- The Cardinals are interested in re-signing backup catcher Matt Wieters, according to general manager Michael Girsch (via Goold). Whether it’s Wieters or someone else, the team seems intent on adding a veteran to play behind Yadier Molina. Wieters could wind up in Oakland if he doesn’t go back to St. Louis, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics have shown interest in the 33-year-old to back up Sean Murphy. This is the second straight offseason in which Wieters has landed on the A’s radar.
- The Athletics are showing interest in Royals southpaw Tim Hill, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. This isn’t the first trade chatter we’ve heard on the 29-year-old, who turned in 39 2/3 innings of 3.63 ERA ball last year. Why the interest from AL contenders in a player that most fans have never heard of? Hill didn’t carry overwhelming overall K/BB numbers (39:13), but did generate a healthy 29.2% K rate against righties while delivering an excellent 57.3% groundball rate. That combination of tools is all the more interesting given the soon-to-be-minted three-batter minimum rule.
10:17pm: The Athletics are one of the teams with interest in Romo, Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets. Romo could return to the Bay Area, where he spent the first several years of his career as a member of the Giants. He won three championships in San Francisco.
8:27pm: Veteran reliever Sergio Romo appears to be cruising towards his next deal. Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter) says there’s momentum towards an agreement, with a decision anticipated during the Winter Meetings.
What’s not yet clear is where the 36-year-old hurler is headed. The California native has been all over the map in the past few campaigns, most recently thriving with the Twins late in 2019.
There are still three teams engaged on Romo, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). Notably, that trio of leading contenders for his services — all unknown, at present — does not include the Minnesota organization. The Twins have maintained interest, per Wolfson, but not (at least to this point) to the same “level” as the other clubs involved.
Athletics general manager David Forst discussed the team’s offseason direction with multiple outlets Monday, including A’s Cast (hat tip to Martin Gallegos of MLB.com) and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Let’s take a look at a few of the highlights…
- Although the A’s non-tendered right-hander Blake Treinen before Monday’s deadline, that doesn’t necessarily mean the two sides are headed for a divorce. The team still has interest in re-signing Treinen, a lights-out reliever a couple years ago who fell on hard times this past season. Treinen pitched to a dismal 4.91 ERA/5.14 FIP with 9.05 K/9, 5.68 BB/9 and a 42.8 percent groundball rate across 58 2/3 innings during the 2019 campaign, in which he lost his role as the A’s closer to Liam Hendriks. As a result, the 31-year-old Treinen probably won’t cost an exorbitant amount to re-sign, but if he does end up out of the A’s price range, they could still sign a “solid veteran” to a short-term contract, Slusser writes. Also, they have already addressed their bullpen in multiple other ways this offseason, having claimed left-hander T.J. McFarland off waivers from the Diamondbacks and re-signed fellow southpaw Jake Diekman. The A’s did cut ties with lefty Ryan Buchter, though it seems they did so because there were concerns on their part about the three-batter minimum rule that appears likely to take effect in 2020.
- The A’s are on the hunt for a lefty-hitting middle infielder, though it’s “ideally someone who can play a number of positions,” according to Forst. That player would obviously seldom line up at shortstop, as MVP candidate Marcus Semien has that position locked down. But Oakland’s situation is far less certain at second base, where the club traded Jurickson Profar to the Padres this week. Speculatively speaking, in terms of the free-agent market, Cesar Hernandez, Brock Holt, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Scooter Gennett, Brad Miller, Joe Panik, Neil Walker and ex-Athletics Ben Zobrist and Eric Sogard are some of the players the A’s could turn to for lefty-swinging middle infield aid.
- Oakland’s next starting second baseman could come from within, as the team has every intention of giving former standout prospect Franklin Barreto an opportunity in 2020. It’s do-or-die time for Barreto, whom the Athletics acquired from the Blue Jays in the A’s widely panned Josh Donaldson trade in 2014 and who has no minor league options remaining. To this point, the 23-year-old Barreto has hit a horrid .189/.220/.378 with nine homers in 209 major league plate appearances.
