Oakland Athletics Rumors
The Athletics have agreed to a five-year contract extension with left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle, the club announced (via Twitter). The deal covers the current season and runs through 2018, after which time Oakland will have a pair of options for the 2019 and 2020 campaigns. Doolittle is represented by Jason Cook.
Doolittle, 27, is entering his third year of MLB action and came into the year with 1.122 years of MLB service. Take with the 41st-overall pick out of the University of Virginia (where he was a two-way player) back in 2007, Doolittle started his professional career as a first baseman. He switched to the hill after knee problems, and wasted little time in getting to the bigs.
Since cracking the A's pen in 2012, Doolittle has thrown 125 innings of 3.10 ERA ball. The fireballing southpaw has racked up 9.3 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 over that stretch, though he has averaged only a 32.7% ground-ball rate. (Advanced metrics have pegged his big league time at 2.56 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, and 2.76 SIERA.) Primarily a fastball pitcher, Doolittle has gone to his curve more frequently this year. Given his late turn back to pitching, it could be that the A's see more room for him to grow; Doolittle was a starter in college.
While it is hard to pass any judgment on the extension without knowing its financial terms, it is obviously a surprisingly lengthy pact for a reliever. Obviously, the possibility of Doolittle driving up his arbitration cost by accumulating saves could be a consideration here. It would be surprising if Oakland did not achieve a significant discount in return for guaranteeing future salary for a reliever with such little service time.
Regardless how much it is worth, this contract lands in relatively uncharted territory. MLBTR's Extension Tracker reveals only three reliever extensions of four-year durations, and none that have gone to five. Of course, given that the 2014 season is already underway, it is probably best to view Doolittle's new deal as a four-year pact. Of those prior deals, two were for established closers (Craig Kimbrel and Joe Nathan) with significantly more service time and very different situations. The other -- the four-year, $8.025MM deal (plus two options) signed by Manny Corpas and the Rockies when he had 1.076 years of service -- appears to be the only clear comparable. (Corpas was coming off of a 19-save, 2.08 ERA campaign in his age-24 season.)
Here's the latest MLB news from the west coast:
- The Dodgers averted a potentially devastating injury last night when x-rays revealed that star shortstop Hanley Ramirez did not suffer a break in his hand on a hit-by-pitch, Alanna Rizzo of SportsNet LA reported on Twitter. The club's middle infield decisionmaking -- in particular, declining Mark Ellis's reasonable option -- drew some questions in the offseason, though Dee Gordon has been a revelation thus far and Alex Guerrero is off to a fast start in Triple-A. The Dodgers also got good news recently on rehabbing starter Chad Billingsley, who underwent an MRI that showed no damage to his elbow after experiencing discomfort in a throwing session, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick reports.
- As we noted a few days ago, the emerging story of Yasiel Puig's defection from Cuba has led to increased focus to the travails of players seeking to reach the bigs from the neighboring island. In another piece on the incredible tale, ESPN The Magazine's Scott Eden describes the underground system that brought Puig (and others) to the majors.
- The Athletics have compiled what Fangraphs' Tony Blengino calls a "low-risk, reasonably high-reward" staff. Oakland's rotation -- in particular, Dan Straily, Scott Kazmir, and the surprising Jesse Chavez -- has both generated a promising batted-ball mix (low line-drive, high ground-ball, and high pop-up rates) and logged strong K:BB ratios early on in 2014. When you add youngster Sonny Gray to that mix, and consider the reasonable pay rates of all the arms, Blengino says that the A's have done an excellent job of constructing their rotation. Indeed, despite injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, Oakland's starters lead the league in fWAR and are second in ERA.
- Of course, much of the offseason focus on Oakland revolved around the team's surprising buying spree of expensive relievers, as MLBTR's Steve Adams recently documented. Though the pen has had some hiccups at the back end to start the year, it still ranks 6th in ERA as a unit. With Jim Johnson already having been removed from the classic closer role, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wonders whether the team could stick with a closer-by-committee approach -- more out of opportunity than need.
