Oakland Athletics Rumors

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

Astros Discussing Minors Deal With Joe Thatcher

The Astros are interested in Joe Thatcher and a source tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) that he believes Houston will sign the veteran left-hander to a minor league contract.  Another source says no deal is done, though it could be close, as an agreement could be completed “probably [by] tomorrow.”

Over ten teams have shown interest in Thatcher this winter and he’s close to deciding on his new team, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reported earlier today. Houston was cited as one of the teams most interested in Thatcher’s services, along with the Athletics, Rangers and Mets.  Given all of this interest, it would be somewhat surprising to see Thatcher settle for a minor league deal given his track record.

Thatcher, 33, posted a 3.34 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 2.89 K/BB rate over 207 2/3 innings with the Padres and Diamondbacks from 2007-13.  He was pitching particularly well for Arizona last season (a 2.63 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and a sterling 8.33 K/BB rate over 30 1/3 IP) before being dealt to the Angels in July, and that’s when Thatcher’s season took a turn for the worse. He struggled to an 8.53 ERA in only 6 1/3 innings for Anaheim as he spent over a month on the DL with a sprained ankle and didn’t even make the Halos’ postseason roster.

Signing Thatcher would further reinforce an Astros bullpen that has already added Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson this winter.  The relief corps could be further bolstered by one or several of Houston’s young arms that don’t win the fifth spot in the starting rotation.


Athletics, Tyler Clippard Avoid Arbitration

5:50pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Clippard will be paid $8.3MM in 2015, which is slightly below the midpoint of the figures that were exchanged.

5:18pm: The Athletics announced that they have avoided arbitration with recently acquired right-hander Tyler Clippard by agreeing to a one-year contract (Twitter link). Clippard, a client of Excel Sports Management, filed for an $8.85MM salary, while the team countered at $7.775MM, a shown in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker. Though his final sum has yet to be reported, it will come in south of the $9.3MM figure projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Acquired last month in exchange for Yunel Escobar, Clippard was arbitration eligible for the final time this winter. Though his final price tag will be lofty for a relief arm, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t earned this level of compensation; over the past two seasons, Clippard has worked to a 2.29 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 141 1/3 innings for the Nationals. He also served as the team’s primary closer in the 2012 season, registering 32 saves, though they came with an uncharacteristically high 3.72 ERA.

Clippard, who will turn 30 on Valentine’s Day, was expected to serve in a setup role with Oakland at the time of his acquisition, but reports since the trade have indicated that closer Sean Doolittle is dealing with shoulder problems. Doolittle recently received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in his left shoulder and could be sidelined to begin the season, which means that Clippard could again be called upon for ninth-inning duties.

With Clippard’s case resolved, the A’s are now finished with the arbitration process. Oakland had 11 arb-eligible players this winter, but only one hearing was required; the team won its hearing against Jarrod Parker, who had filed for a $1.7MM salary, while the team filed at $850K.


International Notes: Balfour, Moncada, Olivera, Alvarez, Kang

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tells the emotional story of Rays reliever Grant Balfour and his father David, who is battling pancreatic cancer. Baseball Australia’s Hall of Fame will induct the younger Balfour even before his playing career is over so that his father — a notable figure in the Australian game — can be there to participate. The piece is well worth your time.

Here are the latest reports on the international scene:

  • The Diamondbacks are among the teams expected to watch touted young Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada later this week, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports. Arizona has already gone well over its international bonus pool and has been one of the most active teams on the international market. The Cubs, too, will take a look at him (as have many other, previously-reported teams), though they would be unable to offer him more than a $250K bonus unless he waits until after July 2 to sign.
  • Hector Olivera drew hundreds of scouts to his final public showcase, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reports on Twitter, and seemingly did not disappoint. Per Badler, the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics, and Padres were well-represented in attendance. You’ll want to read through Badler’s Twitter feed (some earlier portion of which was compiled here by Baseball America) for more information on Olivera’s impressive display as well as some other notes from the international showcase.
  • Right-hander Yadier Alvarez, just 18, is the latest Cuban citizen drawing buzz. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted recently that he is pushing a high-90s fastball, and today Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reports (Twitter links) that his buzz “checks out.” Not only does the young righty work in the mid-90s and touch even higher, he has a “more than usable” change to go with it. That will likely result in a big payday, per McDaniel, who also notes in a tweet that it may take a month or two for him to be cleared to sign.
  • Former KBO superstar and current Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang might just be capable of putting up huge numbers in the big leagues, according to the analysis of Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs. Farnsworth breaks down Kang’s “upper-echelon swing” and compares it to some notable MLB power bats, concluding that the Korean ballplayer could break out with a .280+ batting average and 25 or more home runs in his first MLB season.


