Oakland Athletics Rumors

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

Quick Hits: Ramirez, Hitting Coaches, Hudson, Zito

Two-time NPB MVP Alex Ramirez has retired, Jun Hongo of the Wall Street Journal Japan reports. The 40-year-old Ramirez played briefly for the Indians and Pirates between 1998 and 2000, but it wasn’t until he headed to Yakult for the 2001 season that his career really got going. He hit 29 homers that year and quickly emerged as one of the most feared sluggers in Japan, hitting 40 or more home runs three times in his career. Ramirez finished his NPB career in 2013 with 380 homers for Yakult, Yomiuri and Yokohama, then played and coached last season with the independent Gunma Diamond Pegasus club. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis has left the team to become the new hitting coach of the Red Sox, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com tweets. Davis hit 350 home runs in a 19-year career with the Giants, Angels, Twins, Royals and Yankees, then worked in the Dodgers and Red Sox systems before signing on with the Athletics prior to the 2012 season. In his previous stint with the Red Sox, Davis served as the hitting coach at Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox will begin interviewing candidates for their assistant hitting coach position this week, Bradford and Alex Speier report.
  • With Davis out, the Athletics are now looking for a hitting coach, and one candidate is Angels assistant hitting coach Dave Hansen, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The Angels could also promote Hansen to replace Don Baylor, who missed much of last season with a freak leg injury. Hansen, known as a pinch-hitter throughout much of his career, played 15 seasons with the Dodgers, Cubs, Padres and Mariners. The Athletics could also consider Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan, Slusser tweets.
  • If the A’s do have interest in Magadan, the won’t be the only ones. Davis had previously been a top candidate for the open Yankees hitting coach job, and the Yankees could now turn to Magadan, who interviewed Wednesday, George A. King III and John DeMarzo of the New York Post report. The former infielder played 16 seasons with the Mets, Marlins, Mariners, Astros, Cubs, Athletics and Padres.
  • Barry Zito‘s seven-year contract with the Giants didn’t turn out so well, but he did help them land Tim Hudson, Ryan Hood of MLB.com writes. When both pitchers were free agents last winter, Hudson called his former Athletics teammate to see what he thought of playing in San Francisco. “I said it’s a first-rate organization, from the top down,” says Zito, who assured Hudson that Giants fans had changed since the two pitchers had played together in Oakland. “Giants fans had a little more of a rep of just coming out for baseball games and not really having a die-hard presence and creating an intimidating atmosphere. It was very light. I told him 2010 changed everything.” Hudson posted a 3.57 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 189 1/3 innings for the Giants this season. Zito, meanwhile, says he determined in August 2013 that he would “take some time away from the game and focus on family.” He did not pitch this season.

Quick Hits: Hunter, Stewart, A’s, Nats

It was 100 years ago today that the Boston Braves finished off their sweep of the heavily-favored Philadelphia A’s to win the 1914 World Series.  The “Miracle Braves” were in last place on July 18 and didn’t even hit the .500 mark until August 1, yet they rocketed to the NL pennant with a 61-16 record over their final 77 games.  The Braves’ championship was even more stunning since they hadn’t even had a winning season since 1902.  Let’s see, a team with a lack of recent success going on an incredible late-season run….a century after the Miracle Braves, could the Miracle Royals be next?

Here’s some news from around baseball…

  • If the Tigers want me back, we will work that out hopefully.  Other than that, I’m still thinking about my situation,” Torii Hunter wrote in a text message to MLB.com’s Jason Beck.  Hunter hinted at retirement following the Tigers’ elimination in the ALDS, and it seems that he might more inclined to hang up his cleats if he can’t return to Detroit in 2015.
  • If the Pirates can’t re-sign Russell Martin, backup Chris Stewart wouldn’t be a bad option to take over the regular catching job next season, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review opines.  Stewart can serve as a bridge to the Bucs’ young catching prospects, and while the 32-year-old isn’t much of a hitter, he is an excellent defensive catcher and pitch-framer.  Since the Pirates would have to choose between a lot of flawed catching options on the open market, Sawchik reasons that the team could stick with a known commodity at a low cost.
  • Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis is a contender to be the team’s new bench coach, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  With the Yankees, Red Sox and possibly the Cubs all interested in Davis as a hitting coach, the A’s could offer him a promotion to stay in the fold.  The rest of the A’s coaching staff and (as Slusser previously reported) Cardinals bench coach Mike Aldrete are also candidates for the bench coach job, while Kirk Gibson and Ron Washington are unlikely to be considered since recently-fired managers usually aren’t so quick to accept bench coach gigs.
  • On paper, the Nationals don’t have any great need for any bullpen additions this offseason, yet CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman wouldn’t be surprised to see the club add another notable relief arm.
  • Six pitchers seem like candidates to receive qualifying offers this offseason, Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello writes.  Max Scherzer and James Shields are locks to receive and reject the one-year, $15.3MM offers, while Petriello thinks Francisco Liriano and Hiroki Kuroda will also reject the QO — Liriano in favor of a multiyear deal and Kuroda since he could retire, pitch in Japan or re-sign with the Yankees for slightly more than the qualifying offer (as he did last year).  Petriello also tentatively thinks Ervin Santana could reject a QO from the Braves while David Robertson could actually accept the qualifying offer, since his market could be hurt by draft pick compensation.
  • The Yankees will address the closer’s job, the rotation, third base and shortstop as their main offseason focuses, George A. King III of the New York Post writes.  King notes that the Yankees like Alcides Escobar, though he obviously isn’t a trade candidate this offseason since he’s such a key part of the Royals’ success.

