Oakland Athletics Rumors

Oakland Athletics trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL Notes: Donaldson, Tomas, Red Sox, Cabrera, Smoak

In this morning’s Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that he feels a Josh Donaldson trade is likely for the Athletics this offseason. Billy Beane has shown a willingness to trade players at their peak value, Olney writes (citing the Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill trades, among others), and Donaldson’s salary will begin to rise quickly now that he’s hit arbitration. Olney looks at the rest of Oakland’s roster and notes that no other trade candidate has value as high as Donaldson’s, so while Jeff Samardzija would be an attractive chip, Donaldson could help Beane usher in his next roster reconstruction.

Some more news from the American League…

  • The Red Sox won’t hold a private workout for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The team did attend his showcase in the Dominican Republic and they’re intrigued by his power, but the team’s glut of outfielders and concerns over Tomas’ strikeout rate in Cuba have tempered their interest.
  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal points to the Pirates’ success in reviving the careers of Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett and points to some similar buy-low candidates that the Red Sox could try for on the free agent market. Of course, as he notes, the Sox are expected to pursue Jon Lester and James Shields, so his suggestions of Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana are intended to be secondary targets.
  • Miguel Cabrera turned down his share of the team’s postseason bonus when the time came to sign the paperwork, reports Paul White of USA Today. Cabrera refused to sign, instead stating that he “just wants the ring.” As White points out, Cabrera could be turning down as much as $300K (though that figure pales in comparison to his salary), and that money could be reallocated to other players as well as Tigers staff such as clubhouse personnel, traveling secretaries, etc.
  • Justin Smoak‘s contract to avoid arbitration last year contained a rare club option, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that it’s a virtual lock that the Mariners will buy out his $3.65MM option for $150K and non-tender the first baseman. Smoak, the centerpiece of an ill-fated Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers, hit just .202/.275/.339 and has failed to establish himself as a regular in four seasons with Seattle.
  • Also from Divish’s piece, GM Jack Zduriencik called the decision to pick up Hisashi Iwakuma‘s $7MM option a “no-brainer,” which certainly isn’t surprising.

AL West Notes: Young, A’s, Lowrie, Hinch

Former Rangers cornerstone Michael Young has joined the team’s front office, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link), although Heyman does not include specifics on Young’s role with the club. While he was once speculated as a candidate to fill the team’s managerial vacancy, he’s now helping with the search, Heyman adds.

More from the AL West…

  • Rival executives don’t expect Athletics GM Billy Beane to stand pat following the team’s late collapse and elimination in last night’s one-game playoff, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. One executive speculated that Jeff Samardzija could be an offseason trade candidate, while a second threw out the possibility of trading Josh Donaldson. While I can personally envision the Samardzija scenario — he’s a free agent after 2015 and could $10MM+ via arbitration — the Donaldson suggestion is tough to picture. As Rosenthal notes, he’s arb-eligible for the first time this offseason and controlled through 2018, so there’s no reason to think Oakland would feel pressure to trade him.
  • Among the players whom the A’s could potentially lose to free agency is Jed Lowrie, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with Lowrie about the situation (All Twitter links). Slusser notes that Lowrie is one of the few players who was honest about his free agency by admitting that money will be a driving factor behind his decision. Lowrie adds that he’s looking for a good fit for him and his family, and he says he’s be willing to play second base on a full-time basis. Asked about the possibility of receiving a qualifying offer, Lowrie said he’d have to give consideration to accepting. A qualifying offer to Lowrie seems unlikely, in my view.
  • MLB.com’s Richard Justice calls the Astros‘ hiring of A.J. Hinch a bold move and revisits former Diamondbacks/Padres GM Josh Byrnes’ decision to give Hinch his first managerial gig back in 2009. The move was controversial, to say the least, as Byrnes had to dismiss the popular Bob Melvin to bring the 34-year-old Hinch into the picture. Hinch had never coached or managed, but as Byrnes explains to Justice, Hinch brings a number of desirable qualities to the table.
  • Justice’s colleague, Brian McTaggart, writes that Astros players appear to be on board with the move. Chad Qualls spoke highly of Hinch, who was his manager with the D’Backs in 2010, and Gregorio Petit called him “a real honest guy” after getting to know him a bit while in the Padres organization. Dallas Keuchel is excited after meeting Hinch and hinted that there were communication problems not only between previous manager Bo Porter and the front office, but also between Porter and the players. “I think we need to have better communication than we’ve had in the past couple of years,” said Keuchel.

