The Athletics are shutting outfielder Stephen Piscotty down after an MRI revealed that his intercostal strain is “a little worse” than anticipated, manager Bob Melvin told reporters Friday (Twitter link via Martin Gallegos of MLB.com). The Athletics aren’t completely ruling out a scenario wherein Piscotty is ready to go on Opening Day, but his outlook is a bit uncertain at the moment.
Piscotty, 29, enjoyed a strong debut campaign with Oakland in 2018 after being traded over from the Cardinals, hitting .267/.331/.491 with 27 homers and 41 doubles. Knee and ankle troubles plagued him in 2019, though, and his ensuing .249/.309/.412 slash with 13 homers and 17 doubles marked a notable step back.
Currently, Piscotty is slated to be Oakland’s primary right fielder even in spite of the 2019 downturn. That’s in part due to his upside but also in part due to the fact that he’s being paid $7MM in 2020 under the terms of the six-year, $33.5MM extension he signed with the Cardinals back in April 2017. That deal runs through the 2022 season, paying Piscotty $7.25MM in both 2021 and 2022, and it also contains a $15MM club option for 2023 (with a $1MM buyout).
If Piscotty isn’t ready to go come Opening Day, the A’s aren’t short on alternatives. Veteran outfielder Robbie Grossman is in his final year of club control before he reaches free agency, and utilityman Chad Pinder has plenty of experience in the outfield corners as well. Should the club elect to simply elevate the role of Grossman and/or Pinder, that might help to open the door for out-of-options Jorge Mateo to make the club in a utility capacity. It’s also worth noting that the A’s have outfielders Dustin Fowler, Skye Bolt and Luis Barrera on the 40-man roster as well. Both Fowler and Bolt have big league experience.
However Piscotty progresses, it doesn’t sound at present like there’s any reason to believe that his injury is a long-term issue. Still, the A’s have three out-of-options players and a Rule 5 pick vying for their second base gig — Mateo, Franklin Barreto, Tony Kemp and Vimael Machin — so an early-season IL stint for Piscotty could create some additional time to make a decision on that group of players.