- Meantime, fellow young infielder Jorge Mateo – picked up as part of the return from the Yankees for Sonny Gray in 2017 – hasn’t even appeared in the bigs yet. He’s also out of options, but the A’s want to give him a chance to establish himself next season. Mateo, 24, spent all of 2019 at the Triple-A level and hit .289/.330/.504 with 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases over 566 PA. That production looks palatable on paper, but according to FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric, it checked in 4 percent below the league average.
1:45pm: The Athletics have formally announced the signing.
1:21pm: The Athletics and free-agent lefty Jake Diekman have agreed to a two-year contract with a club option for a third season, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter links). The Beverly Hills Sports Council client will be guaranteed $7.5MM over the life of the pact.
Diekman, 33 next month, inked a one-year, $2.75MM pact with the Royals last winter and was traded to the A’s prior to the July 31 deadline. The veteran southpaw pitched to a 4.43 ERA with 21 strikeouts but 16 walks and three hit batsmen through 20 1/3 innings with the A’s, continuing control problems that have plagued him for much of his MLB tenure. Diekman clearly made a strong impression on the Oakland organization, though, and he’s now in line to call it home for the next two seasons.
Control issues notwithstanding, the appeal in Diekman is easy to see, as his raw stuff is tantalizing. His 95.8 mph average heater is one of the fastest among all left-handed relievers in baseball, and Diekman’s overall 16.1 percent swinging-strike rate ranked 18th among 158 qualified reliever this past season. He’s averaged better than 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in his MLB career and fanned 28.2 percent of the hitters he’s faced in the big leagues. A look at his Statcast profile reveals that Diekman was one of the best in the game at limiting hard contact — specifically in allowing opponents to barrel up his offerings.
Diekman will pair with lefty T.J. McFarland, whom the A’s claimed off waivers last month and inked to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration yesterday, giving manager Bob Melvin multiple lefties to deploy in 2020. The Oakland ’pen will once again be anchored by emergent closer Liam Hendriks, with Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria and rebound hopeful Lou Trivino adding to the setup corps as well.
The move to add Diekman comes just a day after Oakland traded Jurickson Profar to the Padres and non-tendered Blake Treinen, Ryan Buchter and Josh Phegley — substantially reducing payroll in the process; that quartet had been projected to earn a combined $17.6MM on a perennially low-payroll A’s club.
Some of those funds will be immediately reallocated to Diekman, it seems, but the Oakland payroll still projects to come in north of previous levels. Last year’s $92MM Opening Day mark was a club record, and the A’s projected to come in around $95MM even before bringing Diekman aboard. It’s always possible that they’ll move some veteran contracts, but the A’s at the very least appear poised for a second season above the $90MM mark, which is unheard of territory for the organization.
8:36 pm: The Padres have agreed with Profar on a $5.7MM salary to avoid arbitration, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
1:52 pm: The Padres and Athletics have agreed to a trade that’ll send infielder Jurickson Profar from Oakland to San Diego in exchange for catcher Austin Allen and a player to be named later. Profar, who’d been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $5.8MM through arbitration, was a non-tender candidate in Oakland but is now in line to play a significant role with the Padres in 2020. The move reunites him with Padres GM A.J. Preller, who played an integral part in signing Profar as an amateur during his time with the Rangers organization. Meanwhile, the A’s pick up a potential backup catcher who can step immediately onto the roster.
San Diego’s trade of Luis Urias last week left a hole at second base, where Ian Kinsler, Greg Garcia and Ty France all seemed likely to vie for playing time this spring. Now, Profar will presumably step to the top of the depth chart, rounding out an infield that also features Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eric Hosmer.