Adam Dunn To “Probably” Retire After Season

OCTOBER 1: After last night’s difficult loss, Dunn said he still intends to retire but did not slam the door shut entirely, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee tweets“That’s it probably,” he said.

SEPTEMBER 1: Dunn kept the door slightly open for a 2015 return, telling Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) that he only said he will “probably” retire following the season.  He has no intention of continuing his career to chase the 500-homer mark unless he’s on a contending team.

AUGUST 31: Adam Dunn says he will retire after the season, Bruce Levine of 670theScore.com tweets. The news comes in the wake of the slugger being traded to Oakland, and comes as no great surprise — he’s in the last season of his $56MM contract, and he’s discussed the possibility of retiring before.

USATSI_7995765_154513410_lowresHe’s also 34, and his best days as a player seem to be behind him. He remains a prolific power hitter, with 20 home runs in 435 plate appearances this year, and he’s always drawn more than his share of walks. But his batting average has fallen to very low levels — he hasn’t batted above .220 since 2010. And his defense, while never good, has gotten so poor that he’s a liability anywhere other than DH, even considering his obvious offensive skills.

Nonetheless, Dunn will leave behind an impressive body of work, and his extreme homers/walks/strikeouts offensive game makes him an historically unique player. He has 460 career home runs (good for 36th all-time), including at least 38 in seven consecutive seasons from 2004 through 2010. He’s also drawn an impressive 1,311 walks in his career, fourth among active players (behind Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi and Manny Ramirez). Of course, he’s been one of the game’s most frequent strikeout victims — five of his seasons are in the top 20 all time in strikeouts, and he ranks third all-time in whiffs, behind Reggie Jackson and Jim Thome.

Dunn made his mark on Major League pitching immediately, finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2001 (despite only playing half the season in the bigs) and emerging as a poster boy for the sabermetric movement with his “Three True Outcomes” (homers, walks and strikeouts) offensive style. He then blossomed into one of the game’s most feared power hitters as an outfielder and then a first baseman with the Reds, Diamondbacks and Nationals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Multiple Teams Change Minor League Affiliations

As Baseball America’s Josh Leventhal writes, yesterday marked a two-week period where Major League clubs are free to negotiate with available minor league organizations. Major League clubs sign player development contracts with minor league organizations much like players will sign contracts with teams. As such, Leventhal notes that the “affiliation shuffle” is akin to free agency for minor league teams. Leventhal’s article provides more insight behind many of the moves and offers quite a bit of detail for those who are curious to read more about this process.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll see multiple teams sign deals with new affiliates, and MLBTR will keep track of them here for those that are interested …

Class-A Advanced

  • The Braves announced that they have moved their Class-A Advanced affiliate from Lynchburg, Va. to Zebulon, N.C. (formerly an Indians affiliate) after agreeing to a two-year PDC. They will inherit the Carolina Mudcats moniker.

Earlier Updates

  • Daytona (formerly the Cubs’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Reds.
  • GM Jon Daniels says the Rangers will move their High-A affiliate from Myrtle Beach to High Desert, FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro tweets.
  • The Cubs announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Daytona to Myrtle Beach (previously occupied by the Rangers).
  • The Indians announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Carolina to Lynchburg (previously occupied by the Braves).

