1:08pm: May will be guaranteed $7MM on the deal, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets. He can earn an additional $500K worth of incentives.
1:02pm: The Athletics have signed veteran right-hander Trevor May to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday. May is represented by the VC Sports Group. Outfielder Cody Thomas was designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
May, 33, will head to the A’s in search of a rebound campaign after an injury-plagued 2022 showing with the Mets. The 6’5″ righty missed three months of the season due to a triceps injury that seemed to hamper him on the mound, as May’s 5.04 ERA in 25 innings was his worst mark since the 2016 season. Even with those rough bottom-line results, however, May retained his velocity (96.2 mph average fastball) and posted a strong 27% strikeout rate against a solid 8.1% walk rate.
From 2018-21, May was quietly one of the top strikeout arms in the league, logging 175 2/3 innings of 3.33 ERA ball as a setup man for the Twins. In that time, May’s 32.6% strikeout rate ranked 13th among 204 qualified relievers, while his 15.1% swinging-strike rate ranked 20th. He coupled that knack for missing bats with a solid 8.6% walk rate, all of which helped May pile up 46 holds and 11 saves as he went from low-leverage innings to a frequent late-inning option for the Twins and the Mets — the latter of whom signed him to a two-year, $15.5MM free-agent deal in the 2020-21 offseason.
May will look to bounce back into form with the A’s, who have no set closer in place at the moment. Given his salary and experience, May should get frequent opportunities in high-leverage spots for Oakland, be it as a ninth-inning option or as a member of manager Mark Kotsay’s setup corps. May immediately becomes the most seasoned arm in the Oakland bullpen, as prior to his arrival the A’s had just one reliever with even two years of Major League service time: lefty A.J. Puk. In addition to May and Puk, the A’s have Zach Jackson, Dany Jimenez, Domingo Acevedo and Sam Moll likely ticketed for bullpen roles. Given the inexperienced nature of that group, it stands to reason that May could be one of multiple relief additions for the A’s this winter.
May is the third free-agent signing for the low-budget A’s in as many weeks, joining infielders Aledmys Diaz (two years, $14.5MM) and Jace Peterson (two years, $9.5MM) as newcomers. Any of the three could become viable trade chips this summer, but May’s track record and status as a one-year signee makes him seem like a particularly plausible summer trade candidate.
The addition of that trio pushes Oakland’s payroll projection to a still (very) modest $51MM. That, somewhat incredibly, is still an upgrade over last year’s Opening Day payroll (just shy of $48MM), but there figures to be some additional spending ahead for the A’s, who could still upgrade in the rotation, bullpen and outfield, among other areas.
As for the 28-year-old Thomas, he made his big league debut in 2022 but only appeared in 10 games and tallied 32 plate appearances, during which he batted .267/.313/.267. He slashed a hearty .289/.363/.665 with 18 homers in just 245 Triple-A plate appearances in 2021, but Thomas missed nearly the entire 2022 season after undergoing spring surgery to repair his Achilles tendon. His plus raw power and that huge 2021 showing in Triple-A might be enough to pique another team’s interest, and the A’s will have a week to trade him or attempt to pass him through outright waivers.