The Athletics announced yesterday that former outfielder Mark Kotsay, who most recently served as the Padres’ hitting coach, has been hired as the new bench coach in Oakland. (The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser first reported that Kotsay would be hired.) “I think every bench coach is an extension of the manager, and the manager sets the tone,” said Kotsay of the hiring (via MLB.com’s Jane Lee). “From my standpoint as a bench coach, hopefully I can share my experiences as a player and get across to them the importance of buying in and how special teams can be when the group really believes in that.” Kotsay spoke fondly of the organization, which is no surprise considering the fact that he spent four of his prime-aged seasons with the A’s, reaching the postseason in 2006. Kotsay batted .282/.336/.410 in his four years with the A’s and .276/.332/.404 across parts of 17 Major League seasons.
Some more notes from the AL West…
- While the Athletics know there is uncertainty around the health of Coco Crisp’s neck, GM David Forst told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart that he still doesn’t expect to seek much in the way of outfield help this winter. Forst spoke highly of Josh Reddick, Billy Burns, Mark Canha and Jake Smolinski as alternative options that are under club control for the 2016 season. Rather, Forst and the A’s front office are trying to determine the best way to add a starting pitcher to the mix in 2016, be it through trade or via free agency. Forst told McTaggart that he laid some groundwork with a number of other clubs and with some agents, though it’s too early to tell whether any of those talks will ultimately lead to a transaction.
- The Rangers are in the market for a starting pitcher, a right-handed bat and a bullpen arm, McTaggart writes in a second column, and GM Jon Daniels said that the club’s current focus is more on trades than on free agency. McTaggart also spoke to Daniels about the possibility of pursuing a catcher, though Daniels didn’t make it sound like a priority, expressing confidence that Robinson Chirinos is capable of catching 110+ games in 2016 if the Rangers head into the season with him as their starter. The 31-year-old Chirinos very quietly delivered a respectable .232/.325/.438 batting line in 273 plate appearances this past season.
- Marlins southpaw Mike Dunn would be a reasonable trade option in the Astros’ search for left-handed relief help, writes the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich. Dunn will earn $3.45MM in 2016 — his final year of club control before free agency. Dunn’s average of 95 mph on his fastball would fit GM Jeff Luhnow’s previously stated goal of adding velocity to his bullpen, and Dunn has shown the ability to retire both left- and right-handed batters over the years. Dunn does come with some control problems, and the Marlins have been reluctant to trade him in the past. Still, he does make sense as a lefty relief trade target for clubs seeking such commodities. Luhnow wouldn’t comment on Dunn when asked by Drellich, stating only that he’s checked in with all teams this offseason.
- In a second column, Drellich examines the Astros’ front-office structure in the wake of David Stearns’ departure. Stearns, who was hired as the Brewers’ GM, handled most of the club’s arbitration negotiations and was also in touch with agents regarding contract negotiations. In his absence, director of pro scouting Kevin Goldstein has stepped up to begin talking with some agents regarding free agency, while some of the arbitration duties are falling to director of baseball ops Brandon Taubman, director of business development Samir Mayur and player development assistant Armando Velasco, per Drellich.
- Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto called the decision to re-sign Franklin Gutierrez a “no-brainer,” writes MLB.com’s Cash Kruth. “We love his makeup, we love what he brings to our clubhouse, and just generally to the balance of the team,” said Dipoto of Gutierrez. Dipoto says that Gutierrez will likely platoon in left field with Seth Smith next season, which should create a formidable offensive duo. Smith batted .255/.343/.458 against righties in 2015 and has a lifetime .274/.356/.478 line when holding the platoon advantage. Gutierrez checked in at .317/.357/.615 against southpaws last season and has a career .291/.346/.491 line against them.