Double-A

  • The Twins announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from New Britain to Chattanooga (previously occupied by the Dodgers) after agreeing to a four-year term.
  • The Dodgers announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from Chattanooga to Tulsa (previously occupied by the Rockies).
  • New Britain (formerly the Twins’ affiliate) has announced that that it has reached a PDC with the Rockies.

Triple-A

  • The Giants announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Sacramento (formerly occupied by the Athletics).
  • The Brewers announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Colorado Spring (formerly occupied by the Rockies)
  • Fresno (formerly the Giants’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Astros.
  • The Athletics have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Sacramento to Nashville (previously occupied by the Brewers).
  • The Dodgers have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City (previously occupied by the Astros).
  • The Rockies announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque (previously occupied by the Dodgers).
  • The Brewers have announced that their Triple-A affiliation with Nashville has been terminated by the Sounds.

AL West Notes: Moss, Maddux, Morales

Athletics slugger Brandon Moss has been playing through a hip injury that will require surgery (possibly a microfracture procedure) in the offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. An MRI revealed so much torn cartilage in Moss’ right hip that he’s struggling with bone-on-bone issues in the joint. Moss tells Slusser that he received a cortisone shot which should help him for the rest of the season and through the playoffs, but surgery is the only way to truly fix the issue. Though the injury has plagued him for much of the season, Moss said he didn’t blame his struggles on his hip.

More on those struggles and more from the AL West below…

  • Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris had an excellent conversation with Moss about that slump in the A’s clubhouse recently (note that the conversation does feature some expletives). Moss says he places virtually no stock in batting average, as it is luck-driven and doesn’t adjust for defensive shifts. He spoke candidly about holes in his swing — pitches he knows he cannot reach and has to fight to lay off — as well as his batted ball profile, the reasoning behind his stance and the importance of prepping for his at-bats with video work. “…as a power hitter that doesn’t have a high average, I know I have to make my swings count,” said Moss, who also discussed how playing first base, the outfield and DH each affect his approach differently. Moss also touched on his time in previous organizations, noting that the Phillies didn’t feel he could consistently hit a Major League fastball — a notion at which he now laughs, as fastballs are far and away his best pitch.
  • Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux is hopeful that he will receive an interview for the team’s managerial vacancy, and GM Jon Daniels expects to sit down with him at season’s end, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Even if Maddux isn’t hired (or even interviewed), he’s expected to return to the club as a pitching cocah in 2015, a club official tells Sullivan, and he’s “certain” to return if interim manager Tim Bogar gets the job. Maddux’s contract is up after the current season.
  • Kendrys Morales has interest in bypassing free agency to sign a new deal with the Mariners, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. However, the caveat is that he’d like a multi-year deal, which would obviously give the team pause. Morales, who sat out through the June draft this season to avoid being stuck with another qualifying offer, has batted just .217/.266/.330 between Seattle and Minnesota. Some of those struggles, of course, are likely due to the long layoff between Major League appearances. Morales did enter 2014 as a lifetime .280/.333/.480 hitter, making the extreme drop-off in his production rather surprising. One rival exec whose team is in need of a run-producing bat expressed concern over a multi-year deal for Morales when asked by Dutton, though he did concede that there’s upside to the idea: “He’s a big risk. I doubt he gets more than two (years) after the year he’s had. But if he bounces back, a year from now we could all be talking about what a steal he was.”

Rosenthal On Scherzer, Braves, Melvin

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video on FOX Sports:

  • Gossip within baseball suggests that James Shields will likely go the Red Sox this offseason, with Jon Lester heading to the Cubs. That could leave a variety of teams competing for Max Scherzer, with agent Scott Boras “waiting it out,” as he often does to try to get teams to meet his price.
  • If the Braves decide to part ways with Frank Wren this offseason, they could promote assistant GM John Coppolella to the GM position and have senior advisor John Hart serve as Coppolella’s mentor. Rosenthal also suggests the possibility that the Braves could bring back Royals GM Dayton Moore. (We noted earlier today that the Braves could make front office changes this offseason.)
  • Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers could be on the hot seat this offseason, but Bob Melvin of the Athletics likely will not be, Rosenthal says.

