- With the Athletics positioned to make additions at the trade deadline, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser figures the team will look to add pitching in some form. Though the rotation is Oakland’s biggest need, Slusser suggests the A’s could “get creative” by bolstering its already-solid relief corps, which would allow the starters to make shorter outings before turning things over to the bullpen. If the A’s do pursue a starter, it will be a mid-tier arm rather than a frontline ace — Slusser suggests the Twins’ Jake Odorizzi or Lance Lynn as the types of starters Oakland would look at obtaining, though there isn’t any indication that the A’s have specific interest in either of those Minnesota pitchers.
The Athletics have made a series of roster moves; most notably among them is the DFA of right-hander Santiago Casilla. The club also selected the contract of 25-year-old righty J.B. Wendelken, while simultaneously optioning righty Ryan Dull, promoting infielder Franklin Barreto and reinstating righty Daniel Mengden from the 10-day DL.
It’s been a solid enough season for the 37-year-old Casilla on the surface, who owns a 3.16 ERA through 31 1/3 innings pitched. But his 4.08 FIP and 5.80 xFIP paint a wildly different picture. He’s also walked nearly as many hitters (20) as he’s managed to strike out (22), in part due to a career-low 9.0% swinging strike rate. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, he’s likely to go unclaimed; Casilla is in the second season of a two-year, $11MM deal, and any claiming team would be on the hook for the prorated portion of his salary. He’ll likely be given the choice to accept a minor league assignment.
Wendelken will be making his first appearance in the majors since 2016, when he tossed 12 2/3 rough innings for the Athletics to the tune of a 9.95 ERA. The right-hander ultimately required Tommy John surgery, and remained out of commission until the beginning of this season. Thus far at the Triple-A level, he’s chucked a healthy 28 1/3 innings, managing a 3.49 ERA (2.39 FIP). The most impressive part about Wendelken’s performance this year is a whopping 14.29 K/9 against just 2.54 BB/9; it certainly seems likely that he’ll prove an upgrade over Casilla.
Mengden, 25, hasn’t pitched since June 23rd after suffering a right foot sprain during a start in which he gave up five earned runs across just two innings. While Mengden certainly isn’t known as an overpowering pitcher (5.46 K/9), he limits walks (1.89 BB/9) and has posted a 4.47 ERA on the season thus far in 90 2/3 innings.
It sounds as if the Athletics won’t shy away from improving their roster despite facing a challenging path to the postseason. President of baseball operations Billy Beane indicated he’s “preparing” to act as a buyer this summer in an interesting chat with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic (subscription link).
Clearly, the A’s front office will be realistic both about the odds of the postseason and the need to keep an eye on the future. As Beane says, the club will “have to be calculating and not go scorched earth” at the deadline, particularly given that it is still facing a big gap in the Wild Card race and a very tall order to challenge in the division.
That said, Beane made clear that he sees a chance to make this a season to remember. “The idea that we can sort of push off an opportunity because we think we’ll be better next year is just a bad approach from our standpoint,” he said. “We’ve got to do everything we can.”
While there are no promises that any additions will be made, and there are still a few weeks until the deadline, it’s clear there’s a sense of optimism in Oakland. The A’s entered play today twelve games over .500, after all, even while cobbling together a rotation that is missing many of its most promising young arms due to injury.
Unsurprisingly, Beane suggested the starting staff is the primary area he’ll target at the deadline. That certainly seems to be the clearest area for improvement on the roster, though it’ll at least be interesting to see just how bold the organization ends up being — and whether moves in other areas are at least contemplated.
This move is ten years in the making for Bleich, a 2008 sandwich round pick who has never yet seen the majors. Persistence paid off for the Stanford product, who was selected by the Yankees and has also spent time in the Pirates, Phillies, and Dodgers organizations.
Now 31 years of age, the southpaw has turned in a solid showing this year at Triple-A. Through 39 innings in 27 outings, he owns a 3.00 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. While he has been tagged by right-handed hitters, Bleich has held opposing southpaws to a .200/.224/.291 slash.
- The Athletics announced that they’ve reinstated left-hander Brett Anderson from the 10-day disabled list and placed righty Paul Blackburn on the 10-day DL (retroactive to Saturday) with right elbow lateral epicondylitis. Anderson missed nearly two months with a left shoulder strain, adding to a long list of injuries in the 30-year-old’s career. He struggled in 15 1/3 innings before hitting the shelf, yielding 13 earned runs on 25 hits. Blackburn has endured a similarly poor season in the run prevention department (7.16 ERA in 27 2/3 frames), though ERA estimators FIP (3.56), xFIP (4.33) and SIERA (4.37) suggest he has deserved far better. It’s unclear how much time Blackburn could miss, but the location of his injury is alarming – especially considering he sat out all of April and May with a right forearm strain. Swapping Anderson for Blackburn will continue to leave the A’s with more than a full rotation’s worth of starters on the DL (depth chart).
Just as the Athletics are interested in extending designated hitter Khris Davis, they’re also considering a new deal for second baseman Jed Lowrie, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. Unlike Davis, who’s controllable via arbitration in 2019, Lowrie is slated to hit free agency at season’s end.
Rosenthal proposes a two-year, $15MM extension, which would represent a slight annual increase over the $6MM Lowrie is raking in this season on a club option. Given that he’ll play his age-35 season in 2019, a long-term deal will be hard to come by for Lowrie, though he has made his case for a pay raise dating back to last year.
