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Mariners prospect Danny Hultzen, once considered one of the game’s best pitching prospects, made his first competitive outing today since early 2013. Hultzen has struggled with shoulder issues, but obviously remains a talented and potentially quite valuable player for Seattle. He walked the first batter he faced — understandably so, as it was Troy Tulowitzki — but worked out of the inning without incident.
More from the AL West:
- The Angels have no interest in making use of their rights over retired NFL quarterback Jake Locker, as MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. Los Angeles signed Locker for $300K back in 2009 despite knowing he was destined for a career in football, and he is still only 26 years old. But GM Jerry Dipoto indicated that the club has “enough going on” as it is, noting that he is generally not inclined to pursue players who prefer another sport.
- Rule 5 pick Taylor Featherston has a good chance of breaking camp with the Angels, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Dipoto says that he thinks another club would take a shot on Featherston were he to hit the waiver wire, and fully acknowledged that the Rule 5 status gives him a leg up in earning a utility role.
- ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link) provides an interesting look at Athletics GM Billy Beane, explaining that the longtime head baseball man in Oakland is consis.tantly “selling high and trading quality in exchange for quantity that he hopes will turn into quality.” That was never more evident than in the last year, of course. While some of that “quantity” may not pan out, of course, Beane is often first able to deal it away for other useful pieces.
It has been more than 24 hours since the Rays shipped franchise cornerstone Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar to the A’s for a package of DH/catcher John Jaso, prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, and cash. MLBTR’s Brad Johnson posted the initial reactions to the transaction. Here’s another batch, including Zobrist’s own thoughts on the trade:
- “I was hoping that I would be able to stay in Tampa Bay for at least this year,” Zobrist, who is scheduled to hit free agency next offseason, told the Tampa Bay Times’ Matt Baker. “I understand, of course, their perspective in trying to get some younger guys and fill some other holes. Obviously I understand the baseball side of it. It’s tough, but I’m thankful for all my time I was able to spend there. It was just a blessed time for our family. It’s a special season of our life that has just come to a close.“
- Zobrist, who ignored all calls and text messages yesterday until his phone died, has mixed emotions about changing franchises. “I think it’ll be fun to get to know new teammates and new fans and a new situation in Oakland. It’ll be exciting. But part of my heart is still stuck in Tampa Bay right now. It’ll take a little bit for me to move on.“
- Zobrist has spoken with Oakland GM Billy Beane and expects to play the same role with the A’s, as he did with the Rays.
- The moves made by Beane this offseason, beginning with the trade of Josh Donaldson, now make much more sense, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan concurs with Rosenthal that the logic of the A’s offseason is now evident. Sullivan also sees trading Zobrist as a real loss for the Rays, but not a dramatic one adding the return, which will help them down the road when the impending freee agent would have been gone anyway, was simply what was out there.
- Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times writes when David Price was traded, it was hard on the franchise; when Andrew Friedman left, it was shocking; when Joe Maddon walked away, it was weird, but dealing Zobrist just hurts.
- The identity change taking place in Tampa is dramatic, but it is a by-product of the Rays‘ market-born business model and may eventually be seen as a necessary evil, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
Earlier today, the Rays agreed to swap Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for John Jaso, infield prospect Daniel Robertson, and outfield prospect Boog Powell. The move represents a five or six win gain for the A’s, writes Keith Law of ESPN (Insider required). Per Law, Oakland lacked any “capable everyday middle infielders,” so the move is pure benefit at those positions. Here’s more reactions to the blockbuster.
- While it’s been a hectic offseason for the A’s, the club still has another $5MM available, tweets John Hickey of Bay Area News Group. My impression is that the team is pretty well stocked at this point. I could see a role for a third catcher, backup outfielder, or middle reliever, but no need is particularly pressing.
- Teams interested in Zobrist checked in with A’s GM Billy Beane within five minutes of the trade, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Zobrist appears to be a linchpin for the A’s, so a second trade strikes me as unlikely. Of course, Beane has shown this offseason that we can’t rule it out.
- The acquisition of Zobrist and Escobar will allow the A’s to shift Marcus Semien into a utility role, writes Law. Semien was previously penciled in as the primary shortstop, but he’s better suited to second or third base. With Semien and Zobrist capable of playing all over the diamond, Oakland could possess the most flexible roster in the league.
- “We see [Semien] as an everyday player, similar to Josh Harrison‘s role with the Pirates,” said Beane to reporters including Chris Haft of MLB.com. Meanwhile, Beane plans to leverage Zobrist’s versatility and switch-hitting to build excellent matchups. In the same article, Beane compared Robertson to former Athletic Mark Ellis.
