Oakland Athletics – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-11-13T17:59:02Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 11/13/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137230 2018-11-13T14:01:50Z 2018-11-13T14:01:50Z We’ll use this post to track the latest minor moves from around the game …

  • The Athletics have reached a deal to bring back catcher Beau Taylor, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). Thus ends a brief foray onto the open market for the 28-year-old, who was outrighted and became a minor-league free agent recently. Taylor made it up to the majors in 2018 just long enough to record his first hit, but he’s still hunting a second.Odds are he’ll head back to the Triple-A level, where he spent almost all of the 2018 season. Through 519 career plate appearances at the highest level of the minors, the former fifth-round pick has a .261/.364/.363 batting line.
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Ty Bradley <![CDATA[AL West Notes: Correa, A’s, Beltre]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137055 2018-11-10T21:20:03Z 2018-11-10T20:59:11Z Astros shortstop Carlos Correa announced today at a team benefit that he underwent surgery to repair a deviated septum last Monday.  The nasal affliction, said the 24-year-old, was inhibiting his ability to breathe normally, especially when running the bases.  Arguably the centerpiece of the team’s 2017 championship run, the former #1 overall pick slumped to a career-worst .239/.323/.405 games last season.  He especially struggled in the season’s second half, posting a putrid 45 wRC+ and 24% hard contact rate over 133 PA following a return from the DL after a bout of lower back soreness.  During multiple gatherings with the reporters on a crusty Minute Maid Park surface, the former Rookie of the Year made no effort to draw a nexus between the respiratory issues and his poor performance, but did note that he doesn’t expect to have surgery to address the lower-back ailment, with the Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith tweeting that the shortstop is “doing well” right now.

In other news from around the division . . .

  • On the heels of a wildly successful 2018 season, the A’s have announced changes to the team’s player development program, reports The Athletic’s Melissa Lockard. The club, apparently, is piggybacking on recent trends in the rookie-level Arizona League, where select teams – namely, the Padres, Indians, Cubs, and Giants – have added a second ’affiliate’ to compete in the league.  In this case, it seems the move is an effort to acclimate newly-signed international players to the American way of life (and professional baseball in the country) at a far more rapid rate than in the past.  Eddie Menchaca, who managed the lone AZL affiliate for the club last year, will reprise his role as manager for one of the teams, in addition to fulfilling his newly-appointed duties as Latin American player development supervisor.  The club’s farm, responsible in no small part for the team’s periodic, oft-unforeseen success over the last two decades, is ranked middle-of-the-pack in Baseball America’s latest update.
  • Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News cites a source “close” to Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre in declaring that a decision on the 39-year-old’s future could come “within a week or so.”  Beltre, of course, is deeply contemplating retirement, with a recent report by FanCred’s Jon Heyman noting that “the belief” is that the 21-year-veteran is leaning in that direction. If he is to return, Beltre seems to have given conflicting directives in the way of his future, with Grant noting that the Ranger dignitary “would like” to return to Texas but is most interested in playing for a contending team, of which category the 2019 Rangers are decidedly unlikely to fall into.  The article, which details possible positional alignments for the 2019 club, in addition to revelatory quotes from GM Jon Daniels, is well worth a full read for Ranger fans of all sorts.
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Market Notes: Yankees, Padres, Gray, Athletics, Cards]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136895 2018-11-10T04:14:13Z 2018-11-10T04:14:13Z With the GM Meetings now wrapped up, the stage is set for the offseason action to get underway. Of course, we’re still waiting for some significant dominoes to fall … and everyone involved is no doubt curious to see how this year’s market will develop after the 2017-18 dud. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports cites some warning signs on spending levels; readers interested in the higher-level picture will want to give his reasoning a look.

While we wait for some hard data points to be set down, the just-completed meetings left quite a few rumors. We’ve covered many over the past several days; here are a few more worthy of note:

