of very-low-risk gamble that a rebuilding team has the opportunity to try and the A’s may take a punt on a similar type of player in the upcoming draft.

The A’s most successful signee in recent years was Mark Canha in 2014. He is a good example of a little trick teams can pull if they know a team picking ahead of them is not interested in selecting someone (usually because their 40-man roster is already full so they have no space to add another player). The Colorado Rockies agreed to select Canha in the draft from the Miami Marlins, then sold him to us for a nominal amount above the $100k rate.

The Rule 5 Draft will take place on Wednesday and the development logjam created by the lost 2020 Minor League season means there are a few more interesting projects available. The A’s are certain to grab at least one player, probably a relief pitcher, this time around.

Draft Lottery

The other main event at this year’s Winter Meetings is going to be the first ever MLB draft lottery. This takes place on Tuesday and will determine the order at the top end of each round of the 2023 Amateur Player Draft in June.

In previous seasons the draft order predominantly has been set by win-loss record in reverse order; however that created the perverse situation in which there would be a race to the bottom to get the Number One pick. Under the old system the Washington Nationals would have had the Number One pick, with the A’s picking second. Of course, it’s very A’s-like for us to go into a rebuild just as that rule changed.

Under the new system, all 18 non-playoff teams from 2022 have a chance at getting the first pick based on a lottery that uses a variety of complicated factors that give different teams a different percentage chance of winning.

Feel free to Google it if you want to know the full ins and outs, but in short the A’s have a 16.5% chance of getting the Number One pick and are guaranteed to get a pick within the first 8.

A’s 2023 Coaching Staff confirmed

The A’s officially announced Mark Kotsay’s coaching staff for 2023 and in doing so confirmed the reports that Brad Ausmus is not returning as the Bench Coach. That position has gone to Darren Bush who served as the team’s Third Base Coach last season.

Other changes in coaching assignments see Marcus Jensen move from Bullpen Coach to Quality Control, Mike Aldrete move from Quality Control to First Base Coach and Eric Martins going from First Base Coach to Third Base Coach.

Scott Emerson (Pitching Coach), Tommy Everidge (Hitting Coach) and Chris Cron (Assistant Hitting Coach) all stay in their previous roles, whilst Mike McCarthy joins the A’s as the new Bullpen Coach. McCarthy was a pitching instructor at the San Diego Padres’ Triple-A team last season.

Hopefully they will have a few new players to coach once they reconvene in February for Spring Training.

Around the Bases

First: The Texas Rangers fired the first shot ahead of the Winter Meetings by announcing on Friday the signing of former Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. The ex-New York Met has agreed a five-year contract that guarantees $185M and could be worth $222M if an option year gets picked-up. My AUK pals and I were at the Coliseum on September 24th when the A’s knocked him out of the game after just 4 innings having chalked up 5 runs. It was funny at the time, particular with 800 or so Mets fans in attendance, although as we will now see him several times per season the old adage of “he who laughs last …” may come back to haunt us.

Second: The Houston Astros confirmed the signing of first baseman José Abreu at the start of the week, taking him as a free agent from the Chicago White Sox on a three-year, $58.5M contract. Now that deGrom is off the board we may see the pace quicken in the market for fellow elite starting pitcher Justin Verlander. The Astros are keen to bring him back, but they will now have to factor in the New York Mets as a potential bidder for him with their deGrom-shaped hole to fill.

Third: Staying on the Mets theme, they announced this week that former A’s favourite Eric Chavez has been moved to the position of Bench Coach under Buck Showalter. Chavy is earning an impressive reputation as a coach and looks destined to become a Big League manager in the future. The six-year, $66M contract extension he signed with the A’s back in 2004 remains the most lucrative commitment the team has made in a player, which given how significantly revenues across MLB have increased over the past 18 years is yet one more sad fact about the way our team has been run over the past two decades.

Home: Finally, former A’s reliever J.B. Wendelken has found a new home in Japan. The righty departed from the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent and has joined the Yokohama BayStars on a one-year deal, with a further year’s option, that MLB Trade Rumors reports could earn him up to $3M.

UK Schedule

A’s Schedule: Week Commencing 18 July 2022

The All-Star Break has coincided with a heatwave here in the UK and through much of Europe.

It’s been a struggle to stay cool, something that can’t be said for the A’s during the first half of the season!

We have picked up a bit of late, including the confidence-boosting 2-1 series win in Houston last weekend, so let’s hope our reputation as being a second-half team comes true again this year.

Mark Kotsay and his team will aim to do that by starting off with a home-stand at the Coliseum.

Firstly, we have a rare traditional double-header on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers. Game One is set for 12.37pm local time, so 20:37 for us in the UK, and then Game Two will follow after a short break.