- Jaso is excited to return to Tampa Bay, tweets Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times. Per Baker, Jaso had identified the Rays earlier in the offseason as a team that might target him (also Twitter).
- Jaso’s return to the Rays could allow the club to shop left-handed outfielder David DeJesus, according to Law. The veteran outfielder is owed $6MM in 2015, and the Rays have a reputation for careful management of the payroll. A trade would open more regular playing time for Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer. Jaso is expected to serve primarily as a designated hitter.
- Beane’s re-tooling efforts are “fearless,” writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. The GM’s decision to trade multiple All Stars and established veterans to extend the club’s window to compete is nothing short of inspired. Justice also notes that manager Bob Melvin specializes in building cohesive teams. With so many new faces, Melvin will have his hands full.
Earlier today, Cubs President Theo Epstein held a conference call to discuss last night’s blockbuster trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Dan Straily, and a player to be named later or cash. Afterwards, A’s GM Billy Beane held court with the Bay Area media. Here are the highlights courtesy of John Shea and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (all links go to Twitter):
- Beane indicated the A’s are not done dealing. “We’re not just going to stop and shut everything down. We’ve got 3-plus weeks until the trade deadline.“
- Beane explained why he was willing to part with the A’s top two prospects. “We have a team that can win right now. Just collecting young players is not something in our market place we can do.” Beane added, “We have to take the opportunity and grasp it.“
- Beane wanted to do the deal early and was not “interested in taking this pursuit down to the deadline.“
- Beane said he has been engaged in trade talks involving starting pitching for over a month.
- Beane acknowledged the extra year of team control over Samardzija was crucial. “We placed a lot of value on him being here next year. There’s no doubt about that.”
- As per his policy, Beane refused to comment on trades not made when asked about David Price.
- “I think the narrative that this is a move for the postseason is a bit arrogant. We need to make sure we get there first,” said Beane (as tweeted by Jane Lee of MLB.com) in response to Justin Verlander‘s reaction to the trade (“When I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us. No doubt about it in my mind.” – per MLB.com’s Jason Beck on Twitter).
Jarrod Parker is trying to be as hopeful as possible as he prepares to undergo his second Tommy John surgery. "I've done it before, and I can do it again," Parker told reporters, including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "You can't put statistics on individual guys….I don't want to be a statistic, really. I want to be different. Hopefully things can work out and I'm going to do anything and everything to make it work." The right-hander is scheduled for surgery next week and will miss at least the entire 2014 season during the rehabiliation process.
Here's some more from news out of Oakland…
- Also from Slusser, outfielder Michael Taylor still isn't a fit for the A's roster, despite his impressive Spring Training performance. There's no chance the A's would be able to get the out-of-options Taylor through waivers without losing him, however, as the former top prospect is drawing interest from a number of teams. One scout tells Slusser that his team either already has, or is preparing to offer Oakland a deal for Taylor, while another rival scout figures his team is too low in waiver priority and would need to trade for Taylor to bring him into the fold.
- In a must-read interview with Grantland's Jonah Keri, Athletics GM Billy Beane discusses how his club has tried to stay current now that the "Moneyball" tactics are known and widely-used throughout baseball. With so much data available to teams, Beane said that implementation of that information has become the more important factor, praising manager Bob Melvin's openness to new ideas and predicting that teams will eventually have "an IT coach" in the dugout.
- “I don’t want a lot of guys like me who played the game,” Beane told Keri about building a front office. “Quite frankly, I want blank canvases, I want people to come in with new ideas. I don’t want the biases of their own experiences to be a part of their decision-making process. Listen, our whole staff…didn’t really play. The bottom line is that any business should be a meritocracy. The best and brightest. Period. This game is now evolving into that.”
- CSNBayArea.com's Joe Stiglich looks at the Athletics' roster configuration, shoots down a few trade suggestions and covers several other topics and as part of an online chat with fans. Of note, Stiglich hasn't heard anything about the possibility of the A's making a play for Bay Area native Jimmy Rollins, who is rumored to be on thin ice with the Phillies. Rollins, however, has said that he won't consider waiving his no-trade protection unless the Phils completely fall out of the race.