Cardinals Notes: Taveras, Pujols, Aldrete, Trades

The Cardinals’ thrilling 5-4 win over the Giants last night tied the NLCS at a game apiece and also made some postseason history.  As ESPN’s Jayson Stark notes, the Cards became the first team to ever hit home runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of a playoff game.  That final homer, of course, was Kolten Wong‘s walkoff solo shot.  Here’s some more from St. Louis…

  • Oscar Taveras delivered that seventh-inning homer for the Cards last night, though a few issues have made the top prospect no longer “untouchable” in the organization’s eyes, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.  Taveras hit .239/.278/.312 over 248 PA in this rookie season and didn’t see much action down the stretch in September or in the playoffs thus far — he has only five PH at-bats during the postseason.  Perhaps of greater concern, Taveras put on 20 pounds last offseason and “his work habits have drawn attention from some veterans,” though Strauss notes that the 22-year-old “is not considered a toxic clubhouse presence.”  In my opinion, even if he’s not totally “untouchable,” St. Louis would undoubtedly want a massive return if they considered dealing Taveras and it’s a very long shot that the team would so quickly give up on such an elite prospect.
  • Strauss figures the Cardinals are likely to trade an outfielder this offseason, with Matt Holliday locked into the left field spot and Taveras, Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk and prospect Stephen Piscotty all in the mix for the other two outfield spots.
  • The Cardinals’ decision to let Albert Pujols leave as a free agent “could go down as one of the wisest in baseball history,” Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes.  Rather than spend $250MM on Pujols as the Angels did, the Cards instead spread that money around and have reached the NLCS in all three seasons since Pujols’ departure.  “When we knew we had to look at the next chapter of this organization, it was really about understanding how we could redeploy those resources,” GM John Mozeliak said.  “You never know if you’re going to be able to sustain that high a level, but certainly to get close to that level, or back to it, was something we were able to achieve, first with the signing of Carlos Beltran and then [Jhonny] Peralta.”
  • Cardinals bench coach Mike Aldrete is “a very likely possibility” to become the Athletics‘ new bench coach, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links).  Aldrete has a very good relationship with A’s manager Bob Melvin and a move to Oakland would allow Aldrete to live closer to his home in Monterey.  The A’s have a vacancy at bench coach since Chip Hale has been hired as the Diamondbacks’ new manager.
  • It is generally considered a mistake to fix a roster problem by trading from the Major League roster, yet the Cardinals’ young depth has allowed them to twice make such moves, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.  The Cards dealt Colby Rasmus for bullpen help in 2011 and ended up winning the World Series, while this past July saw Allen Craig and Joe Kelly traded to the Red Sox for John Lackey.  “I understand the risk profile in doing what we did,” Mozeliak said. “But in both situations….I felt we had to do something different — I felt we had to pull from the club to improve.”


