- Like Brantley, Athletics reliever Jake Diekman is unhappy with how the league has handled the testing process. There’s plenty at stake for Diekman – the 33-year-old has battled ulcerative colitis for most of his life and underwent surgery to remove his colon in 2017, putting him in greater danger of contracting the virus. Diekman told Alex Coffey of The Athletic: “I’m high-risk, so I have to speak out for everyone. I don’t want to get sick.” He went on to question MLB’s estimate of how many players have tested positive, opining that it must “be getting close to 100.” And while Diekman doesn’t want to opt out of the season, he’s skeptical that one will even happen. “Once the regular season hits, there’s no way I’m opting out,” he said. “But if they don’t get the testing figured out, this whole thing will get shut down. That’s my personal opinion.” Coffey’s piece is worth a full read, as there’s plenty more on the concerns Diekman and his wife, Amanda, have in regards to a potential season.
Athletics left-hander Jesus Luzardo has tested positive for the coronavirus, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). He’ll go into self isolation and need a pair of negative tests, separated by at least 24 hours, before he can return to the team. Fortunately, Luzardo tells Slusser that he’s “feeling good” and “ready to get going” once he receives that pair of negative tests.
There’d been some prior concern about Luzardo and right-hander Mike Fiers, as the two regularly worked out together during the league’s shutdown and had both been absent from camp. Margin Gallegos of MLB.com tweeted earlier that Fiers is back in camp and working out with the club, so it seems he tested negative.
The 22-year-old Luzardo is widely considered to be among the five best pitching prospects in all of baseball and is expected to play a key role in the Oakland rotation both this year and for the foreseeable future. The recent diagnosis and subsequent need to remove himself from A’s Summer Camp could conceivably delay his readiness to start early in the year, though that type of speculation is of course secondary to his overall well-being.
Luzardo made his MLB debut with the A’s last year, tossing 12 innings and allowing just two runs on five hits and three walks with 16 strikeouts. A strained rotator cuff limited Luzardo’s time on the mound in general last season, but he was similarly excellent in 43 minor league innings: 2.51 ERA, 11.9 K/9, 1.7 BB/9. He’s expected to join Fiers, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt and fellow top prospect A.J. Puk in what should be a formidable mix of Oakland starters in 2020.
- Delays in receiving test results have been a problem for the Athletics, whose general manager, David Forst, has expressed his frustration over the matter. But the A’s finally did get the latest results, according to Martin Gallegos of MLB.com, and their position players were able to practice in Oakland on Monday night. Forst did not comment on whether anyone tested positive, though.
While most teams are already hosting full workouts and beginning to schedule intrasquad games at “summer camp,” multiple clubs are still experiencing delays in their COVID-19 test results that are preventing them from taking the field just yet. The Athletics are in a particularly frustrating spot, it seems. Shayna Rubin of the San Jose Mercury News reported last night that many of the team’s tests, incredibly, had yet to even be shipped to Major League Baseball’s lab in Salt Lake City.
Alex Coffey of The Athletic obtained a message from A’s general manager David Forst to team employees, in which he voiced considerable frustration over the lack of communication and the inexplicably delayed shipping of the team’s tests, which weren’t due to arrive at the lab for processing until 1:30am MST earlier today.
“Despite having our schedule a week ahead of time, [testing company CDT and MLB] didn’t alert us to the possibility of any complications around July 4th,” Forst wrote within a lengthier message, adding that the A’s were only made aware of the delays after he and the training staff pressed MLB and CDT for information. “…If possible, I’m as frustrated and pissed as you are.”
Perhaps more remarkably, the testers assigned to the Angels’ facility simply didn’t show up to perform tests, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Angels players instead “did saliva tests on their own,” per the report, and it’s not clear when the tests will ultimately be processed. At least two other teams throughout the league had this issue over the weekend, Rosenthal adds.
The Nationals, too, have had their testing results delayed. Left-hander Sean Doolittle told reporters yesterday that despite being tested for a second time Sunday morning, he’d yet to even receive the results from his first test (link via Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post).
“We’ve got to clean that up, right?” Doolittle asked rhetorically. “That’s one thing that makes me a little nervous.” Doolittle added that Nationals players and staff were waiting on the N95 masks and gloves that were supposed to be delivered to the team. The left-hander praised the organization’s medical staff for their processes and protocols, but it’s clear that the Nats, like the A’s and Angels, are being impacted by significant logistical issues that have emerged in the early stages of the cobbled-together 2020 season.