The A's hosted their annual FanFest yesterday with a sellout crowd of 20,000. GM Billy Beane addressed the gathering and is pleased with the moves the franchise made this winter. "I think we accomplished a lot of what we set out to in the offseason, and maybe a little more," Beane said (as quoted by MLB.com's Jane Lee). "The division itself is better. Texas is always good, and the Angels improved on an explosive club anyway, so I think they'll be a lot better. Houston's only going to get better. The fact is, I think this division, as much as any in the league, has improved itself, and I'd like to think we've been able to replace some of the guys we lost from a good team and maybe added more in addition." Let's take a look at the other news and notes involving the A's and the AL West:
- Assistant GM David Forst held court with several bloggers, including Athletics Nation, at the A's FanFest. Forst was asked whether the club has an organizational philosophy on making long-term commitments. "I think we've benefited a lot from the flexibility over the last few years," Forst answered. "We don't necessarily want to recreate the team every year because fans like the players who are here and we like the certainty of guys that we know, but that we've given ourselves the ability to (play it year by year) is a huge factor in our success."
- One long-term commitment made this week was extending Coco Crisp, but Forst isn't concerned the A's are now bound to the center fielder through his age-37 season. "We think Coco is a little bit unique in his body type. Certainly when you get to that end of the spectrum, the track record isn't good in how guys have performed, particularly where we are now in terms of hopefully being beyond (PED use). But you always are taking a risk — I mean, we dealt with it on Bartolo (Colon), dealing with a guy who performed at 39, and 40, how far is he really going to go? So that's a question we really have to take into account every time."
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow knows his grand plan will be on display during Spring Training as several of the team's top prospects are scheduled to take part in their Major League camp, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. "I do think for our fans, especially the ones that are going to come out to Kissimmee and ones that are going to listen on the radio and watch on TV, it's fun for them to be able to see, to get a glimpse," Luhnow said.
- Left-hander Nate Robertson has spoken with several clubs about an opportunity to win a bullpen spot this spring, tweets FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi. Robertson, who hasn't appeared in the Majors since 2010, spent last season with the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate pitching to a 3.04 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and 4.1 BB/9 in 45 relief outings covering 50 1/3 innings.
The Athletics held their A's Fan Fest today with manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane hosting a Q&A session. Here are the highlights:
- Melvin says second base will be an open competition between Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks while Grant Green, the A's fourth-best prospect as ranked by MLB.com, will also receive a hard look, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee (Twitter links).
- Melvin plans to continue with the Brandon Moss/Chris Carter platoon at first base, tweets Lee.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets the A's will not use any one set lineup because Melvin has multiple options depending on matchups and who's hot.
- Melvin views Coco Crisp as the starting center fielder with Chris Young moving around all three outfield spots, Lee tweets.
- Young says being reunited with Melvin is "like a breath of fresh air." (A's team Twitter feed).
- Melvin calls Yoenis Cespedes one of most talented players in the league and Beane adds he wouldn't be surprised if the 27-year-old Cuban takes it to another level, Slusser tweets.
- Beane is confident Hiroyuki Nakajima will make a successful transition to MLB, tweets Casey Pratt of CSNBayArea.com. In fact, Beane joked he will have a tougher transition in dealing with the effervescent Japanese shortstop.
- Beane expects their top prospect, outfielder Michael Choice, to open the season in Triple-A, unless something unforeseen happens, according to Pratt (via Twitter).
- The A's are convinced shortstop Addison Russell, last year's first round draft choice, is mature enough to be invited to Spring Training even though it wasn't part of his contract, writes Slusser on Twitter. Slusser adds this is an indication of how much the 19-year-old has wowed the front office.
Only two American League teams have a better record than the Athletics, even though they traded away their closer and two top starting pitchers for a collection of relatively unproven players after the 2011 season. Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey are all gone, but the A’s have a 71-57 record and are tied for one of the American League’s Wild Card berths with 34 games to go.
Though there’s no singular reason that the A’s have played this well, the team’s offseason trades could hardly be working out better. Billy Beane acquired one third of the team’s starting lineup, its setup man and two fifths of its starting rotation in deals this past winter. MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker offers a recap of these moves. Here’s the breakdown, featuring players on the team’s active roster:
- Josh Reddick, acquired from Red Sox in trade for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney – Reddick has been a major contributor to Oakland's offense this year, hitting 26 home runs and posting a .253/.321/.487 batting line. He has already been worth 4.3 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs' version of the metric.
- Seth Smith, acquired from Rockies in trade for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman - Smith has posted a respectable .244/.344/.431 batting line with 12 home runs. He continues to produce against right-handed pitchers (10 homers).
- Derek Norris, acquired from Washington in trade for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam – Norris became the Athletics' regular catcher when Oakland sent Kurt Suzuki to Washington. He has five home runs but just a .272 on-base percentage in 158 plate appearances.
