Oakland Athletics Rumors

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

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.


AL West Notes: Donaldson, A’s, Young, Harrison, M’s

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 GrayJeff 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.

Nick Punto’s 2015 Option Vests

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.

Nick Punto

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.


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.