West Notes: Athletics, Nicasio, Rangers

The Athletics recently changed Triple-A affiliations from nearby Sacramento to far-away Nashville, but there are benefits to the move despite the distance, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs writes. Sacramento is certainly more convenient to the Athletics for travel purposes, but the A’s lately haven’t promoted more players from Triple-A than other teams, and Nashville has a new ballpark opening next season. In the last decade, big-league teams have frequently picked minor-league affiliates that are relatively close by, but judging from this year’s affiliate changes so far, perhaps that’s changing. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Rockies hurler Juan Nicasio will likely be a reliever next season, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Nicasio has struggled as a starter this season, posting a 5.92 ERA with peripherals to match, but he’s had much more success out of the bullpen, with a significantly higher strikeout rate and many fewer walks. The righty has mostly been a starter in his big-league career, but he’s at little success while trying to survive at Coors Field, posting a 5.06 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in parts of four seasons.
  • The Rangers have won seven straight games, which is great for them, except that they’re doing all that winning with 12 players on the 60-day DL, the Dallas News’ Evan Grant writes. That means they’re winning thanks to contributions from less established players like Jake Smolinski, Adam Rosales and Phil Klein. With so many injured players who will have to be re-added to the 40-man roster this offseason, and with players like Smolinski making a case for future roles with the team, the Rangers have some tough decisions ahead of them.

West Notes: Deadline, D’backs, Gibson, Stewart, Angels

Three clubs in the league’s western division may have the greatest trade deadline regrets, in the opinion of MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince (writing for Sports On Earth). The Athletics have seen their fortunes fade since dealing away Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, though of course Lester has been outstanding. The Mariners‘ three key additions — Austin Jackson, Kendrys Morales, and Chris Denorfia — have generally failed to hit. And the Dodgers passed on a chance to add an impact starter.

  • Of course, it is eminently arguable that the Athletics‘ underperformance since the deadline is really not a reflection on Cespedes-Lester swap at all, as Tony Blengino of Fangraphs explains. The team has failed to score runs, to be sure, but that is due in large part to the production fall-offs from key first-half contributors like Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, and John Jaso (the latter, in large part, due to injury).
  • The one-year extensions signed before the season by Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and then-GM Kevin Towers contain rollover clauses that provide for automatic re-extensions if they are not dismissed by a certain date, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. (Such an anti-lame duck provision is also a feature of the Blue Jays’ contract with manager John Gibbons.) Player support for Gibson is “all but gone,” sources tell Rosenthal, but he could still be retained by chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.
  • Meanwhile, Rosenthal joins others in reporting that Dave Stewart is the leading candidate to take over as GM. Stewart says he is “very interested” in the position, and his hiring would make it likely that Towers stays on in a senior scouting role, according to Rosenthal.
  • Of course, the status of Stewart’s agency business (Sports Management Partners) would be up in the air if he takes the job. Rosenthal reports that some key clients such as Matt Kemp of the Dodgers have said they would stay on with SMP if the agency continues without Stewart.
  • The Angels‘ run to the AL West crown represents a remarkable turnaround for GM Jerry Dipoto, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. One year after most of his moves backfired, Dipoto has pulled off a series of largely successful trades and signings that helped fuel the team’s success. Most remarkably, perhaps, the team has received solid production from a variety of arms that have generally outperformed expectations.
  • Another remarkable turnaround in Halos land is the working relationship between Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia, as Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register writes. Last August, it was even reported that things had deteriorated to the point that one or the other would have to go, though Scioscia shot down the suggestion at the time. Now, Dipoto credits Scioscia with doing an “unbelievable job” at making adjustments and acting on new information — as reflected in the team’s lineup construction and use of defensive shifts.