- Ryan Cook, acquired from Arizona in trade for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow – The 25-year-old right-hander has a 2.45 ERA with more strikeouts (60) than innings pitched (55). He averages 95 mph with his fastball and 11.8% of his offerings generate swings and misses. Cook, a 2012 All-Star, picked up 12 saves earlier in the year.
- Jarrod Parker, acquired from Arizona in trade for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow – Parker has a 3.52 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 135 1/3 innings this year. Peripheral stats such as his 43.9 % ground ball rate and a 9.8% swinging strike rate are also encouraging.
- Tommy Milone, acquired from Washington in trade for Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam – Milone has a 3.73 ERA with four times as many strikeouts as walks in 159 1/3 innings.
- The A’s also traded for a number of minor league players, including Brad Peacock and Collin Cowgill.
Oakland currently has a 51% chance of playing in the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds report. But even if the A’s don’t qualify this year, last winter’s trades should have an impact in future seasons. Smith will be second-time arbitration eligible this offseason, but Reddick won’t be arbitration eligible until next offseason. The others — Norris, Cook, Parker and Milone — are at least two years away from arbitration eligibility. Not only are these players contributing, they’re doing so at a time in their careers when they’re relatively affordable. That creates flexibility which makes a difference in any market and should be especially valuable in Oakland.
Adam Moore's quest to make the Mariners' Major League roster hit a big roadblock after the catcher suffered a broken wrist during Tuesday's game against the Reds. Moore will likely miss the rest of Spring Training at the minimum and he's seeing a hand specialist today to determine the severity of the injury. Moore was battling for a spot as Seattle's backup catcher, which could have been available given that Jesus Montero is expected to see a lot of time at DH this season.
Here's some more news from the AL West…
- Athletics GM Billy Beane chatted with Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News about such topics as Yoenis Cespedes, the challenges of taking the A's through another rebuilding process and the team's desire to resolve their stadium situation and possibly relocate to San Jose.
- Torii Hunter would "take less money" to return to the Angels next season, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. "They have so many young guys coming up, guys they want to give playing time to, so I know it could be difficult for me," Hunter said. "But if they're willing to keep me here, I would love to stay." Hunter's five-year, $90MM contract expires after this season and though the outfielder has said he wants to play for two or three more years, his top priority is to play for a contender, preferably the Halos.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto sees the battle for playing time on his club's roster as a strength, he tells MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. "The next team that wins a world championship with 25 guys, they will be the first," Dipoto said. "It keeps players fresh, it puts them in good matchup situations, it gives you depth, interchangeable pieces….Do I believe there's enough at-bats for the players here? Absolutely."
- Oliver Perez's minor league deal with the Mariners will pay him $750K if he makes the 25-man roster, reports MLB.com's Greg Johns. Perez can earn another $250K in incentives tied to innings and games pitched.
- The Mariners' wealth of minor league talent makes them "the next Tampa Bay Rays," writes ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required), though the Mariners' higher payroll gives them a leg up on the Rays. Bowden is very high on Seattle's young pitching corps, comparing them to not just the Rays' current staff, but also to Oakland's Tim Hudson/Mark Mulder/Barry Zito trio of the early 2000's and the great Braves rotations of the 1990's.
- The Athletics and Giants released competing press releases yesterday in regards to the ongoing dispute between the two clubs over the Athletics' attempt to move to San Jose. John Shea and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle recap the more pertinent passages from each release, as the two teams argue over which has territorial rights to Santa Clara County.
WEDNESDAY: The extensions will have option years, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
TUESDAY: Not much is certain when it comes to the future of the Athletics, but their leadership team will remain in place long-term. Owner Lew Wolff said today that GM Billy Beane and president Michael Crowley have agreed to extensions through the 2019 season, Jon Erlichman and Rob Gloster of Bloomberg News report. Beane told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN.com that reports of a deal are a bit premature (Twitter link), but Wolff expects Beane and Crowley to sign within 30 days.
Beane became the team's GM after the 1997 season and Crowley became team president one year later. They face a problematic stadium situation in Oakland and the club may move to San Jose in the relatively near future. Both Beane and Crowley have ownership stakes in the Athletics and Wolff is the club's managing partner.
The Athletics have made five playoff appearances under Beane, who has been with the team longer than any other American League GM. Beane was recently portrayed on the big screen by Brad Pitt in Moneyball. He last constructed a playoff team in 2006, when Oakland made it to the ALCS.
Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post.