- Sonny Gray will make one more start in 2016, albeit an abbreviated one. Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jane Lee) that Gray will be on a limited pitch count when he starts Wednesday’s game against the Angels, and Ross Detwiler will step in after Gray tosses an inning or two. Gray has been on the DL since early August due to a right forearm strain, the second extended DL stint of what has been a disappointing season for the A’s ace righty. In 116 innings, Gray has posted a career-worst 5.74 ERA.
- Athletics righty J.B. Wendelken will get a second opinion about whether he needs Tommy John surgery or not, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports (Twitter link), though the odds are “not optimistic” that Wendelken can avoid the procedure. Wendelken made his MLB debut this season, posting a 9.95 ERA over 12 2/3 relief innings for the A’s. Going by the usual recovery timeline for TJ patients, Wendelken will be sidelined until the beginning of the 2018 season.
Athletics righty J.B. Wendelken is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery, as Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com reports. The 23-year-old, who came over as part of last winter’s Brett Lawrie trade, had received scattered major league work in Oakland, allowing 14 earned runs with a dozen strikeouts and nine walks over 12 2/3 innings. He showed more promise at Triple-A, with a 4.11 ERA and 12.7 K/9 in his 46 frames, but he also experienced control problems (5.1 BB/9) for the first time in his professional career.
SEPT. 20: Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Alvarez had a biceps tenodesis procedure and an excision of a boney exostosis performed on his right shoulder today by Dr. James Andrews.
SEPT. 15: Athletics righty Henderson Alvarez will undergo arthroscopic shoulder surgery, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports (Twitter links). It’s not yet clear what kind of time he’ll require to recover, as that will be dependent in part upon what needs to be fixed during the procedure.
It was clear already that Alvarez wouldn’t throw in 2016, but the news nevertheless represents another rough blow. The 26-year-old never quite made it onto the hill for the A’s this year despite coming tantalizingly close during his rehab work.
Alvarez did log 33 frames in the minors during his DL stint, which is more than he managed in 2015 for the Marlins. The shoulder surgery that ended his season then also led to a non-tender from Miami, with the A’s scooping Alvarez up for $4.25MM over the winter.
Unfortunately for both player and team, the bounceback effort fell short. While the results of the surgery will obviously play a significant role in determining Alvarez’s future, it already seems fair to expect that Oakland will not tender him a contract entering his final year of arbitration eligibility.
Teams will surely still show interest in taking a shot at a recovery from Alvarez, though perhaps they won’t be willing to stake quite as much guaranteed money. He’s obviously still quite young, and was posted a 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign in 2014 before the troubles began.
“Multiple GM types” have failed to reciprocate interest shown in them by the Twins, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Passan goes on to suggest that while the job and president of baseball operations title are appealing, there could be some reluctance due to the fact that overhauling the organization’s infrastructure is no small task.
We’ve already heard recently that Alex Anthopoulos turned down a chance at consideration. And Passan says the same held true of former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, who joined the Blue Jays earlier today in a position of less authority than he theoretically could have obtained in Minnesota. La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune first reported that Cherington declined Minnesota’s request for an interview and cited “personal reasons” for doing so. Per Neal’s report, Twins brass nonetheless chatted with Cherington and “picked his brain” on some potential candidates.
Athletics GM David Forst, too, has “declined interest,” according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Forst only recently moved into the general manager seat in Oakland, with Billy Beane moving up to the president of baseball operations role, though Beane seemingly remains very active in running the Athletics’ operations department.
The Twins are dangling an opportunity to achieve the president of baseball operations title, which in theory at least adds to the allure of the position. And the club has gobs of young talent, even if some of it hasn’t panned out thus far at the Major League level. The opportunity seemingly exists for the president-to-be to handpick a general manager, too, though owner Jim Pohlad has made clear that manager Paul Molitor will be retained, and there have been suggestions that interim GM Rob Antony will remain with the organization in some capacity. Antony, long the assistant GM under Terry Ryan and Bill Smith, is reportedly under contract through next season.
It certainly doesn’t seem as if Minnesota has failed to attract any appealing candidates as their front office search gets underway in earnest. The organization already sat down with Royals AGM J.J. Picollo and may be headed for a chat with highly-regarded Cubs exec Jason McLeod as well.
SEPT. 13, 10:49pm: Valencia’s roster spot isn’t at risk now, but he is unlikely to return for 2017, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. She notes that it’s unclear whether he could be traded or non-tendered.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Phillies announced that infielder Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment over the weekend, has cleared waivers and been outrighted off the 40-man roster. The former Rule 5 pick (Angels, 2014) came to Philadelphia this past winter in exchange for cash considerations — a minor trade executed by first-year Phillies GM Matt Klentak, who presumably had a role in the Angels’ decision to select Featherston in the Rule 5 Draft whilst serving as an assistant GM in Anaheim. Featherston appeared in 19 games for the Phils but tallied just 28 plate appearances and collected three hits. He’s been a glove-first player at the big league level, though he enjoyed his best offensive season to date with Triple-A Lehigh Valley when he batted .254/.311/.428 with 13 homers in 99 games this season.
