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.”
With these additions, the A’s have two remaining unsigned players. First rounder Tyler Soderstrom and fifth rounder Stevie Emanuels have yet to put pen to paper.
Criswell landed a $1MM bonus, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on Twitter. That leaves over $200K for the club to put to use on other signings. Acker landed right at the slot value of $447,400, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter). It’s not clear yet what Guldberg will take home.
Both Criswell (Michigan) and Acker (Oklahoma) are right-handed collegiate hurlers. Baseball America rated the former 53rd among draft-eligible players, citing his sturdy mid-nineties heater and suitably robust frame. The latter doesn’t possess loud tools, but is considered a well-rounded hurler who could perhaps end up in the back of a rotation one day.
As for Guldberg, he was an on-base machine at Georgia Tech, posting a silly .465 OBP over 393 career plate appearances. Unfortunately, his hit tool isn’t accompanied by power and scouts aren’t convinced he’ll remain a center fielder over the long haul.
In the latest wrinkle in the Athletics’ quest to build a new ballpark, Oakland’s City Council decided in a “nearly unanimous” vote Thursday to start negotiations about selling the city’s half of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site to the team, Phil Matier of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The A’s already own the other half of the site, having completed the purchase with Alameda County over the winter. The city of Oakland is looking for a similar version of that sale, which would see the A’s pay the city $85MM over an unspecified time frame. Those funds would greatly help a city that, like virtually everywhere else in the world, suddenly faces major financial issues in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After the coronavirus shutdown, we are looking at a very,very serious budget deficit, and they are saying it could cost us $6MM just to maintain the site,” city councilman Noel Gallo said prior to the closed session of council. “We don’t have that kind of money. This way we can get some badly needed help.”
The deal is based around the A’s ultimately staying in Oakland, and assuming that the Coliseum site deal goes through as planned, the club would now have multiple options towards that end. The Athletics’ first choice is still to build a new ballpark at the Howard Terminal site in downtown Oakland, and should that ballpark be completed, the A’s would then look to develop the Coliseum site themselves. As per Sports Illustrated’s John Hickey, the 155-acre property that currently houses both the Coliseum and the Oakland Arena (the former home of the Golden State Warriors) would become “a shopping, cultural and residential area…The Coliseum itself would be razed, although the baseball diamond would become a large park.”
The other possibility is that the site could be used as a backup plan for a new A’s ballpark. The Athletics would continue to play in the Coliseum until a new stadium was built in what is currently the site’s north parking area. As Hickey notes, however, that the pandemic could make this scenario more realistic if the A’s aren’t able to borrow the funding necessary to convert the Howard Terminal area.
Earlier this month, A’s president Dave Kaval said Howard Terminal was still the team’s priority, though “we’re just focused on taking it quarter by quarter and seeing how much progress we can make.” While some obstacles remain in the way of the Howard Terminal project getting a full green light, that endeavor looked to tentatively be on track, with the Athletics originally hoping for an opening by the 2023 season prior to the coronavirus shutdown.
This is purely my speculation, but if financing becomes enough of an issue, the Athletics could theoretically look to sell the 155 acres to another developer in order to generate the money necessary to finalize the Howard Terminal concept. Such a next step would add another major layer of complication to what has already been a drawn-out process, of course, and obviously the A’s would prefer both their new ballpark and the Coliseum residential area as dual revenue-generators.
It’s fair to say that some fans could be a little perturbed to hear about another potential multi-million-dollar development deal during a time when so many teams are claiming economic strife. The A’s have long been one of baseball’s lower-spending teams, and their cost-cutting measures have often drawn criticism — even just recently, owner John Fisher had to admit fault and reverse the team’s initial plan to eliminate the $400 weekly stipend given to Athletics minor leaguers. A’s ownership has insisted for years that a new ballpark is necessary for the team to remain in Oakland, and if nothing else, today’s news should deepen the ties between the club and the city.
For those who love the will-they-won’t-they back-and-forth of a classic rom-com, Major League Baseball has a story for you. The Chicago White Sox and lefty hurler Gio Gonzalez are drawn to each other. There’s no denying the connection. They’re the Ross and Rachel of the MLB (or Jim and Pam, or whatever reference is relevant these days). Though they’ve never stayed together long, these would-be soulmates are on the verge of finally making it work. Should baseball return in 2020, their long-standing flirtation should finally consummate with Gonzalez in black-and-white, taking the hill in front of the Southside faithful.
