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Oakland Athletics Rumors
While multiple reports yesterday raised the possibility of the Athletics trading Josh Donaldson this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) spoke with an A’s official who completely dismissed the notion, bluntly stating, “That would be stupid.” Of course, one such comment doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, but it does seem unlikely that the A’s are feeling too much pressure to move their All-Star third baseman, as he’s just hitting arbitration for the first time.
In other Oakland and AL West news…
- Athletics GM Billy Beane doesn’t regret pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he told reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. “Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” Beane said. First baseman Brandon Moss also spoke, noting that he doesn’t think there was any way for the A’s to catch the Angels based on their torrid second-half run.
- The A’s could potentially have a strong pitching staff fronted by Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir in 2015, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but they’re left with question marks surrounding that strength. The team has no middle infield to speak of, and the free agent market doesn’t offer much in the way of impact options. Meanwhile, a large portion of the roster — including Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Craig Gentry and Sean Doolittle — is marred by injury concerns. Building a team that can contend in 2015 is a long shot, in Hickey’s estimation.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some more details on Michael Young‘s upcoming role in the Rangers‘ front office. Young and the Rangers are finalizing a deal that will make him a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels — a role that the Rangers are also discussing with Darren Oliver. However, while many former players that land special assistant roles are loosely affiliated with the club and have a light workload, Grant reports that these roles would be far more significant. The Rangers feel they’ve lacked insight into the psychology of modern players when making recent decisions, and the presence of Young and Oliver could help to provide that insight. The roles will also involve field work and player evaluation at times.
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison has pushed back the beginning of his offseason throwing sessions from November to January, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Harrison called the move precautionary, noting somewhat ominously, “I got only one shot at this. I just have to make sure it’s right.” The talented southpaw, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $55MM extension, is attempting to work his way back from his third back surgery in a span of two years.
- Perhaps the Mariners‘ biggest weakness was the lack of a productive DH this season, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. That flaw, he opines, should be remedied with a hard pursuit of Victor Martinez. Though he’s 36, will cost a draft pick and is sure to be expensive, Stone points out that the time for exhibiting patience is waning, as Felix Hernandez and especially Robinson Cano move closer to the end of their primes. He also points out that Martinez “reveres” manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers prior to becoming Seattle’s manager.
Athletics infielder Nick Punto‘s $2.75MM option has vested, the infielder himself told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). As the switch-hitting utility man explained to Slusser, he had a fairly complicated formula that would determine whether or not the option would kick in, but he’ll indeed be back with the club next season.
Punto, who turns 37 next month, signed a one-year, $3MM contract that guaranteed him $2.75MM in 2014 in addition to a $250K buyout of the aforementioned $2.75MM option. All told, the Jeff Caulfield client will end up earning $5.5MM over his two seasons with the A’s — a figure that is in line with contracts inked by other veteran utility types such as Willie Bloomquist (two years, $5.8MM) and Skip Schumaker (two years, $5MM).
The defensively versatile Punto has never hit much, but he struggled through one of his worst offensive seasons to date in 2014, batting .207/.296/.293 in 224 plate appearances. However, he did help the A’s by logging 363 quality innings at second base, and he also filled in at shortstop (118 2/3 innings) in addition to brief cameos in right field and at third base.
Originally drafted by the Phillies, Punto was sent to the Twins along with Carlos Silva and Bobby Korecky in a trade for Eric Milton back in 2003. After a seven-year stretch with Minnesota, he’s bounced around to four other teams: the Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers and A’s. In 3734 career plate appearances between the six teams mentioned, Punto is a .245/.323/.323 hitter that has logged more than 2400 innings at shortstop, second base and third base with positive defensive marks at each.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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.
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.
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.
He’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.
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 …
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.