For the Athletics, they’ll now have their own infield vacancy, though that was arguably the case for some of the 2019 season due to Profar’s struggles. The former No. 1 overall prospect has proven himself healthy after a pair of shoulder surgeries wiped out two full seasons of his developmental years, but he’s yet to break out as a clear-cut big leaguer.
Profar hit .254/.335/.458 with the Rangers in 2018 but saw those numbers slip to .218/.301/.410 with the A’s in 2019. Of greater concern were Profar’s suddenly glaring defensive woes, as he developed a mild case of the yips early in the season that led to 11 throwing errors (and an ugly -10 Defensive Runs Saved mark). With Profar now in San Diego, the A’s can turn to one of Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo or Sheldon Neuse at second base. Alternatively, they can explore a saturated market of second base options — both in free agency and in trade — and hope to land a quality veteran a discount rate.
Allen, 25, was San Diego’s fourth-round pick back in 2015 and made his MLB debut with the Padres in 2019, hitting .215/.282/.277 in a tiny sample of 71 plate appearances. He feasted on the juiced ball in Triple-A El Paso, though, hitting .330/.379/.663 with 21 homers and 27 doubles in just 298 plate appearances. Evaluating players in what was already an extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League became even tougher with the league’s adoption of the MLB ball, but Allen has regularly been an above-average hitter throughout his time in the minors.
Allen is the definition of a bat-first catching option, as scouting reports on him dating back to college have questioned his ability to catch at a passable level. He’s thrown out just 22 percent of attempted base thieves in the minors, and the word was out on him in the Majors, as he went 1-for-9 in halting runners in just 19 games (14 starts, 128 innings). To his credit, Allen has posted quality framing numbers in each of the past two seasons, but whether he’ll be able to do over a larger sample remains to be seen. Allen has also gotten some work in at first base — perhaps a portent for things to come.
The A’s have been on the lookout for a left-handed-hitting bat to pair with top catching prospect Sean Murphy, who hits from the right side of the dish, and it seems they might’ve found their man in Allen. This acquisition only furthers the likelihood that right-handed-hitting Josh Phegley, himself a non-tender candidate, has played in his final game with the A’s.
The A’s have non-tendered reliever Blake Treinen, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). He’d been projected for a $7.8MM salary, which the low-payroll A’s evidently found too steep. Additionally, the club is parting ways with reliever Ryan Buchter and catcher Josh Phegley, Slusser adds (via Twitter). Phegley had been projected for $2.2MM, while Buchter was in line for around $1.8MM.
Today’s news perhaps isn’t too surprising; MLBTR’s Jeff Todd and Steve Adams identified Treinen as a non-tender candidate last week. Oakland doesn’t figure to have much wiggle room in the budget this offseason, no doubt contributing to their efforts to find a taker for Treinen, Jurickson Profar ($5.8MM projection), and Phegley before tonight’s non-tender deadline. Profar ultimately landed in San Diego, while Treinen and Phegley were let go. Despite some late interest from the Yankees, though, the A’s were unable to match up on a Treinen deal.
Such an outcome would have been unthinkable a year ago. Treinen finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting in 2018, reflecting his otherworldly season. That year, he tossed 80.1 innings with a 0.78 ERA and sparkling peripherals. His 31.8% strikeout rate and 6.7% walk rate were easily the best numbers he’d put up since moving to the bullpen for good in 2015. Toss in Treinen’s typically strong ground ball ability (51.9% ground ball rate) and he was quite arguably baseball’s best reliever just a season ago.
Unfortunately, everything went backwards in 2019. Treinen’s ERA jumped more than four runs per nine to an unsightly 4.91. His strikeout rate regressed to a pedestrian 22.2%, while his walk rate more than doubled to a career-worst 13.9%. On top of all that, Treinen’s ground ball rate- his calling card dating back to his time as a National- fell nearly ten points. All that said, Treinen still boasts a high-90’s fastball and is one year removed from utter dominance, so he’ll surely attract interest. New York could be expected to touch base with his camp now that he’s a free agent, but almost any team in baseball could seek to add his upside to their bullpen.