Quick Hits: K-Rod, Rockies, Baker

The White Sox and Brewers have had the best and worst offseasons, respectively, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The White Sox were aggressive but conservative in spending their financial flexibility and did well by not surrendering any top prospects to acquire Jeff Samardzija. The Brewers, meanwhile, are not good enough to compete in the NL Central now or in the near future and should have either made a big play for a free agent like James Shields or turned over the roster on a grander scale than just trading Yovani Gallardo.

Elsewhere in baseball:

  • If the Marlins are unable to further upgrade their rotation, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro advocates the club signing Francisco Rodriguez, not to supplant closer Steve Cishek but to solidify the back end of their bullpen. Frisaro tweeted the Marlins could apply their arbitration savings of $1.265MM (achieved with the Mike Dunn extension and in winning the Mat Latos arbitration hearing) towards signing Rodriguez. Earlier today, Frisaro reported the Marlins have contacted K-Rod’s agent, Scott Boras.
  • GM Jeff Bridich sees the free agent signing of Kyle Kendrick and the acquisition of David Hale as updgrading the Rockies‘ rotation, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. “I certainly feel like the depth has been addressed to a certain degree,” Bridich said. “We were involved in both free agency and trades. Again, we have a good sense of what Kyle Kendrick is and what he can do. I think he has proven himself. With the acquisition of somebody like Hale … I think there is upside there.
  • MLB.com’s Terence Moore profiles Dusty Baker, who would “like to have another chance to manage, because the only thing lacking in my career is” a World Series ring, but is content if he never receives that opportunity.
  • Cuban infielder Alejandro Ortiz has petitioned for free agency and is expected to hit the market soon, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The 24-year-old, who possesses speed and a good glove, played five seasons in Serie Nacional, so he is exempt from counting against a team’s international signing bonus pool.

West Notes: Padres, Athletics, Angels

Much of the Padres‘ pitching staff has remained intact this offseason while new GM A.J. Preller built a new offense alongside it, and the team’s returning pitchers are excited, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. “It’s been pretty cool seeing all the moves we made,” says Andrew Cashner. “This is my first year to have a chance to win.” Another Padres starter, Ian Kennedy, still has interest in exploring free agency after the season, but adds that “it’s hard not to notice” that the team has gotten better, in his view, both for 2015 into the future. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • The Athletics acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar in the Ben Zobrist trade, then quickly shipped him to Washington for Tyler Clippard. Assistant GM David Forst says, however, that the A’s didn’t acquire Escobar with the intention of trading him, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The Clippard deal took shape only after the completion of the Zobrist deal.
  • The Angels have improved their farm system in the past several months, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. That’s not to say their farm system is great — they moved up from last in Baseball America’s organizational rankings in 2013 and 2014 to 27th this year. They did, however, pitchers Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano this winter, and drafted three more pitchers, Sean Newcomb, Joe Gatto and Chris Ellis, in June. Since Baseball America’s rankings went to press, the Angels have also added infielders Roberto Baldoquin and Kyle Kubitza. “It’s a better system than it was before,” says BA’s John Manuel. “There are some positive signs.”

Athletics Win Arbitration Hearing Against Jarrod Parker

The Athletics have won an arbitration hearing against right-hander Jarrod Parker, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The 26-year-old Parker, who missed all of the 2014 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring, filed for a $1.7MM salary on the strength of his strong work from 2012-13, while the A’s countered at $850K (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). Parker will earn $850K this season, which is $50K short of his $900K projection from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Formerly the ninth overall pick in the draft, Parker was acquired alongside Ryan Cook and Collin Cowgill from the Diamondbacks prior to the 2012 season in a trade that sent Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow to Arizona. Parker didn’t throw a pitch in 2014, but because a player’s first trip through arbitration is based on his career to date (unlike subsequent arb cases, which focus more on the platform season), he and his agents at Reynolds Sports Management still clearly felt they had a strong case. It’s easy to see why they felt as such, given Parker’s 25-16 record and 3.73 ERA in 378 1/3 innings of work from 2012-13. While wins and losses rightfully are becoming less common as a means of gauging a pitcher’s talent level, they still carry weight in arbitration. Parker has also averaged 6.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 42.5 percent ground-ball rate in his career thus far.