The A’s have announced that Zach Logue will pitch in the opener, with Frankie Montas making his return in the second game. I’m slightly surprised by that decision as I would think it would be better for Frankie, coming off his shoulder injury, to know exactly what time he’d be starting as part of his pre-game warm-up schedule, but maybe it makes little difference to him?

The Texas Rangers then come to town for a three-game series. There’s a small change to the usual schedule in that the Saturday game is not being played in the afternoon, as is typical in Oakland, but instead is being played at night. That means one less game being played at a convenient time for us to watch live in the UK, but you do occasionally see A’s fans on Twitter asking for some Saturday games to be played at night so we’ll see if it’s popular.

The good news is that MLB has made all of the games over the next four days available to watch for free online, other than those that are part of US national deals (ESPN, Apple etc). The A’s are not being featured in any of the national games – they rarely show the A’s even when we’re good, so that’s no surprise – and that means all of the A’s games are available to watch for free.

MLB UK Schedule

A’s Schedule: Week beginning 11 July 2022

The first half of the 2022 season has felt like a long haul, even with the regular schedule getting underway later than planned following the off-season lock-out.

There’s no denying that a lacklustre rebuilding season such as the A’s are going through can make it difficult to keep the enthusiasm up, especially for those of us battling the time difference.

The All-Star Break will therefore come as a welcome chance to reset and to find a second wind for the second half, for A’s fans and players alike. We can at least find some joy in Paul Blackburn being named to the American League All-Star team as a wonderful story for a pitcher who has worked incredibly hard to prove himself at the Major League level.

The final week before the festivities sees the A’s on a road-trip to Texas, starting against the Rangers at Globe Life Field before heading to Minute Maid Park to renew hostilities with the Houston Astros.

Texas Rangers (A)

It’s been an up-and-down first half for the Rangers after their off-season spending splurge.

An awful 7-14 April was followed by a magnificent 17-10 May, only to then lead to a below-par 15-20 June and early July.

Texas has won 5 of 7 against the A’s so far this season with our batting line-up managing to score only 19 runs combined across those games (not quite 3 per game), so there’s plenty of room for improvement on our end. The scheduled starting pitchers are as follows:

Game 1: Adrián Martínez – Spencer Howard
Game 2: James Kaprielian – Glenn Otto
Game 3: Paul Blackburn – Jon Gray

Houston Astros (A)

Avoiding being swept by the Astros at the Coliseum over the weekend just gone counts as an achievement for Mark Kotsay’s team in a year of appropriately low expectations.

Repeating the feat on the road will be another small feather in the cap bearing in mind we’re scheduled to face Jose Urquidy and Jake Odorizzi again, both of whom pitched very well against us, and the ever foreboding presence of Justin Verlander too.

The one crumb of comfort is that the A’s are optimistic that Frankie Montas will be ready to return from his spell on the sidelines. The Front Office must have held their heads in their hands as Frankie’s shoulder started bothering him a month before the trade deadline, but it looks like the cortisone shot has done the trick in bringing down the inflammation.

Game 1: Frankie Montas – Justin Verlander
Game 2: Cole Irvin – José Urquidy
Game 3: Adrián Martínez – Jake Odorizzi

UK Schedule

A’s Schedule: Week beginning 25 May 2022

The games keep on coming thick and fast. After the three-game series in Anaheim, the A’s have travelled north to Seattle for three games against a spluttering Mariners squad.

Seattle did more than most to scupper our 2021 plans by winning 15 of the 19 games we played against them last season. However, the hopes of Mariners fans that the team would kick-on in 2022 have not been realised in the early going. The Mariners come into the week on a 17-25 record, just half-a-game better than the rebuilding A’s 17-26 mark.

Check out our latest video on the YouTube channel for a full review of the Angels series and a preview of the upcoming series in Seattle.

UK Schedule

A’s Schedule: Week beginning April 18th

I think it’s fair to say that all of us A’s fans would have gladly taken a 5-5 win-loss record from our season-opening road trip if offered at the start.

Playing away to the Phillies, Rays and Blue Jays was a tough stretch for any team to start a season with, let alone a much-changed team skippered by a rookie MLB manager. There were times when the talent gap between the current A’s group and their opponents was obvious, yet equally there were so many encouraging signs in the way that Mark Kotsay’s team stuck to the task and stayed in games even if they ended up on the losing side.

Sunday’s loss to the Blue Jays was a good case in point. A’s starter Adam Oller struggled again but limited the damage to only three runs to at least give us a chance to get back into the game. That’s exactly what we did and we made a very talented Blue Jays team have to work very hard for their 4-3 victory. A loss is a loss, I know, but the way you lose a game does show you something when you’re right at the start of a development season or two.

