Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle takes an interesting look at the future of the Athletics’ baseball operations and field leadership. She cites “increasing speculation in baseball circles and among those who know the A’s higher-ups” that the existing combination of VP of baseball ops Billy Beane, GM David Forst, and manager Bob Melvin may not be maintained past the 2019 campaign. The club is not obligated contractually beyond next season to Beane or Melvin, with the notable exception of Beane’s small stake in the team itself — a potential future wrinkle to keep in mind. Forst’s contract status is not publicly known. As Slusser explains, there’s a general sense that change is afoot in Oakland, though the direction (let alone the outcome) is not yet clear. It’s a worthwhile examination of the A’s organization that you’ll want to read for yourself to appreciate fully.
- Athletics closer Blake Treinen is “likely to be available,” Cafardo writes in a separate piece. The A’s aren’t under pressure to move Treinen, who’s controllable via arbitration through 2020 and on a cheap salary ($2.15MM) this season. But both Treinen’s team control and his excellent pitching will make him a sought-after piece if Oakland does show a willingness to move him. The 29-year-old has been a premier reliever this season over a 32-inning span, during which he has logged a 1.13 ERA with 10.41 K/9, 2.81 BB/9 and a 49.4 percent groundball rate. Treinen has also converted 14 of 16 save opportunities.
The Athletics have made a series of roster moves in advance of today’s game against the Angels. The club’s PR department announced that third baseman Matt Chapman has been placed on the DL with a right thumb contusion, retroactive to yesterday. In a related move, the club has recalled infielder Franklin Barreto. Right-hander Josh Lucas has also been recalled, with fellow righty Carlos Ramirez headed to Triple-A in order to make room on the active roster.
As the PR department mentions in the above link, Chapman had played in all 69 of the A’s games prior to today. He’s hit 10 homers on the year and is batting .250/.346/.447. Chapman was hit by a pitch on the hand in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Astros. Because he remained in the game, it seemed at the time as though the injury wasn’t serious, but his placement on the DL says otherwise.
Barreto, meanwhile, will be up for his third bout with the MLB club this season. Long considered one of the organization’s top prospects, the young infielder has managed just a .182/.241/.325 batting line across 83 career plate appearances at the major-league level, striking out a catastrophic 43.4% of the time. He’s still just 22, however, so there’s still plenty of room for optimism surrounding his growth and development.
Lucas has been used in an intriguing capacity so far this year, having pitched at least two full innings in three of his four appearances on the season (only one start). He owns a 2.89 ERA across his 9 1/3 innings, with ten strikeouts against five walks. It’s not at all far-fetched to think that he’s simply up as a fresh arm to provide cavalry to an exhausted bullpen, as A’s starters have averaged fewer than four innings per start across the club’s past four games.
Here are the day’s deals of note from the top few rounds of the draft (rankings referenced are courtesy of Baseball America, MLB.com, Fangraphs and ESPN’s Keith Law — with the scouting reports from MLB and Fangraphs both coming free to the general public) …
- Athletics second-round pick Jeremy Eierman will receive a $1,232,000 bonus, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). That’s well over the $872,400 slot value that came with the 70th pick. The Missouri State produce drew big grades from BA (#26) and MLB.com (#29) as the top collegiate shortstop, with both a history of productivity and an intriguing power/speed offensive profile for a player who could potentially stick at shortstop. Analysts also note that an offensive downturn in the just-completed season introduced new questions about his long-term outlook.
- The Cubs are in agreement with second-round pick Brennen Davis on a $1.1MM bonus, Callis reports on Twitter. That checks in just north of the 62nd pick’s $1,060,900 allocation. Davis ranked 81st on the Fangraphs board, with physical tools and projection driving the outfielder’s draft standing. He had been committed to the University of Miami.
- The Padres will pay out $2.6MM to land supplemental first-round choice Xavier Edwards, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis (Twitter link). A consensus first-round talent, Edwards went 38th overall ($1,878,300 allocation) and required a well-over-slot bonus to give up his commitment to Vanderbilt. Fangraphs was the highest outlet on the Florida high-schooler, ranking him 17th among all eligible players based upon his outstanding speed, quality bat, and promising outlook as an up-the-middle defender.