Phegley, like Treinen, evidently failed to drum up significant trade interest. The 31-year-old slashed .239/.282/.411 (82 wRC+) in 342 plate appearances this season. While that’s actually solid for a catcher, he rated extremely poorly as a pitch framer, per Baseball Prospectus, which placed him 107th out of 113 backstops leaguewide. With the A’s acquiring Austin Allen to back up Sean Murphy in today’s Profar trade, the writing was on the wall for Phegley.
Buchter, meanwhile, pitched to a 2.98 ERA, making today’s news a bit surprising at first glance. However, that was the product of an unsustainable 91.4% strand rate, as Buchter’s 4.96 FIP suggests. His walk rate spiked to an alarming 11.6%, and Buchter’s always been a fly-ball pitcher. The home run finally caught up to him in 2019. Nevertheless, he comes with an additional season of arbitration control beyond 2020 and has sported an above-average strikeout rate in four consecutive seasons, so teams looking for left-handed bullpen help could certainly take an interest in him in free agency.
With tonight’s 8pm ET deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players looming, there’ll be several players who agree to one-year contracts for the 2020 season today. It’s common for the day of the non-tender deadline to be a big one for arbitration agreements, though it’s also worth noting that many of the players who agree to terms today will do so at a rate that’s lower than the salary figures projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Broadly speaking, players who agree to terms on a salary this far in advance tend to be those who were at risk of being non-tendered, and their teams are able to use tonight’s deadline as leverage in bringing about a deal that saves them a bit of cash. A look at some of the early instances of players agreeing to terms reveals this to be true already; Mike Zunino ($4.5MM salary vs. $4.9MM projection), Wilmer Difo ($1MM salary vs. $1.2MM projection) and Scott Alexander ($875K salary vs. $1MM projection) have all agreed to lesser terms rather than risk being cast out into the free-agent market.
We’ll keep track of today’s players who avoid arbitration in this post and update throughout the day…
- The Padres have a deal for $1.5MM with infielder Greg Garcia, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. That’s a shade under his $1.7MM projection for the 30-year-old.
- Infielder Orlando Arcia has avoided arbitration with the Brewers, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Though he’s set to lose some playing time, it seems Arcia will be expected to retain a notable role. He’s considered a talented defender at short and was long expected to come around with the bat, but it hasn’t happened yet.
- Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes is in agreement on a $1.1MM deal, per Robert Murray (Twitter link). It’s a guaranteed deal, which isn’t standard for arbitration pacts. Barnes had projected at $1.3MM on the heels of a disappointing season. It seems he’ll be asked to function as the club’s second backstop in 2020.
- The Rangers have a deal in place with right-hander Nick Goody, the club announced. He’ll earn $915K, according to MLB.com’s TR Sullivan (via Twitter). Goody projected to earn $1.1MM, so he’s taking a discount on that mark with his new club.
- Just-acquired righty Jharel Cotton has agreed to a $640K deal with the Cubs, Rosenthal tweets. Cotton had projected at $800K but he’s surely focused first and foremost on getting a significant MLB opportunity. He didn’t quite make it back to the majors in 2019 after a long injury layoff but figures to represent a swingman option for the Chicago club in 2020.
- Outfielder Alex Dickerson and lefty Wandy Peralta are in agreement with the Giants, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). Dickerson settled for $925K, which is well under his $1.2MM projected earning power. The 29-year-old has had trouble staying healthy but usually hits when he is on the field. He rewarded the San Francisco organization for taking a shot on him last year by turning in a .290/.351/.529 batting line in 171 plate appearances. As for Peralta, he lands right at his projected value with a $805K salary. The 28-year-old was claimed off waivers late in the 2019 season.