Gonzalez, 34, has long been a productive pitcher in the bigs, but he hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves of late. Though Gonzalez is aging, he certainly pitched well enough to prove himself a viable rotation candidate. And yet, following the 2018 season, Gonzalez languished on the free-agent market. He eventually accepted a minor league deal with the Yankees, but he never made an appearance for their big-league team. He found his way back to Milwaukee where he went 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA/4.04 FIP across 87 1/3 innings (17 starts). Again, solid numbers for Gonzalez, but again there wasn’t much buzz around him as he returned to free agency.
Fear not, for an old friend came to the rescue. The White Sox signed Gonzalez to a $5MM guarantee just before Christmas with plans of slotting him into the rotation. The White Sox are a team on the rise with a young rotation in need of guaranteed, quality innings. Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel are set to front the rotation with less proven assets like Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease likely to follow. Gonzalez should help the young arms take their time and weather the storm, should there be one.
Regardless of fit, we know the White Sox like Gonzalez. This was, after all, the third time they’d acquired him. The White Sox first drafted Gonzalez 38th overall in the 2004 June Draft. But he didn’t last long in their system, as the Sox traded Gonzalez to the Phillies after the 2005 season (with Aaron Rowand and Daniel Haigwood) for Jim Thome.
Just a year later, Gonzalez found himself headed back to Chicago. The White Sox and Phillies connected on a new deal wherein the Phils acquired Freddy Garcia for Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd. Garcia made just 11 starts for the Phillies before leaving as a free agent after 2007. Floyd found his sea legs in Chicago after struggling to make good on his top draft pick status in Philly. He ended up playing seven seasons with the White Sox, going 63-65 with a 4.22 ERA/4.20 FIP in that time, settling in as a decent rotation piece.
Gonzalez’s second stint with the White Sox lasted barely longer than the first. He did, however, begin to flourish. Upon his return, Gonzalez quickly became a top arm in their system, topping out of as their number one ranked prospect by Baseball America in 2008 (#26 overall in the majors).
Still, they traded him – again – this time to the Oakland Athletics (along with Fautino De Los Santos and Ryan Sweeney) in exchange for Nick Swisher. Swisher was a personality match with the White Sox, a spiritual successor to Rowand and other hard-nosed dirt dogs to play on the grass in Chicago – but he only lasted one season (.219/.332/.410 with 24 home runs).
Gonzalez became the gem of that deal for Oakland, making his debut in 2008 as a 22-year-old. It took Gonzalez a couple seasons to find his footing, but by the end of 2011, Gonzalez was an established pro. He put together back-to-back 200-inning seasons for the A’s, amassing 8.3 rWAR/6.5 fWAR across 2010 and 2011 before Oakland shipped him to Washington.
At this point, Gonzalez was entering his age-26 season with some runway to finally settle in after being traded four times already. Gonzalez became a rotation stalwart for the Nationals from 2012 to 2018, a two-time All-Star, and a 124-game winner.
His best season was his first in Washington. The 26-year-old Gonzalez led the league in wins going 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA/2.82 FIP across 199 1/3 innings. As the Nats’ nominal ace, Gonzalez led them to their first-ever postseason appearance. Of course, this was the season the Nationals famously withheld Stephen Strasburg from the playoffs to ensure his long-term health. An undercurrent of that story, however, was Gonzalez, whose dominance that year made such a bold move possible. Gio started games one and five of the NLDS, pitching well but lasting just five innings in both outings – a common thread for Gonzalez. The Nats went 1-1 in those games but ultimately lost the series to the Cardinals.
Gonzalez never put up another season quite like his 2012, but he nonetheless gave the Nats solid work for 6+ seasons. Regardless, there wasn’t a ton of interest when the Nats shopped him during the 2018 season. Gonzalez was eventually traded to the Brewers, for whom he pitched well in five late-season starts. He even got a pair of postseason starts, though he went just two innings in the first outing and left due to injury one inning into his second.
Eight seasons after arriving in Washington and 16 years after Chicago selected him in the first round, Gonzalez may finally have the opportunity to pitch for the White Sox. Of course, a lot stands in the way of Gonzalez making his debut in Chicago, but that’s nothing new. Now in his third stint in the organization, the White Sox hope Gonzalez will help lead this young team.