Though he’s unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, Parker should eventually move back into the Oakland rotation at some point this season. Both he and fellow Tommy John victim A.J. Griffin will give manager Bob Melvin options in what is already a deep staff of starting candidates. Budding ace Sonny Gray will lead the rotation along with revitalized veteran Scott Kazmir, and that duo will likely be joined by Jesse Chavez and Jesse Hahn. Candidates for the fifth slot include Drew Pomeranz, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman, though Pomeranz would appear to have the inside track, as he is the most experienced of that bunch.

With Parker’s case resolved, Oakland has settled 11 of its 12 arbitration cases — a fairly staggering number — leaving only Tyler Clippard‘s situation unresolved.


James Shields Rumors: Wednesday

We learned last night that the market for James Shields was taking shape, with multiple offers on the table and an expectation that the righty would be signed by the end of the week. Today figures to deliver plenty more reporting on the best remaining free agent, and we’ll keep tabs on it here.

  • The Cubs have entered the fray and are “kicking the tires” on Shields, reports David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com. Kaplan, too, hears that Shields is expected to choose a team by the end of the week, and the Cubs are among those he is considering. Kaplan tweets that the Cubs have been waiting to see where the Shields market ended up before getting too involved. He adds that Shields has interest in Chicago, with his relationship with manager Joe Maddon being a factor.

Earlier Updates

  • Shields’s agent, Page Odle, has indicated to some clubs that his client is “getting close to resolution,” according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (via Twitter).
  • While it remains unclear exactly where they stand, the Marlins “remain in talks” involving Shields, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. As he writes, the club is more interested in a three-year deal than in going to four, with its pursuit complicated by payroll projections and the undecided situation of Dan Haren.
  • If Miami is in, several other at-least-hypothetical landing spots appear to be out: The Cardinals prefer to plug Carlos Martinez in the rotation rather than signing Shields, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Rangers have not modified their intentions to avoid major free agent pitching investments, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (via Twitter). And the always-unpredictable Athletics are not involved, per a tweet from Heyman.
  • Two more west coast teams, the Giants and Angels, are also not currently in the running, Heyman reports (Twitter links). San Francisco had been in conversations in the four-year, $80MM range with Shields earlier in the offseason, per an Olney tweet, but ended up pursuing (and signing) Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong when they were rebuffed.

(more…)


Latest On Yoan Moncada’s Market

The news that 19-year-old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada is now eligible to sign with Major League teams launched an outpouring of speculation, and we may not have to wait too long for resolution to the situation, as the infielder tells MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez he hopes to sign in the near future. “My goal is to sign with a team soon, start training with them, and make it to the Major Leagues as fast as I can with whichever team that might be,” Moncada told Sanchez. Moncada could sign as soon as this month, according to Sanchez, who reminds that the infielder has already had private workouts for the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Padres, Giants, Rangers, Rays, Tigers and Brewers. The first three teams listed are reportedly the heavy favorites to sign Moncada, though Sanchez notes that other teams will schedule private workouts now that Moncada is unblocked. He also adds that contract negotiations have intensified since news broke that he was cleared to sign.

Here are the latest updates on the market for Moncada, who has captured the intrigue of baseball fans around the world…

  • Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons spoke to three different GMs whose teams have been previously connected to Moncada and was told that they are not pursuing him after all (Twitter link). The unnamed GMs each pointed to the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers as the favorites, although each warned to keep an eye on the Tigers as well.
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that there is an expectation among rival executives that the Athletics will make a serious run at Moncada, as they did with Yoenis Cespedes three offseasons ago.
  • In a full article (ESPN Insider required/recommended), Olney writes that there is also a belief among execs that the Dodgers‘ financial restraint to this point in the offseason could make them more aggressive on Moncada, with some believing that they will ultimately land him. Olney adds that many execs feel the Red Sox‘ current surplus of Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Pablo Sandoval and Mookie Betts will limit their interest and limit how far the team is willing to stretch. As Olney puts it, Boston simply isn’t as desperate for Moncada as some of their competition.

