The A’s have non-tendered reliever Blake Treinen, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). He’d been projected for a $7.8MM salary, which the low-payroll A’s evidently found too steep. Additionally, the club is parting ways with reliever Ryan Buchter and catcher Josh Phegley, Slusser adds (via Twitter). Phegley had been projected for $2.2MM, while Buchter was in line for around $1.8MM.
Today’s news perhaps isn’t too surprising; MLBTR’s Jeff Todd and Steve Adams identified Treinen as a non-tender candidate last week. Oakland doesn’t figure to have much wiggle room in the budget this offseason, no doubt contributing to their efforts to find a taker for Treinen, Jurickson Profar ($5.8MM projection), and Phegley before tonight’s non-tender deadline. Profar ultimately landed in San Diego, while Treinen and Phegley were let go. Despite some late interest from the Yankees, though, the A’s were unable to match up on a Treinen deal.
Such an outcome would have been unthinkable a year ago. Treinen finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting in 2018, reflecting his otherworldly season. That year, he tossed 80.1 innings with a 0.78 ERA and sparkling peripherals. His 31.8% strikeout rate and 6.7% walk rate were easily the best numbers he’d put up since moving to the bullpen for good in 2015. Toss in Treinen’s typically strong ground ball ability (51.9% ground ball rate) and he was quite arguably baseball’s best reliever just a season ago.
Unfortunately, everything went backwards in 2019. Treinen’s ERA jumped more than four runs per nine to an unsightly 4.91. His strikeout rate regressed to a pedestrian 22.2%, while his walk rate more than doubled to a career-worst 13.9%. On top of all that, Treinen’s ground ball rate- his calling card dating back to his time as a National- fell nearly ten points. All that said, Treinen still boasts a high-90’s fastball and is one year removed from utter dominance, so he’ll surely attract interest. New York could be expected to touch base with his camp now that he’s a free agent, but almost any team in baseball could seek to add his upside to their bullpen.
Phegley, like Treinen, evidently failed to drum up significant trade interest. The 31-year-old slashed .239/.282/.411 (82 wRC+) in 342 plate appearances this season. While that’s actually solid for a catcher, he rated extremely poorly as a pitch framer, per Baseball Prospectus, which placed him 107th out of 113 backstops leaguewide. With the A’s acquiring Austin Allen to back up Sean Murphy in today’s Profar trade, the writing was on the wall for Phegley.
Buchter, meanwhile, pitched to a 2.98 ERA, making today’s news a bit surprising at first glance. However, that was the product of an unsustainable 91.4% strand rate, as Buchter’s 4.96 FIP suggests. His walk rate spiked to an alarming 11.6%, and Buchter’s always been a fly-ball pitcher. The home run finally caught up to him in 2019. Nevertheless, he comes with an additional season of arbitration control beyond 2020 and has sported an above-average strikeout rate in four consecutive seasons, so teams looking for left-handed bullpen help could certainly take an interest in him in free agency.