Of course, if they don’t make the leap many expect, Chicago could embark on one last selloff of veterans before making a run at contention again in 2021. If that happens, Gonzalez could find his name in the trade papers once again. But for now, as before, Gio Gonzalez is a member of the Chicago White Sox.
JUNE 12: Expectations are that Soderstrom will sign for approximately $3.3MM, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. That would indeed check in well above slot, as Glaser reported.
JUNE 10, 10:54pm: There’s no deal yet, according to Soderstrom. However, the A’s are optimistic he will sign, per Slusser.
9:38pm: The Athletics have already reached an agreement with first-round pick Tyler Soderstrom, Kyle Glaser of Baseball America reports. Details aren’t known yet, but it’s worth “considerably above slot,” according to Glaser. Soderstrom’s pick, No. 26, comes with a slot value of $2,653,400. Oakland entered the draft with an overall pool of $5,241,500.
Soderstrom’s a local product out of Turlock High School in California, and he’s also the son of 1993 Giants first-rounder Steve Soderstrom, a former pitcher who had a cup of coffee with San Francisco in 1996. Tyler Soderstrom had been in line to play at UCLA before the draft, but he’ll instead continue his development as part of one of the state’s major league teams.
Oakland’s clearly bullish on the younger Soderstrom, as its scout for Northern California, Kevin Mello, told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle: “He’s the best amateur bat I’ve seen in my 15-year career. He’s got a chance to be very, very good. He’s a really special player.”
Mello’s also of the belief that Soderstrom will stick behind the plate, though that may not be a given. MLB.com, which ranks Soderstrom as the 19th-best player in this year’s class, notes that he’s “raw in terms of blocking and game management.” But Soderstrom’s a good athlete who can play third base and the outfield, so those factors and his considerable offensive upside suggest he may be able to carve out a successful MLB career even if he doesn’t last as a catcher.
2020 salary terms still need to be hammered out. But what about what’s owed to players beyond that point? The near-term economic picture remains questionable at best. That’ll make teams all the more cautious with guaranteed future salaries.
Every organization has some amount of future cash committed to players, all of it done before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. There are several different ways to look at salaries; for instance, for purposes of calculating the luxury tax, the average annual value is the touchstone, with up-front bonuses spread over the life of the deal. For this exercise, we’ll focus on actual cash outlays that still have yet to be paid.
We’ll run through every team, with a big assist from the Cot’s Baseball Contracts database. Next up is the Athletics:
*Includes buyouts of club options over Stephen Piscotty and Jake Diekman
- Athletics president Dave Kaval provided the latest on the team’s efforts towards a new Oakland ballpark, telling Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that the A’s are still “moving forward with” the plan at the Howard Terminal site. “Right now, we’re just focused on taking it quarter by quarter and seeing how much progress we can make. We are not at the top of the list [for the city of Oakland] because there are more pressing issues, and we want to be respectful of that as we garner the necessary approvals to move forward,” Kaval said. It isn’t yet known if the pandemic could result in the project being pushed back from the original target date of the 2023 season, as “the timing of those things aren’t known right now because everything is still in flux,” Kaval said.
- As for the Athletics’ current ballpark, Kaval told Slusser that the team is in discussions with local officials about how to safely open and operate the Oakland Coliseum under advanced health guidelines. The A’s already submitted a 67-page document outlining what health and safety procedures will be in place, and approval from Alameda County could come as early as Monday. When or if this approval is granted, A’s players will be able to begin workouts at the ballpark.
With the MLB draft scheduled for next week, let’s take a look at each American League team’s most successful draft class in recent memory. Using Baseball Reference’s draft tracker, we can sum the combined career bWAR of each player selected by each team in a given year. It’s a simple shorthand, not a perfect measure, but it’ll give some insight into which teams have really hit in certain years.
First, a quick note on the methodology. For simplicity, we’re limiting this search to the 2006-2015 classes. A player’s value is only included if he signed with the club, although he needn’t have actually played for his drafting team in the majors. (So, the 2008 Yankees don’t get credit for drafting but failing to sign Gerrit Cole, while the 2007 Red Sox do get credit for drafting and signing Anthony Rizzo, even though he was traded before ever playing an MLB game for Boston). Of course, a player drafted in 2006 has had more time to rack up value than one drafted in 2015, so we’ll note in each team’s capsule if a more recent class is on the verge of taking over from an older class. On to the results…
- Angels: 2009 (109.3 bWAR) – Go figure. Picking one of the greatest players of all time is a heck of a way to kick off a draft class. But this 2009 class wasn’t just about Mike Trout, even if he’s accounted for about two-thirds of its cumulative value. That year, the Angels also selected Patrick Corbin, Randal Grichuk, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs. Former MLBTR contributor Chuck Wassterstrom took a behind-the-scenes look at this class a few years ago.