We touched on some American League notes late last night, but here are a few more for the morning:
- After a solid start to his tenure with the Twins' Triple-A affiliate, recently-acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez has earned a (brief) call-up to the bigs, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (passing on a report from the Rochester Chronicle and Democrat). Nunez will get the chance to be the team's 26th player for the second game of today's doubleheader before going back to the minors on Friday, though it seems quite possible he'll get a real shot with the MLB club at some point given Pedro Florimon's struggles.
- The Tigers' search for a replacement at shortstop led them to ask 46-year-old Omar Vizquel if he was interested in making a comeback, reports Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. "They asked me if I'd like to come and take some grounders," said Vizquel. "I said, 'No, I've been retired for two years.'"
- Scott Cousins will not exactly be continuing his career as a baseball outfielder when he joins the Rangers, reports Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. The 29-year-old will head to extended spring training, where he will try to convert into a left-handed pitcher.
- The latest in the Athletics' ballpark situation has focused on the possibility of a ten-year lease extension at the O.co Coliseum. As Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com reports, A's co-owner Lew Wolff says the club would be willing to make over $10MM in stadium improvements if such a deal were struck. (Of course, for those who follow ballpark funding issues, that outlay will seem a relative drop in the bucket.)
As defensive metrics gain precision and acceptance, we can expect an increasing move toward player contracts that better reflect the contributions of premier glovework, writes Doug Mittler for ESPN The Magazine (Insider link). "The market is established by offense because defensive numbers are difficult to ascertain," said Mets GM Sandy Alderson. Mittler says that current bargains, like Alex Gordon of the Royals and Ryan Hanigan of the Rays, may be harder to find in coming seasons. (I would suggest that some recent extensions of defense-first players -- including those of Andrelton Simmons of the Braves and Elvis Andrus of the Rangers -- may reflect just that kind of movement in the market.)
Here's the latest out of the American League:
- It is early, of course, but the White Sox look like a very different club on the offensive side of the ledger, writes Grantland's Jonah Keri. The preliminary results have put a shine on an offseason that, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes described, brought significant MLB-ready talent into the South Side. Like Dierkes, Keri advises caution for the prospects this season but foresees a bright future for some of the team's young position players.
- An alternative method of rebuilding -- the Astros' total strip-down of MLB talent and payroll -- took another important step forward with the debut of George Springer. In an interesting interview with Drew Fairservice of TheScore.com, club GM Jeff Luhnow said that he hopes the club's pool of prospect talent will "have an expectation to win" after experiencing success together at the minor league level. And he made clear that Houston will look to take full advantage of its substantial amateur spending dollars. Looking ahead, Luhnow explained that the club is already thinking about how to manage inevitable payroll increases: "With so many young players coming through the pipeline, we’re not going to be able to lock them all up. Just keeping them all through arbitration is going to get expensive and we also want to dip into the free agent market so we’ll have to be wise about how we spend the dollars. Our flexibility gives us the opportunity to make the right investments at the right time."
- As noted earlier, recently-designated Athletics outfielder Sam Fuld is expected to draw interest from several clubs, according to a report from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). The Twins and Angels are among the teams that are likely to be involved on Fuld, says Slusser.
The Athletics have claimed righty Marcus Walden off waivers from the Blue Jays and optioned him to Triple-A, the club announced. Walden was designated yesterday, and presumably hit the waiver wire immediately.
Walden, 25, has worked mostly as a starter in the minors, but had been throwing in relief at Triple-A to start the 2014 campaign. At Double-A last year, he worked to a 3.71 ERA in 162 1/3 innings, with 4.9 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.
Toronto paid the cost of losing Walden's rights after some odd roster maneuvering. The club opened the year with Jeremy Jeffress on the active roster and then designated him with the intention of calling up Chad Jenkins to take his place. Jenkins was initially announced as being recalled, but that was not possible because he had not yet been on optional assignment for ten days. Walden took Jenkins's place, but that meant that he had to be exposed to waivers when a 40-man spot was needed.