For more on that Blue Jays series, don’t forget to check out our series review video on the YouTube channel:

The positive road trip makes the opening home-stand all the more interesting as it creates a new level of expectation that perhaps wasn’t thought to be on the cards when the team set off to Philadelphia 11 days ago.

Baltimore (H) – 4-game series

The Orioles have plumbed the depths of the AL East in each of the past five seasons and have reached the point in their big rebuild that fans expect to see some tangible improvement in the win-loss column.

They lost 110 games in 2021 and so improving on that significantly should be possible, yet the baseball gods don’t appear to be on their side. They were dealt a hammer blow yesterday in having to place John Means, their top starting pitcher, on the 60-day Injured List. Unfortunately the signs are pointing towards him needing Tommy John elbow surgery.

Today would have been Means’ turn in the starting rotation, so it looks like Spenser Watkins will start the opener instead and we’ll see if their rotation plans stay on course or get rejigged. Here’s how it looks currently:

Game 1: Frankie Montas – Spenser Watkins
Game 2: Cole Irvin – Alexander Wells
Game 3: Daulton Jefferies – Jordan Lyles
Game 4: Paul Blackburn – Tyler Wells

Thursday is a day-game, so a nice convenient evening start time for us in the UK and the added bonus is that it is going to be broadcast live on TV on BT Sport too.

Texas (H) – 3-game series

We then have a three-game series against the rebuilt Rangers who have had an underwhelming 2-7 start coming into this week. I call it underwhelming rather than anything stronger as even the best teams can go through a stretch like that over the course of a season; however, given the big investments they made over the off-season it’s not quite the start their fans were expecting.

The series will see fan favourite Marcus Semien coming back to the Coliseum in a Rangers uniform, although there are now so many ex-A’s in new uniforms that we’ll probably be able to say something along those lines in most series this season.

The probable pitching match-ups currently look like this:

Game 1: Adam Oller – Taylor Hearn
Game 2: Frankie Montas – Martín Pérez
Game 3: Cole Irvin – Jon Gray

UK Schedule

A’s Schedule This Week: 6th September

You always have to keep the faith as a fan; however being swept in Toronto, and the manner of those defeats, makes it hard to not feel like the A’s play-off hopes are beginning to slip away.

Even though the A’s are still in the Wild Card hunt, we’ve taken so many blows of late, both on and off the field, that expecting us to go on the sort of winning run necessary over our remaining games seems like expecting too much.

We have 25 games left and currently sit on a 74-63 win-loss record. The Boston Red Sox currently hold the second Wild Card with a 79-60 record so I think we have to assume 90 wins would be needed to have a shot (projecting Boston to struggle a bit, but not fall apart, going 10-13 over their remaining games to leave them on 89).

The A’s going 16-9 from here is a huge ask, but if we could go 5-1 this week at home then 11-8 the rest of the way suddenly looks very achievable. Whichever way we look at it, we need a big week to give us a chance.

Chicago White Sox (H)

Season series so far: 1-3

Dropping three of four in Chicago in mid-August arguably was the start of our recent decline, not least with the Chris Bassitt injury in Game Two that took out our ace starting pitcher.

The White Sox have gone 8-7 since that series and have a commanding lead in the AL Central, so for all their obvious talent, they have been good rather than great of late. Hopefully the A’s can find some great form out of nowhere and take the series. Here are the probable pitcher match-ups:

  • Gm1. James Kaprielian – Michael Kopech
  • Gm2. Frankie Montas – Dallas Keuchel
  • Gm3. Sean Manaea – Reynaldo López

Texas Rangers (H)

Season series so far: 9-7

A 9-7 win-loss record against the Rangers so far is no disaster, but you only have to look at the way the Mariners (13-6) and Astros (11-4) have beaten up on them to see that we haven’t taken advantage of the rebuilding Rangers as much as we could have done.

Sweeping them up at the Coliseum would go some way to putting that right and, again, feels almost a necessity if we are truly to get back into the Wild Card hunt (2-1 would be okay if we’ve swept the Sox, but that’s clearly the harder of the two series in which to get the brooms out).

The probable pitching match-ups are as follows:

  • Gm1. Paul Blackburn – Kolby Allard
  • Gm2. Cole Irvin – Dane Dunning
  • Gm3. James Kaprielian – Taylor Hearn
UK Schedule

A’s Schedule This Week: 9th August

The brooms were out at the Coliseum yesterday where the Oakland A’s finished up a home-stand with a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers. We’ll be facing them again this coming weekend in Arlington, following a three-game set in Cleveland.