Cafardo On Peavy, Martinez, Samardzija

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jake Peavy has gone from a likely minimal contract in free agency to a possible three-year deal.  The Giants are interested in re-signing him because they need him, and manager Bruce Bochy has gotten great work out of him.  For his part, the 33-year-old appears to enjoy being back with Bochy, his manager during his glory years in San Diego.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • A major league source tells Cafardo that Victor Martinez‘s preference is to stay with the Tigers and, therefore, Detroit will get the first crack at him. The interest is mutual and the Tigers would like to get something done sooner rather than later.
  • If A’s GM Billy Beane listens to offers on Jeff Samardzija this offseason, you can count the Red Sox as one of the possible interested parties.  The Sox inquired with the Cubs about him before the trade deadline, and they would not give up a package that included lefthanded pitching prospect Henry Owens.
  • Orioles outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz enjoys Baltimore and wants to stay, but Cafardo expects the Yankees, Rangers, and Mariners to be in on the bidding.  No matter what, the 34-year-old looks like he’ll make a bundle somewhere on a three- or four-year deal.
  • First baseman Adam LaRoche likely won’t re-signed by the Nationals, who could move Ryan Zimmerman to first base.  However, LaRoche lines up nicely as a target for the Brewers, who have toyed with the idea of Ryan Braun moving to first but will likely keep him in the outfield.  He could draw interest from the Orioles if they lose Cruz.
  • While there’s intrigue over Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, there’s still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he can translate well to MLB.  Some are worried about the pronounced leg kick in his stance that lasts deep into his swing.  There also has always been skepticism over his defensive ability, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.

Free Agent Faceoff: Cabrera vs. Drew vs. Lowrie

With J.J. Hardy off the market, teams looking for a pure shortstop suddenly lack an obvious potential solution. Sure, Hanley Ramirez still hits like an All-Star corner outfielder, but he also accumulated the second-most negative defensive value of any shortstop in 2014 (per Fangraphs) and has put his 20’s in his rearview. Any club signing him will have to expect a move to third at some point over the life of his deal, if not from the get-go.

Teams that simply want a new field marshal up the middle will have three primary options to choose from, each of whom brings somewhat different strengths, downsides, and expected contract terms.

As we sit here today, the Indian-turned-National Asdrubal Cabrera has yet to turn 29 years old. He has never quite met his promise, but has put up several well-above-average years both at the plate and in overall value. Defensive metrics have never been fans of the glove, but Cabrera is pretty solid at the plate and is a good bet to deliver 15 homers and 10 steals. And while he’s had his share of bumps and bruises, Cabrera has not missed any significant stretches since a forearm fracture back in 2010. But Cabrera was shifted to second after his mid-season trade to the Nationals, and some think that’s where he should stay.

Stephen Drew, most recently of the Yankees, is the oldest of the bunch, and he is coming off of a disastrous, qualifying offer-shortened 2014 season. Drew was worth over one win below replacement, thanks to an abysmal .162/.237/.299 slash over 300 plate appearances. But he has otherwise been pretty good when healthy, and had a good enough 2013 that he spurned the one-year, $14MM QO in hopes of finding a longer deal on the open market. And there’s an argument to be made that Drew is the best defender of this group. Given his depressed value, he could be a popular buy-low candidate.

The Athletics’ Jed Lowrie, meanwhile, is just one year removed from posting a .290/.344/.446 slash with 15 home runs. But that was his first season of full-time action, and his age-30 follow-up year was not nearly so sterling (.249/.321/.355, 6 home runs). He did see improved defensive marks, but UZR is much more favorably inclined to his work up the middle than is Defensive Runs Saved, which saw him as a -10 defender. But if you believe he can stay at short, in some ways, Lowrie could end up being the safest bet of this bunch while also delivering a bit of power upside.

Let’s go ahead and take a poll. It will not ask you to pick the best player, or the one who’ll get the largest contract. Rather, it asks for which player — given their likely expected contract situation — is likely to provide the best value. For instance, given his age and durability, Cabrera is the best bet of this bunch for a lengthy deal — but that could make him the most expensive to acquire. And a rebound from Drew could make him an incredible bargain.


Athletics Claim Jorge De Leon, Release Adam Dunn

The Athletics have claimed righty Jorge De Leon off waivers from the Astros, the team announced on Twitter. To clear 40-man space, Oakland released Adam Dunn.

Clearing Dunn from the roster was more a procedural mechanism than anything else at this point. The 34-year-old has indicated he is likely to retire at season’s end, and has already played out his contract. Over a short sample in Oakland, he put up a .634 OPS that dropped his season line to .219/.337/.415 over 511 plate appearances.

In De Leon, the A’s have picked up a hard-throwing reliever who has accrued minimal service time. The 27-year-old has thrown just 17 1/3 MLB innings, allowing ten earned runs and both striking out and walking ten batters. He was much better over 68 2/3 frames in the upper minors this year, however, posting a 3.01 ERA and posting 8.0 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9.


Free Agent Profile: Luke Gregerson

Luke Gregerson has been one of baseball’s top setup men since his 2009 rookie season, and he posted a career-best 2.12 ERA this year.  Interest will be strong on the 30-year-old, who will be seeking the first multiyear deal of his career.