All of this comes at a time when players are still debating whether to play at all in 2020. At this point, we’ve seen David Price, Felix Hernandez, Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross, Tyson Ross, Welington Castillo, Ian Desmond and Mike Leake all decline to play in 2020. Others, Doolittle included, have voiced a desire to play while also expressing their uneasiness with taking the field in an uncertain environment. Mike Trout acknowledged last week that he still doesn’t feel comfortable — and that was seemingly before the testers assigned to the Angels’ facility didn’t show.
These logistical shortcomings will be imperative to iron out if the 2020 season is to take place. Players are expected to be tested every other day, and delays in results will be all the more problematic if they occur when the season is underway. Right now, most of the Athletics’ position players simply aren’t able to begin working out at the team’s stadium. That’s a disadvantage to the Oakland organization, to be sure, but the team has been able to manage by keeping those players away from the pitchers and catchers who have reported. During the season, that won’t be possible. Efficient testing procedures will be vital for the season to not only get underway but to have any real chance at being played to completion.
At this point, the Athletics’ best-case scenario would be for their players to report tonight, per Rubin, but they could yet be delayed until Tuesday. Rosenthal notes that today’s Angels workout has already been delayed in order to ensure that testers are actually present.
The Athletics on Wednesday announced the addition of six players to their 60-man player pool: infielders Eric Campbell and Robert Puason, right-handers Wandisson Charles and Miguel Romero, and outfielders Luis Barrera and Brayan Buelvas will all join the group. Campbell will head to Oakland to join the team’s big leaguers, while the other five will head to the Athletics’ alternate training site.
Campbell, 33, is the lone member of the bunch with Major League experience. From 2014-16, Campbell was an up-and-down utility option for the Mets, appearing at all four infield spots and both corner outfield positions while hitting .221/.312/.311 in 505 plate appearances. Campbell spent the 2017 season in Japan and has been with the Triple-A clubs for the Marlins and Athletics organizations. In all, he’s seen action in parts of six Triple-A campaigns and batted a combined .310/.417/.480 in 1880 plate appearances.
Among the prospects, Puason is the most well-regarded of the bunch. The 17-year-old signed with the A’s as the headliner of their July 2 class of international prospects a year ago, inking a hearty bonus of nearly $5MM. A switch-hitting, 6’3″ shortstop with plus speed, a strong throwing arm and projectable hitting tools, Puason is a long ways from the Majors and surely won’t be considered for a role with Oakland’s big league club in 2020. He’s yet to even suit up for a game with the Oakland’s affiliate in the Dominican Summer League, but the A’s clearly want to ensure that his first full season in the organization affords him some game reps — even if only in simulated games — and some time with the coaching and player development staff.
Barrera, though, is a much more near-term option for the A’s. The 24-year-old hit .321/.365/.513 in 54 Double-A games last year and ranks ninth among Oakland farmhands at MLB.com. He split the 2019 season between center field and right field and is on the Athletics’ 40-man roster, so it’s highly feasible that he could get the opportunity to debut in the event of some injuries on the Major League club.
In the first trade since MLB’s transaction freeze has lifted, the Padres are set to acquire infield prospect Jorge Mateo from the A’s, Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN report (Twitter link). Oakland will receive a player to be named later in return. San Diego has announced the trade.
Long regarded as one of baseball’s more promising prospects due in no small part to his 80-grade speed, Mateo has yet to debut in the Majors. The 25-year-old was a central piece in the trade that sent right-hander Sonny Gray from Oakland to New York, but he hasn’t been afforded a chance in the Majors with either the Yankees or the A’s. He has, however, been on the 40-man roster of both clubs long enough to have exhausted all of his minor league options. In other words, he’ll have to make the Padres’ Opening Day roster or else be designated for assignment.
Mateo was one of several players in the mix for playing time at second base in Oakland, vying with Franklin Barreto, Tony Kemp and Rule 5 pick Vimael Machin for that role. Now in San Diego, he’ll once again be looking up at Jurickson Profar — a former ballyhooed prospect himself — and hoping to find his way into the mix for at-bats. Mateo does have a bit of center field experience as well, having logged 247 innings there back in 2017.
It’s easy to see why Mateo was so well-regarded back in 2015-16. He split the 2015 campaign between Class-A and Class-A Advanced at just 20 years of age and slashed a combined .278/.345/.392. He only homered twice, but Mateo added 23 doubles, 11 triples and an unheard-of-in-today’s-game 82 stolen bases in just 117 games. His stock dipped a bit with a mediocre showing in 2016, but 2017 saw Mateo bounce back with a .267/.322/.459 slash and 52 steals. A shortstop with that type of output piqued the Athletics’ interest, and the A’s sent Gray to the Bronx in exchange for Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian in a trade that now hasn’t really panned out for anyone involved.