The Astros have made the promotion of George Springer and DFA of Lucas Harrell official by announcing each move via press release. As Houston fans (and fantasy baseball players) eagerly await Springer's big league debut, here's a look around the rest of the division...
- Springer won't be the only highly touted prospect to arrive in the Majors today; the Mariners will recall Nick Franklin from Triple-A Tacoma, reports Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, who expects Logan Morrison to hit the DL in order to clear a 25-man roster spot. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter), Franklin could see some time in the outfield. Franklin, 23, got off to a blistering .395/.469/.744 start in 11 Triple-A games after an offseason loaded with trade speculation.
- Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker was scratched from last night's rehab start after complaining of stiffness in his arm, reports Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News Tribune. GM Jack Zduriencik said that Walker -- who is a consensus Top 10 prospect -- will be re-evaluated today. Seattle's rotation has been solid so far, but they've experienced a good deal of poor luck with injuries to Walker, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.
- Jerry Brewer of Athletics Nation looks at Josh Reddick's struggles this season and tracks the history of pitches he's seen in two-strike counts dating back to 2012. Brewer notes that Reddick has long struggled against good fastballs and curveballs, while feasting on sliders and changeups. Pitchers are hammering Reddick with fastballs and curves thus far, and the result has been a 33 percent strikeout rate to go along with his .098/.196/.098 batting line. The A's are in a clear jam as they decide what to do with Reddick, Brewer writes. Reddick has a minor league option remaining, but he could see as much or even more velocity in Triple-A, which will contain no shortage of up-and-coming power arms.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new, lengthy notes column in which he begins by examining the early scrutiny of MLB's new instant replay system. He points to a pair of blatantly missed calls on Saturday in which conclusive evidence was seen on TV broadcasts of the games but apparently not by the umpires at MLB's Replay Operations Center in New York. An MLB spokesperson confirmed to Rosenthal that one of those calls was blown and added that the system would continue to work on improvement. Rosenthal reminds that John Schuerholz, one of the architects of the system, said it would be a three-year roll out. However, he adds that MLB can't expect any patience from fans, players or managers when home viewers are able to make better judgments than the umpires at the Relay Operations Center.
Here are some more highlights from his article, which also contains notes on Jose Abreu, struggling offenses around the league and the Dodgers' interleague schedule...
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is the early front-runner for "first manager to get fired" due to the team's 4-11 start, but Rosenthal wonders what more Gibson can do with the pitching talent (or lack thereof) he has been given. GM Kevin Towers thinned out the rotation depth by trading Tyler Skaggs and David Holmberg this offseason, and the loss of Patrick Corbin compounded those moves. Rosenthal wonders how long the Snakes can wait before recalling Archie Bradley.
- One executive said to Rosenthal that any American League team with a need in the infield will have added incentive to work out a deal with Stephen Drew in order to prevent the Tigers from signing him. The AL Central powerhouse is currently going with Alex Gonzalez at short, and the results have been less than stellar.
- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told Rosenthal (through his interpreter) that he's never considered retirement as heavily as he did this offseason. The most difficult factor for Kuroda wasn't the separation from his L.A.-based family -- they come live with him in the summer when his daughters are out of school -- but rather that he simply loves and misses Japan. Kuroda again left open the possibility of finishing his career back in Japan.
- Both the Angels and Twins have a need in the outfield with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the disabled list, and both teams were interested in the recently DFA'ed Sam Fuld this offseason before he signed with the Athletics. Rosenthal reports that the A's will gauge trade possibilities for Fuld and wonders if the Halos and Twins could have interest.
- After signing a minor league deal in the 2012-13 offseason, Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner earned the pro-rated portion that deal's $525K salary while in the Majors last season. However, Toronto's pre-arbitration pay scale called for just a $506,250 salary in 2014, as it is based on service time rather than performance. Agent Jim Munsey and Wagner refused the deal, giving Toronto the freedom to renew Wagner's contract at $500K if they wished, which the team did. Said Munsey of the ordeal: "It's, obviously, disappointing that they cut Neil's pay after such a good season last year. And when we didn't agree to the pay cut, they cut it further in renewing him. Hard to cheer for that. ... The rules allow the Jays to reduce his pay. They also allow us to talk about that at arbitration." MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at teams' calculation of pre-arbitration salaries.
