5:29pm: Kiekhefer has indeed elected free agency, MLBTR has learned.
2:37pm: The A’s have now announced that both Smolinski and Kiekhefer were outrighted, and the organization further announced that right-hander Chris Hatcher has been outrighted off the 40-man after clearing waivers as well.
Hatcher, 34 in January, appeared in 34 games and pitched to a 4.95 ERA in 36 1/3 innings for Oakland this past season, averaging 7.4 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.73 HR/9 and a 42 percent ground-ball rate along the way. Hatcher’s average fastball velocity (93.6 mph) and swinging-strike rate (7.9 percent) have plummeted from their 2015 peaks (96 mph, 12.6 percent, respectively). He’s struggled in each of the past three seasons and would’ve been arbitration-eligible, with a projected $2.4MM salary.
12:37pm: Outfielder Jake Smolinski and left-hander Dean Kiekhefer have both been outrighted off the Athletics’ 40-man roster after clearing waivers, per the MLB.com transactions page. Smolinski has already elected free agency, I’m told, and it seems likely that Kiekhefer will do so as well, as is commonplace in these scenarios.
Smolinski, 30 in February, has seen limited action with Oakland over the past two seasons after logging a career-high 319 plate appearances in 2016. The former second-rounder (Nationals, 2007) mashed at a .278/.372/.548 clip in Triple-A this season but hit just .128/.171/.205 in a tiny sample of 41 plate appearances. (His season was cut short by a blood clot in his left calf.) In parts of four seasons with the Oakland organization, Smolinski is a .227/.287/.357 with a dozen homers, 14 doubles and five triples in a combined 507 plate appearances.
That production isn’t particularly eye-catching, but the right-handed-hitting Smolinski has been a menace in platoon settings, hitting .282/.351/.473 against left-handers to this point in his career. Defensively, Smolinski has experience at all three outfield positions and has played anywhere from average to slightly above-average defense, per Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. He’d been arbitration-eligible for the A’s, albeit with a modest projection of an $800K salary, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
As for Kiekhefer, the 29-year-old southpaw pitched just two innings for the A’s in 2018 but enjoyed a strong minor league campaign between the Reds and A’s organizations. In 58 1/3 minor league frames, Kiekhefer posted a 3.39 ERA with a terrific 51-to-8 K/BB ratio and above-average ground-ball tendencies. Left-handed opponents posted a .224/.263/.346 slash against him between the Majors and minors this season.
Kiekhefer’s big league experience is limited to 24 innings of 6.38 ERA ball between St. Louis (in 2016) and Oakland, but he’s turned in 204 innings of 3.03 ERA ball with 7.0 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 in parts of five seasons at the Triple-A level. Given that track record, he should have little difficulty finding interest as a minor league free agent this offseason.