- Astros: 2009 (53.2 bWAR) – Not a single one of the Astros’ top five rounders in 2009 reached the majors. The late rounds, though, were a smashing success with J.D. Martinez (20th), Dallas Keuchel (7th) and Kiké Hernández (6th) accounting for the class’ value. Of course, Martinez did his damage elsewhere after the Astros released him.
- A’s: 2012 (37.7 bWAR) – The A’s 2012 class produced seven big leaguers, most notably Matt Olson. He leads a group that also included Addison Russell and Max Muncy, who have played most or all of their MLB careers elsewhere.
- Blue Jays: 2009 (39.2 bWAR) – They won’t get credit for selecting James Paxton in supplemental round one here, but Yan Gomes was a nice find in the tenth round, though he would play only briefly in Toronto before being dealt to Cleveland. Outside of Gomes, the Blue Jays found a few nice role players, including Jake Marisnick, Aaron Loup, Ryan Goins, and others.
- Indians: 2011 (38.7 bWAR) – Selecting Francisco Lindor eighth overall in 2011 was a key to Cleveland’s 2016 AL pennant. So too was then-closer Cody Allen, whom they grabbed in the 23rd round. With Lindor mid-prime, the class’ value should just continue to grow.
- Mariners: 2006 (40.2 bWAR) – Doug Fister and Chris Tillman went on to become mid-rotation starters for a time (Fister arguably even a bit more than that), albeit with other clubs. Fifth overall pick Brandon Morrow disappointed as a starter but had a late-career renaissance as a quality reliever before various injuries derailed him.
- Orioles: 2007 (43.2 bWAR) – Although only four players from this class would wind up making the Majors, the combination of Jake Arrieta and Matt Wieters makes the 2007 draft a pretty solid one for the O’s. While Wieters, the fifth overall pick, maybe didn’t turn out to be the franchise cornerstone he was hailed to be, he has nonetheless had a nice career. Arrieta had a slow start in Baltimore, but would of course earn a Cy Young with the Cubs. It’s worth noting that this spot will be taken by the 2010 class before too long, almost entirely on the back of Manny Machado.
- Rangers: 2008 (33.3 bWAR) – Despite garnering only a 25th-round selection, Tanner Roark has turned out to be the most productive player in this class. First-round choice Justin Smoak deserves a mention too, though his career didn’t really take off until he’d been traded out of Texas. The 2011 class, headed by Kyle Hendricks, is not far behind and could claim this title in the near future.
- Rays: 2006 (81.5 bWAR) – Franchise legend Evan Longoria does a lot of the heavy lifting for this class, having amassed 56 total WAR by age 34. Even so, there are some other quality players here: Desmond Jennings and Alex Cobb are the other notables, with Jennings carving out a solid MLB career as a tenth-round pick.
- Red Sox: 2011 (70.2 bWAR) – This is far and away the best Sox draft class in recent memory, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Mookie Betts, one of the finest players in baseball, established himself as Boston’s franchise player after he was selected in the fifth round. Even outside of Betts, this class yielded a few key members of the Red Sox 2018 World Series team, with Jackie Bradley Jr. and relief ace Matt Barnes also coming out of that draft.
- Royals: 2007 (47.1 bWAR) – Speaking of drafting World Series contributors, the Royals in 2007 added both Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland, both of whom turned out to be central in the Royals’ playoff runs in 2014 and 2015. And that’s before mentioning third-rounder Danny Duffy, who’s still with Kansas City and inked a nice extension prior to 2017.
- Tigers: 2007 (20.6 bWAR) – With just 20.6 WAR, the Tigers’ best draft in recent memory doesn’t compare favorably to the rest of the AL, and that partly illuminates the franchise’s current standing in baseball. The notable player from the 2007 class is Rick Porcello, who had some nice years to begin his career with the Tigers and would later win a Cy Young. Maybe they get bonus points for discovering high-schooler D.J. LeMahieu, who wouldn’t sign with the team, in round 41?