2015 Vesting Options Update

The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. As we near the end of the season, here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options …

  • Nick Punto, Athletics: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. Though Forst did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, the health route is no longer available. Punto was only activated yesterday — ten days into the September active roster expansion — after going on the DL on August 3rd. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
  • Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would have needed to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He has just 255 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Weeks will also fall shy of reaching 400 PAs, which would have entitled him to a $1MM buyout of his option.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins’ option vested earlier this year when he reached 1,100 plate appearances over 2013-14. (He has also made 600 trips to bat in 2014, an independent basis for triggering the provision.) That clause, however, also required that he not finish the year on the disabled list, and Rollins left yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury. Word is that Rollins should be able to return, but with just three weeks left even a minor setback could well end his season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia would need to go out of its way to place him on the DL at this point, with active rosters expanded. And, in any event, the option would still vest if a mutually agreed-upon doctor deemed Rollins ready to start the 2015 season.
  • Dan Haren, Dodgers: Haren needs 180 innings to trigger a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. Heading into his scheduled outing this evening, he has already notched 162 frames. Haren should be in line for at least three more starts (including tonight’s) before the end of the month, and maybe another depending upon how the club approaches the last few games of the year. Having averaged 5.79 innings per start on the year, it will be incumbent on Haren to pitch his way to the option — especially in the midst of a playoff race and backed by a well-stocked bullpen.
  • Mike Adams, Phillies: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 would have vested with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s obviously not going to get there with just 17 2/3 innings in the tank. Adams has thrown just 42 2/3 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles. He should, however, be an attractive buy-low candidate given his general success when on the field.
  • Rafael Soriano, Nationals: Soriano’s $14MM club option vests with 120 games finished over 2013-14. While that always seemed a longshot, any realistic hope was snuffed out when Soriano lost his closing gig to Drew Storen, the man he replaced when he signed on with Washington. Whether or not Soriano makes it back into the 9th inning role over the next few weeks, he now sits at 104 games finished over the last two seasons, making it all but impossible for him to trigger the vesting provision. With the Nationals all but certain to decline their club option on Soriano, he should make for an interesting free agent to watch.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old has made it back for only 10 1/3 innings in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that (unreported) threshold.
  • Sean Burnett, Angels: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
  • Scott Downs, White Sox: Downs had a $4MM vesting option that would have vested with 55 appearances, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in June (via Twitter). Though he appeared to be headed in that direction earlier in the year, the White Sox cut bait with Downs and his then-6.08 ERA. He owns a 3.55 mark over 12 2/3 innings with the Royals — who signed him to a separate, minor-league deal — and has now thrown in 53 games, but the vesting clause is now a moot point.

West Notes: A’s, Samardzija, Astros, Diamondbacks

The Athletics made several errors in their approach to mid-season roster reconstruction, opines SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee, but trading away Yoenis Cespedes was not one of them. Overvaluing Jeff Samardzija, failing to improve at second, and giving up Addison Russell were all front office mistakes, says Brisbee, though much of the team’s recent poor play can be chalked up to some combination of bad luck and injury.

  • Samardzija said he expects to reach free agency in November of 2015, according to Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM (on Twitter).  Though Oakland obviously attributed significant value to controlling him next year at a below-market salary, giving up Russell to do so, it is hardly surprising to hear that an extension is not in the works. Samardzija went on to say that he is open to both the Cubs and White Sox as a free agent and indicated that the city of Chicago is still a priority for him (link).
  • The Astros‘ coaching staff is in limbo thanks to their managerial opening, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.  Houston likes its current coaching staff and when figuring out who their next skipper will be, they’ll have to also decide how much they value the staff and whether it’s worth getting rid of coaches they like to accommodate a new manager.
  • Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa has several avenues to pursue in his GM search, writes Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic.  Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque and agent Dave Stewart have been heavily tied to the job and both have a history with La Russa.  Meanwhile, if La Russa truly wants to “beef up” his analytics department, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler should garner strong consideration.