Mateo’s numbers cratered in 2018, and while last year’s .289/.330/.504 slash in Triple-A were a nice rebound, the bounceback effort wasn’t quite as strong as it’d appear on the surface. That slash line translated to just a 96 wRC+ in the supercharged offensive environment in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (where Mateo’s home park in Las Vegas is particularly hitter-friendly).
The Athletics have announced a deal with top pick Tyler Soderstrom. It includes a $3.3MM signing bonus, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports (via Twitter). The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reported yesterday that Soderstrom would sign today and is expected to be added to Oakland’s 60-player pool.
Also going under contract was fifth rounder Stevie Emanuels. The University of Washington righty receives a $400K bonus. With his signing, the A’s have completed all of their draft business.
Soderstrom, a high school catcher out of California, received a bonus that weighed in about $646K north of his slot value at No. 26. Emanuels also went over-slot, with both players getting an extra payout from the cash the Athletics saved in signing second-rounder Jeff Criswell and third-rounder Michael Guldberg to below-slot deals.
The A’s obviously had their eyes on Soderstrom entering the draft. All major draft pundits rated him among the 25 best players available. ESPN.com’s Kiley McDaniel was particularly bullish, grading the youngster as the tenth-best player available due to his promise as a hitter.
While it’s awfully tempting to imagine Soderstrom as a bat-first catcher, there’s concern with his ability to develop defensively while also maximizing his offensive potential. It remains to be seen what course the A’s will take, but most scouts seemingly believe Soderstrom is athletic enough — and sufficiently talented with the bat — to man other areas of the diamond (third base or the corner outfield, most likely).
Today marks the deadline for teams to submit to Major League Baseball their initial spring training player pools, which can comprise up to 60 players. Players are not eligible to participate in either a spring training or regular season game until they are included in the pool. Teams are free to change the makeup of the pools as they see fit. However, players removed from a team’s 60-man (for reasons unrelated to injury, suspension, etc.) must be exposed to other organizations via trade or waivers.
Not all players within a team’s pool are ticketed for MLB playing time, of course. Most teams will include well-regarded but still far-off prospects as a means of getting them training reps with no intention of running them onto a major league diamond this season. A comprehensive review of 2020’s unique set of rules can be found here.
The Athletics’ initial player pool consists of the following players, per various reporters (including Martín Gallegos of MLB.com).
- Chris Bassitt
- Tyler Baum
- Paul Blackburn
- Parker Dunshee
- Mike Fiers
- Daniel Gossett
- Liam Hendriks
- Grant Holmes
- Brian Howard
- Daulton Jefferies
- James Kaprielian
- Frankie Montas
- Yusmeiro Petit
- Jaime Schultz
- Burch Smith
- Joakim Soria
- Lou Trivino
- Jordan Weems
- J.B. Wendelken
- Nick Allen
- Franklin Barreto
- Matt Chapman
- Logan Davidson
- Ryan Goins
- Tony Kemp
- Vimael Machin
- Jorge Mateo
- Sheldon Neuse
- Matt Olson
- Nate Orf
- Chad Pinder
- Marcus Semien
- The Athletics will initially split their player pool into two groups, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, with much of the big league roster training in Oakland and the taxi squad potentially training in nearby Stockton — the home of the Athletics’ Class-A affiliate — if a deal can be finalized with Stockton city officials. Offseason minor league signings Ryan Goins, Carlos Perez, Jordan Weems, and Lucas Luetge will all be in Oakland, while taxi squad players include such notable prospects as Tyler Soderstrom, Daulton Jefferies, Nick Allen, Dustin Fowler and (as per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez) Robert Puason.
- Slusser also provides updates on some Athletics players who were battling injuries during the spring but are now on track to be ready for Opening Day. A.J. Puk “has been throwing bullpen sessions for months” following a shoulder strain in the spring, and looks to be ready to begin the season in Oakland’s rotation. Right-hander Daniel Mengden is also ready to be part of the pitching mix after recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery in February. After being sidelined with an intercostal strain during Spring Training, Stephen Piscotty said he is now “100 percent with no limitations.”
Players who are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus have the right to opt out of participating this season, but they’d still receive full pay and service time. Athletics reliever Jake Diekman, who has ulcerative colitis and who had his colon removed in 2017, is one of those players. Diekman, however, informed Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he has no interest in opting out of the campaign – at least, not yet. “I’ve never thought once about opting out,” said the southpaw, though he added: “Say two or three guys on the team get it, we’ve all been around each other. I don’t know if I’d opt out in the middle of the season, but it definitely worries you.” Slusser also spoke with A’s utility player Chad Pinder, whose wife is expecting a baby in September, about the season. Pinder said, in part: “We have to do it right — or it just might not work. But there is a risk to this.”