Strengths/Pros

Among American League relievers with at least 60 innings, Gregerson’s 2.12 ERA this year ranked 12th.  Among free agents, only Pat Neshek and Andrew Miller did better.  In Gregerson’s six big league seasons, his highest ERA was 3.24 in his rookie campaign.  He’s posted an ERA of 2.75 or lower in each of the past four seasons.  From 2009-14 among relievers with at least 350 innings, Gregerson’s 2.75 ERA ranks fourth in baseball.  He’s been a model of consistent excellence in the late innings, using his slider often to stymie hitters even if they know it’s coming.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland AthleticsIn San Diego, Gregerson paired up with closers Heath Bell and Huston Street for five years, and he’s never received more than 13 save opportunities in a season.  Instead, he racks up holds like no other.  According to MLB.com, a hold is given if “a reliever comes into a game to protect a lead, gets at least one out and leaves without giving up that lead.”  Gregerson led all of baseball from 2009-14 with 154 holds.

Gregerson walked only 5.3% of the batters he faced this year, a career best.  Only 13 relievers showed better control this year, and only Neshek and Koji Uehara are free agents.  Gregerson’s 52.2% groundball rate was also a career-best, and the figure ranked 11th in the AL.  Gregerson has been consistently tough to hit throughout his career, allowing fewer than 7.5 hits per nine innings in every season except 2011.  His career batting average on balls in play of .267 is a big part of his success (more on that later).

Gregerson will not turn 31 until May next year.  Only a handful of Gregerson’s fellow relievers on the free agent market are that young, and none of them have a track record close to his.  One benefit Gregerson should have over free agent reliever David Robertson: he’s not going to receive a qualifying offer.

Gregerson comes with a remarkably clean bill of health, having only hit the DL twice in his career.  He missed 25 games in 2009 for shoulder inflammation and another 25 in 2011 for an oblique strain.  His 419 1/3 relief innings from 2009-14 rank second in baseball, behind only Tyler Clippard.

Weaknesses/Cons

Drafted in the 28th round in 2006 by the Cardinals, velocity has never been Gregerson’s calling card.  He broke in throwing around 91 miles per hour, and now he’s down to 88.4.  Only three relievers threw slower in 2014, and two of them are sidearmers.

Gregerson struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings in 2014, his worst mark aside from his 2011 season, which was marred by an oblique strain.  The average AL reliever this year whiffed 8.3 per nine.  It should also be noted that Gregerson’s success has come in both leagues, but always in pitcher-friendly home parks.  For his career, he has a 2.02 ERA at home and a 3.60 mark on the road.  The key differences are a much higher home run per flyball rate and batting average on balls in play on the road.

Gregerson threw his famed slider about 46% of the time in 2014, a rate topped by only three relievers.  He was the game’s most slider-dependent regular reliever in 2012-13, throwing it 63% of the time.  It’s possible heavy slider usage leads to increased injury risk.  However, Gregerson has a strong track record of health, and noted to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle in March that he turns his wrist less than most pitchers and his elbow has never bothered him.

Personal

Born in Park Ridge, Illinois, Gregerson resides in Chicago in the offseason.  He attended St. Xavier University in Chicago and grew up rooting for the Cubs and White Sox, according to a 2009 interview.  For a look at how the 28th round pick found his way to the Majors, check out Jeff Passan’s article for Yahoo from 2010.

Gregerson is a board member of Struggling Youth Equals Successful Adults, which aids foster kids in transitioning to adulthood.  In September 2012, Gregerson was the Padres’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for all his volunteer efforts.

Market

As a Chicago guy, Gregerson might welcome a chance to pitch for the White Sox if they make a competitive offer.  Sox GM Rick Hahn made it clear in September that he aims to “acquire multiple options” for his pen this winter.  Other speculative suitors: the Tigers, Dodgers, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Nationals, Yankees, and Red Sox.  It is certainly possible that Gregerson could be signed to take on a closer role.

Aside from Gregerson, the best names on the free agent relief market are David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Jason Grilli, Sergio Romo, Francisco Rodriguez, Koji Uehara, Casey Janssen, Rafael Soriano, and Pat Neshek.  That’s a lot of competition, and you don’t want to be the reliever left standing in January after the music has stopped.

Expected Contract

From last offseason, three contracts come to mind as comparables for Gregerson: Javier Lopez ($13MM), Joe Smith ($15.75MM), and Boone Logan ($16.5MM).  From the previous offseason, notable deals include Brandon League ($22.5MM), Jeremy Affeldt ($18MM), and Jonathan Broxton ($21MM).  All of those deals were for three years, and that is the expectation for Gregerson.  Five of the six were signed before December, so it would be wise for Gregerson’s agent Tom O’Connell to act early.