West Links: Luhnow, Reimold, Angels, Dodgers

In an interview with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link), Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said his club had looked at signing Kevin Correia and Kyle Kendrick.  Houston’s interest in Correia was reported earlier this week, while Kendrick has been linked to the ‘Stros as another potential fit to fill out the back of their rotation.  Luhnow also stated that the Astros had been looking at other similar starters with Major League experience.  Here’s some more from both the AL and NL West divisions…

  • The Athletics have checked in on free agent outfielder Nolan Reimold, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets.  The Indians and Orioles are also known to be interested in Reimold, and Dan Duquette said earlier today that the O’s have extended an offer for Reimold to return to Baltimore.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto was non-committal about the idea of his team pursuing any of the top arms available in next year’s free agent market, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes.  Payroll space could be an issue given how (according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts) the Halos have over $128MM committed to only seven players for the 2016 season.
  • With Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson both set for free agency after 2016, Gonzalez wonders if the Angels could sign a major starter and then use Weaver or Wilson as trade bait, similar to how the Nationals signed Max Scherzer and now have the depth to explore trading Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister.  There were rumors earlier this winter that the Angels were already shopping Wilson, though Dipoto issued a denial.
  • Sergio Santos will earn $1MM if he makes the Dodgers‘ Major League roster, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports (via Twitter), plus another $3.05MM is available in incentives.  Santos signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers last month.
  • The Dodgers are committed to rebuilding their minor league system and thus are wary about exceeding their international bonus pool to sign Yoan Moncada, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick writes.  While L.A. is very interested in Moncada, any team that wants to sign the Cuban phenom would have to greatly exceed their bonus pool to do so, and thus be limited to international signings of $300K or less for the next two international signing periods, or until July 2017.  Of course, several teams have employed the strategy of exceeding the pool limit to load up on premium international talent during one signing period — the Red Sox, Angels, Rays, Yankees and Diamondbacks already face that $300K limit during the 2015-17 international signing market.
  • The Diamondbacks hired former slugger Joe Carter as a special assistant to GM Dave Stewart, the team announced.  Carter and Stewart were teammates in Toronto in 1993-94, both playing major roles in the Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series title.

AL Central Notes: Garcia, Viciedo, Weeks, Ichiro

The White Sox rank at the very top of the list of offseason winners compiled by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. GM Rick Hahn ticked through many of the team’s questions this winter and should have a competitive team to show for it, says Heyman. Of course, despite plenty of praise, there are still some non-believers out there. They can point to this year’s PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus, which see Chicago as a 78-win team. Also of note from PECOTA, which is rather down on the division on the whole: the Tigers are tabbed as a .500 club, while the Royals project to win just 72 wins after appearing in the World Series last year.

More from the south side and the AL Central:

  • The White Sox are a much improved team heading into the 2015 season, but much of the optimism surrounding the club relies on the contributions of right fielder Avisail Garcia, writes Fangraphs’ Neil Weinberg. Perception appears to be that Garcia can handily outperform the just-designated Dayan Viciedo, but Weinberg cautions that we shouldn’t readily accept that as fact. Garcia’s stats to date tell a similar tale to that of Viciedo — modest on-base percentage with some power and below-average base-running and defensive skills. While Garcia’s track record is clearly smaller, the two are excellent statistical comps even when looking at their production through the age of 23. Weinberg notes that scouts have long questioned whether or not Garcia would be able to resist bad pitches and make enough contact to succeed, and the assumption that he will outperform Viciedo is based largely on perceived ceiling as opposed to likely outcomes.
  • Newly-designated White Sox slugger Dayan Viciedo should generate plenty of interest, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. The American League West offers the best matches, Morosi argues, with the Mariners, Athletics, and Rangers all potentially making sense as landing spots.
  • Despite some apparent suggestions, the Twins are not interested in free agent second baseman Rickie Weeks, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. That is not terribly surprising, given that the right-handed-hitting Weeks does not play short and would presumably have needed to serve as a backup to two right-handed hitters in Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe.
  • Ichiro Suzuki‘s representatives (who he shares with Twins skipper Paul Molitor) tried to generate interest in the veteran from Minnesota, but the club never saw a fit, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. As Berardino explains, Ichiro and Molitor — both incredible pure hitters — share an interesting relationship.