The A’s announced they’ve designated catcher Austin Allen for assignment. Reliever Jake Lemoine was also optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas as the team trimmed its active roster count from 28 to 26. Additionally, Oakland announced that outfielder Mickey McDonald, who was designated for assignment over the weekend, has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Las Vegas.
Like most of the players who have been DFA in recent days, Allen is out of minor league option years. That meant Oakland was left to either carry him on the active roster or take him off the 40-man and risk losing him to another club. With the roster cutdown necessitating sending two players out, the A’s have decided on the latter course of action.
Oakland acquired Allen from the Padres over the 2019-20 offseason in the deal that sent utilityman Jurickson Profar to San Diego. He has been on the 40-man roster in the two and a half years since then, although he’s only tallied 56 MLB plate appearances over 23 games. The lefty-hitting backstop spent most of the 2020 campaign at the alternate training site, then spent the bulk of last year at Las Vegas.
Stashing Allen as minor league depth wasn’t an available course of action this time around. He spent a few days on the restricted/COVID-19 lists but otherwise has been on the active roster, primarily as the #3 catcher. Sean Murphy is the obvious #1 backstop in Oakland. Christian Bethancourt, who signed a minor league deal and was selected to the majors when Allen hit the restricted list, has gotten into 13 games between catcher, first base and designated hitter; Allen has suited up just five times, an indication that Bethancourt had surpassed him as the #2 option. Veteran Stephen Vogt is currently on the injured list with a knee sprain but will be in that mix once he’s healthy.
Allen, 28, has only mustered a .195/.252/.288 line with a 37% strikeout rate in 127 MLB plate appearances. He’s never really had an extended opportunity to settle in, though, with his 34 games for San Diego in 2019 marking a career-high. The Missouri native has a massive .323/.365/.623 line in nearly 600 Triple-A plate appearances, including a .317/.351/.584 mark with the Aviators last year.
Vegas’ extreme hitter-friendly environment no doubt played a role, but it’s possible Allen’s strong minor league resume will convince another team to take a look. Prospect evaluators have generally not been enthused with his defense, but a team that views him as a capable gloveman behind the dish could be willing to devote him a roster spot as a bat-first depth option. Oakland will have a week to trade Allen or try to run him through waivers.
McDonald made his MLB debut last month, tallying six plate appearances over four games. He didn’t collect a hit but drew a pair of walks. McDonald has never previously been outrighted, so he’ll have to report back to Las Vegas and try to earn another look in the big leagues. The 26-year-old hit .333/.423/.438 in 228 Triple-A plate appearances last season, but he’s struggled in ten games there this year.