You’ll notice that the average annual values from last offseason were about 20% lower than the 2012-13 period, even if we exclude Lopez on account of being older and an extreme lefty specialist.  Some of that may be a function of Broxton and League having 111 and 60 career saves, respectively, but it could be a sign that teams backed off on reliever salaries.  Plus, League isn’t the best example, as that deal was viewed as questionable for the Dodgers before the ink had dried.  On the other hand, Gregerson’s consistent success led to him setting the arbitration market for his ilk, along with Robertson, so it’s possible a team could like him enough to set a new setup man precedent by giving an $8MM AAV or a fourth year.  The four-year deal for setup men seems to have died out with Scott Linebrink and Justin Speier six to seven years ago.

Ultimately, I think Gregerson will sign a three-year, $20MM deal.


California Notes: Dipoto, Angels, Lowrie, Giants

Four of California’s five teams reached the postseason and two are still alive, as the Dodgers and Giants both play Game 3 of their respective NLDS series tonight.  The Dodgers will send Hyun-jin Ryu to the mound to try and take a 2-1 lead over the Cardinals, while Madison Bumgarner and the Giants can sweep away the Nationals with a victory.

Here’s some news from around the Golden State…

  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez) that his team will focus on adding bench and pitching depth this offseason.  Dipoto doesn’t forsee any big moves since he’s pleased with the team’s core players, saying “We feel we’re tweaks and turns from being a very good team again.”
  • As several members of the Angels‘ core get deeper into their 30’s, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times wonders if the team’s window of contention might only last for another season or two.
  • The Angels will likely address their depth by being active on the minor league free agent market, CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa writes in a recap of the Halos’ 2014 season and a look ahead to their winter.  Axisa suggests the team could sign a mid-tier free agent starter like Brandon McCarthy and/or Francisco Liriano, and then trade C.J. Wilson to free up some payroll space (while eating maybe half the $38MM still owed on Wilson’s contract).  Dealing Wilson could be easier said than done given his partial no-trade clause (covering eight teams) and since Wilson is coming off a tough season.
  • The Athletics will “be stuck on this treadmill” of early postseason exits “until the team is sold” due to a lack of payroll support from ownership, Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle opines.  Jenkins also criticized Billy Beane’s recent defense of the Jon Lester trade, as Jenkins felt it didn’t show much faith in the rest of the A’s roster.
  • Jed Lowrie is open to playing second base rather than shortstop, just as long as he has a stable everyday spot and not switching between the two middle infield positions, he tells MLB.com’s Jane Lee.  Lowrie will be a free agent this offseason and is “certainly open to hearing what the A’s have to say” about re-signing him, as he enjoys playing with his teammates and for Bob Melvin.
  • The Giants aren’t usually mentioned in discussions of baseball’s best farm systems, yet homegrown players are the backbone of both this year’s roster and the club’s recent World Series winners, Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News writes.  Fourteen of the players on the Giants’ roster were drafted or signed by the team, the second-most homegrown products of any of the eight Division Series clubs.

Cafardo On A-Rod, Miller, Iglesias, Jaso

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is everybody’s bridesmaid right now.  He has a strong resume that has prepared him for managing, but he hasn’t gotten his big break yet.  There are others in the same boat, including Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach and Athletics bench coach Chip Hale.  Lovullo hopes that like Bo Porter, he can break through it eventually.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • Manager Joe Girardi says otherwise, but Cafardo writes that the Yankees are viewing Alex Rodriguez are more of a DH than a third baseman possibility in 2015.  A-Rod’s ability to play third could have an impact on the Yankees’ offseason plans, including whether to re-sign Chase Headley.
  • Orioles lefty Andrew Miller is a strong union man who will seek the best contract for himself when he reaches free agency.  Miller wants to return to the Red Sox, if they’re not close on money, but he’ll ultimately go to the highest bidder.  Major league sources tell Cafardo that they believe the bidding will start at three years, $21MM.
  • There was some trade buzz around shortstop Jose Iglesias but it now looks like he may be back in the driver’s seat as the Tigers‘ future shortstop.  Eugenio Suarez and Andrew Romine both showed promise at times, but they’ve each had their runs and fizzled out.  Iglesias has recovered fully from stress fractures in both shins and is expected to pick up where he left off as one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball.
  • The A’s are open to trading anyone, the Red Sox are looking for a backup left-handed hitter, and John Jaso seems to fit the profile for what Boston wants.  Jaso started 47 games this season for the A’s, who also used him at DH.

Minor Moves: Free Agents, Blue Jays

Here are the latest minor moves from around the game.