- The White Sox and James McCann avoided arbitration with a one-year deal worth $5.4MM, tweets ESPN’s Jeff Passan. McCann’s deal checks in a half million dollars north of his $4.9MM projection. Chicago’s addition of Yasmani Grandal has likely relegated McCann to backup duties, so he’ll be a rather expensive second catcher for the South Siders. A free agent next winter, McCann hit .273/.328/.460 with a career-high 18 home runs, but his bat went dormant in the season’s final few months and his .359 BABIP seems particularly ripe for regression.
- The Athletics avoided arbitration with left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.8MM, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. That salary effectively puts McFarland in line for the same salary he’d have received had he had his $1.85MM club option exercised by the Diamondbacks. Arizona, however, bought him out for $50K and then ran him through waivers, at which point the A’s claimed him. The 30-year-old posted a 4.82 ERA with a middling 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings this past season, but he’s a ground-ball behemoth (61.1 percent). He’ll be a free agent next winter and had been projected at $2.1MM.
- Infielder Ehire Adrianza and the Twins agreed on a $1.6MM salary for the upcoming season, Nightengale tweets. The versatile utilityman hit .272/.349/.416 in 236 plate appearances while appearing at all four infield spots and both outfield corners. Adrianza, a free agent next winter, was projected at $1.9MM.
- Outfielder Travis Jankowski agreed to a rare arbitration pay cut with the Reds, Bobby Nightengale Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. After earning $1.165MM in 2019, he’ll be owed $1.05MM in 2020 if he makes the club. A fractured wrist cost him much of the season in 2019, and he was just 4-for-22 when healthy and in the Majors. Jankowski did have a nice season in Triple-A, though (.393 OBP in 39 games), and the Reds gave up some international funds to acquire him, which seemingly indicated that they planned to tender him a contract. He was projected to earn $1.2MM.
The Athletics have been in trade talks about some of their more prominent arbitration-eligible players, including former All-Star reliever Blake Treinen. As per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link), the Yankees are one of the clubs who have shown interest in a potential deal for the right-hander’s services.
According to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, Treinen is projected to receive a $7.8MM salary in is final year of arb eligibility before free agency. It isn’t a huge raise from the $6.4MM salary Treinen earned in 2019 after beating the Athletics in an arbitration hearing, though since the A’s are always conscious about payroll limitations, it could be more than the team is willing to spend after Treinen’s performance dropped off last season.
Granted, some level of regression was almost inevitable given the outstanding nature of Treinen’s 2018 work. The righty posted an 0.78 ERA, 51.9% grounder rate, and 4.76 K/BB rate while striking out 100 batters in 80 1/3 innings of work. While there was some batted-ball luck involved, ERA predictors (1.82 FIP, 2.42 xFIP, 2.46 SIERA) still indicated an elite level of performance in Treinen’s first full year as Oakland’s closer.
Things turned sour in 2019, however, as Treinen posted a 4.91 ERA, 42.8% grounder rate, and 1.59 K/BB rate over 58 2/3 innings. As compared to 2018, Treinen had big spikes in his walk rate (2.4 BB/9 to 5.7 BB/9) and homer rate (0.2 HR/9 to 1.4 HR/9), and batters made far more solid contact (.236 xwOBA to .334 xwOBA). Injuries surely played a role, as Treinen missed a couple of weeks due to a shoulder strain and then was shut down in late September after pitching with stress reaction in his back for the better part of a month.
Still, these recent health issues also surely aren’t helpful for the A’s in evaluating whether or not to spend a big chunk of their payroll space on a reliever who pitched at a sub-replacement level last season. Roster Resource projects the A’s at a 2020 payroll of just under $111.3MM, which would be well over the team’s franchise high of approximately $101.4MM at the end of the 2016 season.
While it can be assumed that the Athletics would be open to spending more than usual to take the next step on a roster that has reached the AL Wild Card game in each of the last two years, quite a bit of extra space could be freed up if Oakland were to trade or non-tender Treinen, Jurickson Profar ($5.8MM arb projection) and/or Josh Phegley ($2.2MM). Despite Treinen’s projected salary and his rough 2019, his 2018 performance is fresh enough in teams’ minds that finding a trade partner seems feasible for the A’s before Monday’s non-tender deadline.