- The Rays have deals in place with compensation selection Nick Schnell and competitive balance Round B choice Tanner Dodson, according to reports from Callis (Twitter links) and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (also on Twitter). Schnell will receive $2.3MM; the high-school outfielder was chosen with the 32nd overall pick, which comes with a $2,171,700 slot value. He’s credited with a quality tool set and what MLB.com calls an “extremely projectable frame.” Tampa Bay will save some money on Dodson, whose $997,500 bonus falls shy of the $1,228,000 slot value at #71. He’s valued most as a power pitcher but is also said to have legitimate talent as a switch-hitting outfielder, which could give the Rays another multi-functional prospect to work with.
- Second-round choice Nick Sandlin will go to the Indians for $750K, Callis tweets, which will leave some savings against the $939,700 pick allocation. With the signing, the Cleveland organization will add a highly effective collegiate hurler who is known less for his pure stuff than for his wide pitch mix and use of varied arm angles. Sandlin cracked the top 100 list of the Fangraphs team and landed within the top 200 draft prospects as graded by Baseball America and MLB.com. It certainly seems he’ll be an interesting player to follow as a professional.
- Athletics righty Trevor Cahill hasn’t seen any improvement in his ailing Achilles tendon and is likely headed to the disabled list, manager Bob Melvin told reporters Tuesday afternoon (Twitter links via Jane Lee of MLB.com). If that likely outcome does come to pass, then right-hander Chris Bassitt will “certainly be the first option” to step into Cahill’s spot in the rotation, the skipper adds. Cahill, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.75MM late in Spring Training after Jharel Cotton went down with Tommy John surgery, has been excellent when healthy enough to take the hill for the A’s. In 48 2/3 innings, he’s notched a 2.77 ERA with 47 punchouts against 11 walks.
- The Athletics have a deal in place with second-rounder Jameson Hannah, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). He’ll take home a $1.8MM bonus, a fair bit north of the $1,414,200 allocation that came with the 50th overall selection. Coming into the draft, MLB.com was by far the most bullish outlet on Hannah, grading the Dallas Baptist product as the 32nd-best player available. He’s said to possess outstanding speed, some decent power projection, and a solid hit tool at the plate along with the chops to play center.
- The Athletics have agreed to terms with 26 of their draft picks, as per a team press release. The highest-selected of these players was second-rounder Jameson Hannah, a center fielder from Dallas Baptist University. No financial terms were announced, though the 50th overall pick carries a $1,414,200 slot value. Hannah was rated between 32nd (from MLB.com) and 60th (Fangraphs) in the prospect rankings, receiving praise for his excellent speed and strong contact at the plate. Evaluators aren’t sure, however, whether Hannah’s contact skills will eventually lead to more power. It’s worth noting that first-rounder Kyler Murray was not included in Oakland’s list of completed draft signings, as though the two sides reportedly agreed to terms earlier this week, though no official contract had been signed at the time.
FRIDAY: Murray will receive $4.66MM, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter), which checks in just below the $4,761,500 slot value. The sides have yet to put pen to paper, Callis notes.
WEDNESDAY: The Athletics have reached a deal with No. 9 overall draft pick Kyler Murray, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The agreement will guarantee Murray close to $5MM and allow Murray to play quarterback at Oklahoma for one year, per Heyman. Murray, one of the country’s top multi-sport athletes, could step up as the Sooners’ starting quarterback in place of Baker Mayfield, who was selected with the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Of course, Murray is hardly a slouch when it comes to the baseball diamond. Oakland selected the center fielder ninth overall, and scouting reports on him indicate that he has plus-plus speed in addition to promising bat speed the potential for average or better power, though he’s less polished than many college bats given that he has yet to fully commit to baseball.
Heading into the draft, Fangraphs ranked Murray as the No. 20 prospect in this year’s class, while ESPN’s Keith Law tabbed him 35th, MLB.com pegged him 36th and Baseball America rated him No. 77 among available prospects. Murray, who has yet to turn 21 years of age, is coming off a season in which he hit .296/.398/.556 with 10 homers and 10 steals in 51 games. His slot comes with an assigned pick value of $4,761,500, so it seems that his agreement with the A’s will pay him at that level or perhaps a bit more.
It’s an interesting arrangement for Murray, who’ll lose NCAA eligibility in baseball but (clearly) not in football now that he’s agreed to a deal with a Major League organization. The agreement points to the likelihood that Murray’s future lies on the diamond and not on the gridiron, though it’s sure to be a complex arrangement. It’s not known at this time what sort of contingencies are in place in the event that Murray incurs a severe injury while playing football, though it seems likely that the A’s will have some form of safeguards in place, given the size of their investment in Murray and the level of risk that comes with allowing him to play NCAA football.