- The Athletics announced that they’ve selected the contract of first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson from Triple-A Nashville. Olson entered the season ranked as MLB.com’s No. 100 prospect and struggled mightily through the end of June before hitting .260/.349/.462 over the final couple of months of the Triple-A season. With Billy Butler already having been released and the possibility of Danny Valencia meeting the same fate, the A’s could find increased at-bats for Olson and other young corner options like Renato Nunez (also recalled today) and Ryon Healy, though the latter of that pairing has been playing on an everyday basis since his promotion earlier this summer.
- Meanwhile the Athletics are bringing up even more young players now that the Triple-A season has ended, announcing that Renato Nunez and Matt Olson are joining the club. (Olson’s contract was selected to the 40-man roster and will fill the spot that was vacated by Billy Butler’s release.) Both players rank among Oakland’s top 15 prospects, with Nunez in particular receiving high praise from outlets like MLB.com and Baseball America. Nunez struggled somewhat as one of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League, slashing just .228/.278/.412, and his primary position (third base) is presently occupied by fellow youngster Ryon Healy. However, Nunez has seen some time at first base and in left field in the minors and could be evaluated for a potential fit at either spot. Olson, meanwhile, entered the season as a Top 100 prospect at MLB.com (No. 100, to be exact) but struggled through the first half before salvaging his season with a .260/.349/.462 batting line from July 1 through season’s end. He’s seen more time in right field than at first base this season but has plenty of experience at both spots.
- The clubhouse fight between Billy Butler and Danny Valencia in August didn’t play a role in the Athletics’ decision to release Butler today, A’s GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin told reporters (including CSNBayArea.com’s Joe Stiglich) today. Butler was released because it was simply “the right time to move on. It’s something we’ve discussed,” Forst said. “A lot of the younger players are here now, potentially more coming once [Triple-A] Nashville’s done. The at-bats just were not there. It’s time for us to move our focus beyond.”
The Athletics have released first/baseman designated hitter Billy Butler, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). Slusser reported Friday that Butler would not return to the A’s in 2017, so their decision to cut ties with him now isn’t a complete surprise.
In a move that looked questionable at best from the get-go, low-payroll Oakland signed Butler to a three-year, $30MM contract in free agency after the 2014 season. The longtime Royal was coming off his worst season since 2008, having hit .271/.323/.379 with nine home runs in 603 plate appearances, and he wasn’t any better during his nearly two-year stint with the A’s. Butler, 30, combined to bat an underwhelming .258/.325/.394 with 19 homers in 843 trips to the plate with Oakland. Thanks to the package of below-average offense, defense and base running he provided to the A’s, Butler accounted for minus-1.2 fWAR with the club, tying him for the majors’ 18th-worst mark among position players since last season.
In addition to his on-field difficulties with the A’s, Butler was involved in a clubhouse altercation with teammate Danny Valencia last month. The two engaged in a verbal dispute after Butler made comments that may have interfered with an endorsement deal for Valencia. It escalated to the point of physical contact before Valencia struck Butler with one or more punches. Butler reported being fine afterward, but he then began exhibiting nausea and vomiting. While the A’s fined the pair undisclosed amounts, general manager David Forst said Sunday that the confrontation didn’t factor into Butler’s release (Twitter link via Slusser).
All told, Butler’s tenure in Oakland was an unmitigated disaster for a player who enjoyed a five-year stretch of solidly above-average offense with Kansas City from 2009-13. During that period, the 2004 first-round pick slashed a terrific .302/.372/.469 with 99 homers in 3,370 PAs. That half-decade showing ultimately led to his deal with the A’s, who will now eat the $10MM-plus remaining on his contract.
Athletics reliever Fernando Rodriguez has undergone surgery on his right shoulder, the club announced (via MLB.com’s Jane Lee, on Twitter). Specifically, the 32-year-old’s latissmus dorsi tendon was repaired and a debridement was performed on his teres major tendon.
This type of procedure generally has a good rate of success, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle explains (Twitter links). It is the same work that was done previously to pitchers such as Jake Peavy, and doesn’t involve more significant rotator cuff issues.
Rodriguez had provided the A’s with 40 2/3 innings of 4.20 ERA pitching prior to the injury, compiling 8.2 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9. He was somewhat more effective a year ago, but still maintained a strong swinging strike rate of about 13% and ought to be a useful reliever if he can bounce back.
Rodriguez was playing on a $1.05MM salary in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He’ll command at least a modest raise on that amount in his final arb year, with free agency beckoning after 2017, so Oakland will presumably look closely at his recovery before deciding whether to tender him a contract this winter.