The switch-hitting Lowrie racked up the second-most games played (153) and plate appearances (645) of his career in 2017, when he slashed an easily above-average .277/.360/.448 with 14 home runs en route to a personal-high 3.5 fWAR. Executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane offered effusive praise for Lowrie after the season, and though the veteran later came up in winter trade rumors, the Athletics ended up retaining him.
Keeping Lowrie has paid dividends in 2018 for the A’s, who have exceeded expectations to post the American League’s sixth-best record (49-40) and are 6 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot. Lowrie has been a key part of their success, having already surpassed last year’s HR total (15) and logged 3.1 fWAR in just 379 PAs. He has also batted .291/.359/.503, giving him the A’s top wRC+ (139), and appeared in 86 of the team’s 89 games. The durability Lowrie has demonstrated since last season is especially notable for a player who has dealt with his share of injury issues dating back to his 2008 debut with the Red Sox. Indeed, Lowrie has only amassed 100-plus appearances three times.
Along with his past injury troubles, both the A’s and Lowrie will have to weigh his age in deciding his future. Free agency has been unkind lately to 30-somethings, particularly this past winter, which may point Lowrie toward an in-season extension if Oakland ends up offering one at a fair price. Otherwise, Lowrie could be one of five free agents for the low-payroll A’s, whose only guaranteed salaries for 2019 currently belong to reliever Yusmeiro Petit ($5.5MM) and right fielder Stephen Piscotty ($7.33MM). The A’s otherwise have nothing but arbitration-eligible and pre-arb players, including 22-year-old middle infielder and potential Lowrie successor Franklin Barreto, whom they “would not necessarily” be worried about blocking because he’s so young, Rosenthal says.
- The Athletics are suggesting to teams that closer Blake Treinen isn’t available for trade, though clubs are wondering if that’s just a ploy to drive up his price, per Cafardo. If the A’s expect to push for a playoff spot this year and next, they may well keep Treinen, who’s under control through 2019 for affordable prices. Treinen has been an integral part of this year’s Oakland team, which is a solid 48-40 and sits 7 1/2 games back of a wild-card spot. Across 42 2/3 innings, Treinen has logged a near-spotless ERA (.84) with 10.97 K/9, 2.53 BB/9 and 22 saves in 24 opportunities.
- The Athletics announced that outfielder Matt Joyce has hit the 10-day DL due to a lumbar strain, with a placement retroactive to July 5. Outfielder Nick Martini is up from Triple-A to take Joyce’s roster spot. This is the second time in almost exactly a month that Martini has replaced Joyce due to the veteran’s ongoing lumbar issues. It’s safe to say that the back problems have contributed to Joyce’s down numbers, as he is hitting just .203/.311/.359 with seven homers through 226 PA this season.
The Athletics are holding extension talks with slugger Khris Davis, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Per the report, “numerous talks” have already taken place between the Oakland brass and Octagon agent Lou Nero.
Despite the evident mutual interest, Slusser indicates that it’s far from clear whether anything will get done. The length of a potential contract is an obvious stumbling block. By her reckoning, Davis’s camp might only bite at a three-year guarantee, but that feels steep from the organization’s perspective.
Davis, 30, is under arbitration control for another season. He’s earning $10.5MM for 2018 and will surely command another healthy raise. After all, Davis is threatening to register more than forty home runs and one hundred runs batted in for the third-straight season.
Those counting stats may not play quite as well in free agency as they once did. But that doesn’t mean that Davis’s bat wouldn’t be seen as a valuable asset. He has been a steady producer since landing in Oakland, with a .245/.322/.521 cumulative slash (127 OPS+) through 1,595 plate appearances. While his overall utility is greatly diminished by a lack of defensive and baserunning ability, Davis would hold appeal to other American League clubs.
All things considered, it’s an interesting situation. The sides reportedly weighed an arb-only deal earlier this season, but that never came to fruition. It’s possible that a multi-year scenario would better suit all sides, though there’s also good reason to expect that the club will be wary of making too great a commitment. For Davis, he says he’s “keeping an open mind” but will mostly trust his agent.
The Athletics announced Monday that right-hander Liam Hendriks has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment last week. He’s been sent outright to Triple-A Nashville. The 29-year-old Hendriks technically has enough MLB service time to reject the assignment in favor of free agency (three-plus years), but because he’s still shy of five years of service, doing so would mean forfeiting the remainder of this season’s $1.9MM salary. Assuming he accepts, he’ll be eligible to elect free agency at season’s end unless he’s first added back to the 40-man roster.
Hendriks was, at one point, a promising prospect in the Twins’ minor league system but didn’t pan out in Minnesota or in a brief stint with the Royals. The Blue Jays picked him up off waivers, and while he struggled in his first run with the Jays, he turned in a dominant 2015 season out of the Toronto bullpen. The Jays flipped him to the A’s that offseason in exchange for Jesse Chavez — and Hendriks went on to enjoy another pair of solid seasons in the Oakland ’pen.
Prior to the 2018 season, Hendriks had turned in a three-year run with a 3.63 ERA and an outstanding 220-to-48 K/BB ratio through 193 1/3 innings between the Jays and the A’s. He missed more than a month with a strained groin earlier this year, though, and he’s posted an unsightly 7.36 ERA with 12 strikeouts against seven walks in 11 innings when healthy. Hendriks didn’t receive much of a leash when returning from the DL, and he was tagged for four runs in his final appearance before being designated. He’ll now look to rebuild his stock in Nashville with the hope of earning another look in manager Bob Melvin’s bullpen later this season.