June 7: Jackson’s deal has a $1.5MM base salary at the big league level, tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link).
June 6: Veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson and the Athletics are in agreement on a minor league contract, Jackson’s agents at the ESQ Agency have confirmed to MLBTR. The 34-year-old recently exercised an opt-out clause in his previous minor league pact with the Nationals and became a free agent. It seems that the A’s will need to make a relatively quick decision on Jackson, as his new deal comes with a June 20 opt-out date.
Jackson pitched well for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse this season, logging a 3.40 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 41.7 percent ground-ball rate in 55 2/3 innings (a total of 10 starts). The well-traveled righty totaled 76 innings for the Nats at the MLB level in 2017, turning in mixed results. Jackson recorded a 2.94 ERA through his first eight starts last year but surrendered nine home runs through those 49 frames. The long ball caught up to him, as he was tagged for 24 earned runs in his final 22 innings of work. Jackson did maintain solid velocity on his heater (93.5 mph) and check in with a healthy 10.1 percent swinging-strike rate in 2017.
If Jackson sees any MLB time with the A’s, he’ll lay claim to an interesting oddity in MLB record books. The veteran righty has pitched in the Majors for 12 different clubs at present, leaving him one team shy of tying Octavio Dotel’s record of 13. Dating back to the 2003 season, Jackson has pitched in 377 MLB contests, tallying 1800 1/3 inning of 4.67 ERA ball with 6.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 43.7 percent grounder rate. He’s two wins shy of reaching the century mark for his career.
[Related: Oakland Athletics depth chart]
The depth addition comes at a time when the A’s have already lost righty Jharel Cotton for the season due to Tommy John surgery and have recently placed both Andrew Triggs (nerve irritation) and Daniel Gossett (elbow strain) on the disabled list. Righty Paul Blackburn and lefty Brett Anderson, too, are on the big league disabled list for the A’s. Given the glut of injuries in the Oakland rotation picture and the close proximity of Jackson’s opt-out date, it seems there’s a decent chance he’ll ascend to the Majors with the A’s in the coming weeks.
The Athletics announced a series of roster moves Thursday, activating righty Paul Blackburn from the 60-day DL and transferring outfielder Boog Powell from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL in his place. To make room on the active roster for Blackburn, who’ll start tonight’s game, Oakland optioned catcher Bruce Maxwell to Triple-A Nashville.
Maxwell became a controversial figure last season as the first (and still only) MLB player to take a knee during the National Anthem, but he received quite a bit more negative attention months later when he was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. (He reached a plea agreement in mid-April.) While the Athletics front office publicly voiced support for Maxwell as a player, the team also went out and signed Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year deal, supplanting Maxwell as the starter.
Thus far, that looks to have been a wise move. Maxwell didn’t hit much in two previous seasons with the A’s, and he’s off to a dismal .182/.207/.309 start to the season, albeit in a small sample of just 58 plate appearances. Lucroy, meanwhile, has posted a solid .263/.320/.359 slash, though that respectable production is still light years away from his peak form. He’ll continue to handle the bulk of the catching duties, and it seems that Josh Phegley will now serve as his primary backup for the time being.
Blackburn, meanwhile, has yet to pitch in the Majors this season due to a forearm strain suffered in Spring Training. Now healthy, he’ll look to step up in an injury-plagued Athletics rotation that has lost Jharel Cotton for the season and currently has Andrew Triggs, Daniel Gossett and Brett Anderson on the MLB disabled list.
Blackburn delivered mixed results for the A’s in 10 starts last season. On the one hand, he posted a very strong 3.22 ERA with a terrific 56.3 percent ground-ball rate and just 2.45 walks per nine innings pitched in 58 2/3 innings. On the other hand, he missed fewer bats than any pitcher in MLB, averaging just 3.38 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and turning in a 5.8 percent swinging-strike rate. Fielding independent pitching metrics all felt his true talent level was more than a run higher, with SIERA most bearishly pegging him at 5.15.
As for Powell, he’s been out since early April with a sprained right knee. He’s already missed nearly two full months of action and has yet to go out on a minor league rehab assignment, so today’s transfer is purely a procedural move to open a 40-man spot for Blackburn. Powell has already spent 60 days on the DL anyhow, and the move to the lengthier DL doesn’t reset his eligibility for activation.