- Though the Rays' rotation has been ravaged by injuries to Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the team is planning on using internal options rather than pursuing outside help.
Here are today's minor moves from around baseball.
- The Dodgers have released infielder Brendan Harris, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets. Harris made 117 plate appearances for the Angels in 2013, posting a line of .206/.252/.355. It had been his first appearance to the Majors since 2010. Previously, he had played for the Cubs, Expos/Nationals, Reds, Rays, and Twins.
- The Mets have announced that they've traded catcher Blake Forsythe to the Athletics for future considerations. Forsythe, 24, hit .192/.271/.362 for Double-A Binghamton in 2013. He was a third-round pick in the 2010 draft out of the University of Tennessee.
We'll round up tonight's minor moves here:
- Jeff Clement has retired, The Des Moines Register reports. Originally drafted third overall in 2005 by the Mariners, Clement never caught on in the majors, and ends his career with a .218/.277/.371 Major League line. His last big league appearance came in 2012 with the Pirates. Now a father of four, the 30-year-old tells The Register that he plans to return to school.
- The Orioles have signed Steven Hensley, who was released by the Rockies in March, Baseball America's Matt Eddy reports. The 27-year-old has never appeared in the majors. He worked almost entirely out of the bullpen for upper-level affiliates of the Rockies and Mariners last season, compiling a 4.24 ERA.
- The Dodgers have signed lefty Erick Threets, who was pitching for the independent Long Island Ducks, according to Eddy. Last we heard, Threets was looking for a job in Asia.
- The Marlins have inked infielder Rich Poythress, who was released by the Mariners in March, per Eddy. Poythress, who has yet to reach the majors, was sent to Double-A.
- The A's have signed second baseman Colin Walsh, who was let go by the Cardinals last month, Eddy reports. The 24-year-old reached Double-A for the Cardinals last season.
- Dontrelle Willis was added to the active roster of the Fresno Grizzlies, the Giants' Triple-A club, according to a tweet from the team. D-Train struggled in 21 innings with the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in 2013, posting a 6.43 ERA.
- The Nationals have selected the contract of starter Blake Treinen, the International League transactions page shows. Treinen was pitching at Triple-A, and has never appeared in the majors. The right-hander came over in last winter's three-team trade with the Mariners and A's. He's been used almost exclusively as a starter in recent years in the minors, where he owns a 3.73 ERA. Baseball America ranked him as the Nats' 23rd-best prospect this year, but wrote that most evaluators expect him to end up in middle relief.
- The Nats have inked right-hander Paolo Espino, formerly of the Cubs organization, according to Eddy. The right-hander, who works as a swingman, has yet to reach the majors but has significant Triple-A experience.
MLB officials plan to discuss the Michael Pineda pine tar incident with the Yankees, though a suspension isn't expected, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports. Pineda had what Kuty describes as a brown, oily substance on his hand during Thursday's start against the Red Sox, but league spokesman spokesman Pat Courtney notes that the right-hander was never seen applying a foreign substance, and the Red Sox never raised the issue. A couple more Major League notes on a slow night at MLBTR:
- The rotating cast for the closer's job in Oakland has continued despite the club's acquisition of Jim Johnson this offseason, writes MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby. The A's have had eight different pitchers lead the team in saves over the past 13 seasons. Manager Bob Melvin says he "can definitely see" Johnson regaining the role, however.
- Giants manager Bruce Bochy says Pablo Sandoval has assured him that his contract situation hasn't been a distraction in the season's early going, according to a report from Alex Espinoza of MLB.com. Sandoval is hitting just .143/.265/.238 thus far. He's scheduled to become a free agent after the season, but extension talks with the Giants have reportedly been shut down.