Cleveland (A)

Season series so far: 1-2

The A’s dropped two of three at home to Cleveland back in mid-July, so this is a good opportunity to make amends at Progressive Field. The soon-to-be Guardians are hovering around .500, although that record is helped by them taking advantage of the Royals and Tigers (18-7). The probable pitching match-ups are as follows:

  • Gm1. Sean Manaea – Triston McKenzie
  • Gm2. Frankie Montas – Cal Quantrill
  • Gm3. Chris Bassitt – Eli Morgan

Cleveland’s time zone means that the get-away day-game on Thursday is at the unusually early time (for Oakland) of 18.10 here in the UK.

Texas (A)

Season series so far: 8-5

The A’s record against the struggling Rangers needed improving and the recent sweep has now pushed us past .500 against them. We need to carry on that trend this coming weekend.

The probable pitching match-ups are:

  • Gm1. Cole Irvin – Dane Dunning
  • Gm2. James Kaprielian – Jordan Lyles
  • Gm3. Sean Manaea – Kolby Allard

Once again, the different time zone means the day-game on Sunday is a couple of hours earlier than we normally experience from the West Coast.

UK Schedule

A’s Schedule This Week: 2nd August

The A’s ended their road-trip yesterday with a brilliant win against the LA Angels, taking the four-game series 3-1. With the new recruits all making positive contributions, there’s sure to be plenty of excitement during the upcoming home-stand.

San Diego Padres (H)

Season series so far: 1-1

The A’s and Padres played a two-game series last Tuesday and Wednesday at Petco and they’ll be repeating that two-game set this week at the Coliseum. And just like last week, the Wednesday day-game is being shown live on UK TV (BT Sport 1) and is also available for free online at The scheduled starting pitcher match-ups are as follows:

  • Gm1. Sean Manaea – Blake Snell
  • Gm2. Frankie Montas – Joe Musgrove.

Manaea and the A’s got the better of Snell last week, so hopefully we can repeat that feat again and then set Frankie on them on Wednesday to take a 2-0 series win!

Texas Rangers (H)

Season series so far: 5-5

Whilst the Padres series is the eye-catching one from a talent point of view, the weekend series against the Rangers is arguably even more important.

Texas enter the week with a 38-67 win-loss record, barely better than the AL-worst Baltimore Orioles at 37-67. They are the very definition of a team that we should be beating up on and it will be a major disappointment if we haven’t improved on our .500 season record against them by the end of Sunday.

The probable pitching match-ups are tentative based on there being a few different options open to Bob Melvin for Sunday’s game. I’ve pencilled in Daulton Jefferies for now after he picked up his first MLB win yesterday against the Angels.

  • Gm1. Chris Bassitt – Mike Foltynewicz
  • Gm2. Cole Irvin – Dane Dunning
  • Gm3. Daulton Jefferies? – Jordan Lyles.
UK Schedule

A’s Schedule This Week: 5th July

After a disappointing 2-4 home-stand, albeit a couple of those losses could easily have gone our way instead, the A’s will hope that a trip to Texas allows them to go into the All-Star break on a high note.

Houston Astros (A)

Season series so far: 3-7

The A’s took 2 out of 3 when they last played the Astros at Minute Maid Park in mid-April, which hopefully will be a good omen for this series. The Astros are 3.5 games ahead in the AL West coming into it and have been in good form of late, completing a four-game sweep of Cleveland yesterday.

Gm1. Chris Bassitt – Framber Valdez
Gm2. Sean Manaea – Luis Garcia
Gm3. Frankie Montas – Lance McCullers Jr.

Texas Rangers (A)

Season series so far: 3-4

Another series against the Rangers?! We somehow went through most of the first half of the season without playing them, before facing them seven times in the past two weeks. They’ve narrowly had the better of it so far, mainly because Joey Gallo decided to hit every half-decent pitch he saw for a home run in the last series.

Gm1. Cole Irvin – Jordan Lyles
Gm2. James Kaprielian – Mike Foltynewicz
Gm3. Chris Bassitt – Kolby Allard

UK Schedule

A’s Schedule This Week: 28th June

After rescuing a win on Sunday to avoid a sweep in San Francisco, the A’s are properly back home this week with series at the Coliseum against the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.

Texas (H)

Season so far: 2-2

The A’s and Rangers split a four-game series in Arlington last week and now will renew their rivalry. The scheduled starting pitching match-ups are as follows:

Gm1. James Kaprielian – Mike Foltynewicz
Gm2. Chris Bassitt – Kolby Allard
Gm3. Sean Manaea – Dane Dunning.

Games 1 and 2 will see repeat match-ups with Kap and Foltynewicz lining up again (both pitched 6 innings in Game 3 of last week’s series), and Bassitt and Allard also matching up one more time.

Boston (H)

Season so far: A’s won 2 out of 3 in Boston in mid-May.

Gm1. Frankie Montas – Eduardo Rodriguez
Gm2. Cole Irvin – Garrett Richards
Gm3. James Kaprielian – Nick Pivetta