It isn’t any surprise that the Yankees are among the teams who have come calling, given their reliance on a loaded bullpen in recent years. If Treinen can find even a middle ground between his 2018 and 2019 numbers, he’d be yet another fearsome addition within New York’s already-strong collection of Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Chad Green, and Tommy Kahnle, not to mention the plethora of other interesting young arms in the mix. In theory, Treinen would be replacing free agent Dellin Betances, though the Yankees already went virtually the entire season without any contributions from Betances during an injury-ravaged year for the right-hander.
Though the Yankees have some payroll concerns of their own in terms of the luxury tax, Treinen’s $7.8MM figure isn’t an overly exorbitant sum, plus some money could be sent back Oakland’s way in the form of another player’s salary. Beyond just a pure salary dump, it would be interesting to see what sort of creative deal could be swung between two clubs that figure to be contending for the American League pennant next season. Billy Beane and Brian Cashman have swung a few interesting trades during their long tenures running their respective front offices, perhaps most notably the July 2017 swap that sent Sonny Gray to New York for a three-prospect package.
The Athletics swung a notable trade this past weekend, sending right-hander Jharel Cotton to the Cubs. But that may not be the last near-term trade the A’s make, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link) reports the team’s “discussing” moves involving reliever Blake Treinen, infielder/outfielder Jurickson Profar and catcher Josh Phegley. Barring trades, they could all be non-tender candidates for low-budget Oakland, which is projected to owe Treinen $7.8MM, Profar $5.8MM and Phegley $2.2MM in 2020.
Whether there’s an appealing piece here is up for debate, but Treinen’s just a year removed from enjoying one of the best seasons in the history of relievers. Treinen posted an eye-popping 0.78 ERA across 80 1/3 innings in 2018, but just about everything went backward for him in 2019. While the 31-year-old continued to throw in the 97 to 98 mph range, his strikeout rate fell from 11.2 per nine to 9.05, his walk rate skyrocketed from 2.35 to 5.68, his groundball percentage dropped from 51.9 to 42.8, and his home run-to-fly ball percentage shot from 4.4 to 16.4. All of that helped lead to a 4.91 ERA/5.14 FIP during an injury-shortened, 58 2/3-inning effort for Treinen, who lost his closer role to Liam Hendriks and whose days with the A’s are likely over as he approaches his final season of arbitration control.
The switch-hitting Profar, 26, was supposed to solidify second base in 2019 for Oakland, which acquired him from division-rival Texas in a high-profile trade last winter. Instead, though, Profar batted a mere .218/.301/.410 in 518 plate appearances. Even though Profar did slug 20 home runs, this past season still went down as yet another disappointing campaign for a player who was once an elite prospect.
Phegley, 31, recorded yet another underwhelming offensive season in 2019, as he hit just .239/.282/.411 with 12 homers in 342 trips to the plate. The right-handed Phegley did, however, slash a strong .284/.320/.526 in 103 PA versus lefties, continuing a career-long run of managing respectable production against southpaws. Defensively, Phegley was a mixed bag, as he threw out 32 percent of would-be base-stealers (league average was 27 percent) but finished dead last in the majors in Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average metric.
In the cases of Treinen and Phegley, the Athletics are well-equipped to move on even if it means non-tendering the two. The team has Hendriks, Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria and Ryan Buchter among its top late-game possibilities in the bullpen. It also boasts highly promising youngster Sean Murphy as its No. 1 choice behind the plate. But there’s less certainty at second, where Chad Pinder, Sheldon Neuse, Franklin Barreto and prospect Jorge Mateo comprise a largely unproven group of options. Of course, should the A’s part with Profar, they could sign one of the many veteran second basemen on the open market to take his place.