- Twins: 2009 (32.4 bWAR) – Between Kyle Gibson and Brian Dozier, the Twins drafted a pair of staples on the Minnesota teams of the mid-2010s. But with both playing elsewhere now, keep an eye on the 2012 draft class, which features a trio of young centerpieces for a new era of Twins baseball: Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and Taylor Rogers are up-and-comers who could rack up a lot of value as they enter their primes.
- White Sox: 2010 (55.3 bWAR) – Chris Sale carries the 2010 class for the South Siders, by far the best draftee in an otherwise mediocre string of years for Chicago. That said, 2010 yielded a couple of other role players for the White Sox, with Addison Reed, Jake Petricka, and Tyler Saladino all making nice MLB contributions.
- Yankees: 2006 (69.4 bWAR) – Whereas many teams’ success in a given year is determined by one standout player, the Yankees’ installment on this list displays a surprising breadth of quality players, without a single superstar. Evidently, the 2006 Yankees cornered the market on MLB relievers: Ian Kennedy, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon, and Joba Chamberlain are the five most productive players from the Bombers’ draft that year (granted, Kennedy didn’t transition to the bullpen until last year).
The Athletics decided last week that they wouldn’t pay their minor league players their $400 weekly stipend as of June 1. Oakland was the only club to make that choice, and it naturally didn’t go over well. Now, in the wake of the vast criticism they’ve received, the A’s are doing a 180. Owner John Fisher told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday that not only will the A’s pay their minor leaguers for the first week of June, but they’ll continue to receive weekly pay through the end of the scheduled minor league season.
“I’ve listened to our fans and others, and there is no question that this is the right thing to do,” Fisher said to Slusser. “We clearly got this decision wrong. These players represent our future and we will immediately begin paying our minor-league players. I take responsibility and I’m making it right.”
Additionally, while many major league teams have been releasing droves of minor leaguers, Fisher informed Slusser that the A’s have not discussed doing so. The club will also set up an emergency assistance fund for the employees it has furloughed, Slusser reports. The A’s recently furloughed more than half of their employees through the end of October, but Fisher credited those individuals for their loyalty and added, “It felt like the right thing to do was to set up a fund to support them.”
Checking in on a few MLB teams…
- Athletics owner John J. Fisher made the widely panned decision last week to stop paying minor leaguers at the end of May. Industry sources told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle they’re of the belief that “the front office was tremendously disappointed” in A’s ownership’s call. It’s a choice that Slusser notes could have a negative effect on the A’s after next week’s five-round draft, as various minor leaguers and agents told Slusser the A’s would not be their No. 1 choice. However, as Slusser writes, Oakland still has a chance to land talent if it’s willing to pay enough, and if it presents the best opportunity to the player.
- With no season underway yet, the Phillies are in cost-cutting mode. Owner John Middleton told full-time employees in an email Monday that the team’s projecting losses of “substantially more than $100 million” in 2020, Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. As a result, anyone in the team’s business department who’s on a $90K salary or above must take a pay cut. The Phillies will continue to provide health insurance, pension and 401(k) benefits to their full-time staff. However, because there may not be fans in the stands this year, the team’s facing “an enormous financial challenge” according to Middleton, who wrote that “approximately 40% of our total annual revenue is generated by attendance — tickets, food and merchandise concessions, parking and sponsorships.” Of course, the lack of fans is one of the reasons the owners have pushed for a far smaller schedule this year. They and the players have not been on the same wavelength in negotiations, though.
- Teams are expected to have a few extra rosters if there is a season in 2020. Between that and likely a lack of a minor league campaign, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News has been profiling Yankees pitching prospects who could get to the majors sooner than expected this year. Right-handers Deivi Garcia (link) and Clarke Schmidt (link) are among them. Garcia (No. 3) ranks a bit below Schmidt (No. 2) on Baseball America’s list of Yankees farmhands, and the scouts Ackert spoke with are optimistic they’ll turn into capable major league contributors.
- The Mets have reopened their spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to players for the first time since late March, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com writes. Four to six players, including catcher Wilson Ramos, have resumed training at the facility. It’s an encouraging sign that they’re getting back to work, though DiComo points out that the players must follow “MLB, CDC, and local and state safety protocols.”