  • Though the Yankees seem unsettled at first base, Jon Heyman of Fancred reports that they haven’t reached out to the Diamondbacks on slugger Paul Goldschmidt. The potential rental slugger, one of the game’s steadiest offensive producers, is reportedly on the trading block. While the Yankees got stunning production from Luke Voit over a brief stretch late last year, and still have Greg Bird on hand, it wouldn’t be surprising if they sought to add a bigger piece.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Bronx organization seems fixated first on pitching. Beyond its free agent targets, the club is looking into the biggest possible names on the trade market. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that the Yanks have opened a line of communication with the Mariners on James Paxton. And the New York delegation to the GM Meetings met with their peers from the Indians, per Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter), with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco both covered in conversation. It obviously isn’t at all surprising to hear that the Yankees have checked in on these distinguished hurlers, but it’s nevertheless a notable bit of information as the market continues to develop.
  • There are quite a few possibilities for the Padres, writes Dennis Lin of The Athletic (subscription link), as the organization is feeling a need to show some real strides in the win-loss department. We’ve heard chatter recently about the desire for a young starter and the series of potential trade pieces, but Lin’s most interesting notes seem to focus on the left side of the infield. Manny Machado is not seen internally as a realistic target, with Freddy Galvis still under consideration at short. If the team really wants to push things forward, though, Galvis or another veteran may only warm the seat up for top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. At third, Josh Donaldson does not appear to be the first name on the club’s list of targets. Rather, says Lin, the current plan is to seek a new third baseman via trade.
  • So, where have the Padres set their sights for a third baseman? There aren’t many obviously available options that would figure to represent everyday pieces. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently, though, that the Pads are interested in pursuing Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who recently posted a big campaign on the heels of what now looks to be quite a team-friendly extension. Given the Cincinnati organization’s inclination to begin pushing toward contention, that seems like a tough deal to swing for Padres GM A.J. Preller.
  • Acee also tabs the Padres as a suitor for Yankees righty Sonny Gray, who’s being openly marketed. Whether Gray would be seen as fulfilling the club’s rotation needs, or rather serving as a potential complement to a more significant addition, isn’t clear. There are other teams with interest in Gray, of course. Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, at least five organizations have inquired, and it wouldn’t be surprising to hear of more. Among those contemplating a move is Gray’s former employer. The Athletics evidently think their former staff ace could bounce back in Oakland, per Jon Heyman of Fancred. Of course, it remains to be seen how much the A’s will be willing to stake on a turnaround. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand hears that at least five teams have inquired with the Yankees on Gray’s availability — the A’s presumably among them. Gray is projected to top $9MM in arbitration earnings this winter, but he thrived away from Yankee Stadium last season and had plenty of encouraging secondary metrics beyond his rudimentary ERA.
  • We’ve heard recently that the Cardinals intend to explore the relief market, with one southpaw on the team’s priority list. Accordingly, it’s no surprise to hear that the club is among the many teams to show early interest in veteran lefty Andrew Miller, as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets. Miller is drawing interest after getting some good news on his knee, so there’ll be no shortage of competition. At this point, it’s entirely unclear where he’ll end up.
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Athletics Add Kouzmanoff, Crosby, Smith To Minor League Coaching Ranks]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136952 2018-11-09T18:22:31Z 2018-11-09T03:06:09Z
  • The Athletics announced their player development staff for the upcoming season, and there are a few familiar names joining the minor league coaching ranks. Former big league third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff has been named the hitting coach for Oakland’s Short-Season Class-A affiliate in Vermont — his first professional coaching assignment. Meanwhile, 2004 AL Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby will be a general coach on the Double-A Midland staff. And former big league righty Chris Smith, whose career came to a close after pitching for the 2017 A’s, will embark on his coaching career by serving as the organization’s pitching coach for Class-A Advanced Stockton.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Forst On Athletics' Offseason]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136809 2018-11-07T22:47:23Z 2018-11-07T22:46:49Z The Athletics will boost their payroll in 2019, but general manager David Forst tells John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that there’s no set number following meetings with ownership. Oakland needs to address its rotation, second base and catcher situations, but Forst cautions that the A’s aren’t “going to shock anyone with huge deals.” Shea writes that while deals for Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel won’t come together for the A’s, they’ll still be active in searching for upgrades. As for second base and catcher, the latter of the two is a more pressing urge for Oakland. Forst explains that the presence of Franklin Barreto as an MLB-ready option creates less urgency at second base than at catcher, where Sean Murphy, a fellow well-regarded prospect, is a bit further from the Majors.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Athletics Interested In Edwin Jackson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136795 2018-11-07T18:59:39Z 2018-11-07T17:20:58Z
  • The Athletics have interest in a reunion with Edwin Jackson, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link). The 35-year-old still managed to average better than 94 mph on his four-seam fastball and got good results from a cutter that became his most-used pitch. One would think he will have multiple suitors after throwing 92 innings of 3.33 ERA ball, though the interest will be tempered by less-than-exciting peripherals (6.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, 36.4% GB) that left ERA estimators rather unimpressed by his 2018 effort (4.65 FIP, 4.88 xFIP, 4.98 SIERA). The Oakland organization secured excellent results from several bounceback hurlers this year and will surely weigh retaining at least some of them, even as it also seeks new possibilities.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Jed Lowrie Hires Excel Sports Management]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136628 2018-11-05T17:36:03Z 2018-11-05T17:33:43Z Free-agent infielder Jed Lowrie is now represented by agent Casey Close of Excel Sports Management, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. He’d previously been a client of Brodie Van Wagenen and CAA Sports, but Van Wagenen’s decision to accept the position as the new general manager of the Mets sent Lowrie in search of new representation.

    Lowrie, 35 in April, is the first of what could be several agency switches coming in the wake of Van Wagenen’s stunning appointment as the new GM in Queens. In shifting from CAA/Van Wagenen to Excel/Close, he’ll be jumping from one major agency/agent to another. Close is among the highest-profile agents in the industry, representing names like Derek Jeter, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Jason Heyward, Masahiro TanakaDexter Fowler and many more.

    The switch-hitting Lowrie is coming off the best two-year stretch of a fine 11-year MLB career, having batted a combined .272/.356/.448 with 37 homers, 86 doubles and four triples in 1325 plate appearances over the past two seasons with the Athletics. While both Lowrie and the Athletics organization have made mutual interest in a reunion publicly known, there’s yet to be a new agreement brokered between the two sides. Of course, as Rosenthal points out, the fact that Lowrie has been in the process of finding a new agent — to say nothing of the fact that his former agent was going through an intense interview process — has likely slowed things down.

    While Lowrie has indicated that he’d like to return to the A’s, however, he’ll surely find a robust market in free agency. He’s a versatile defender capable of handling three infield spots, including terrific defense at second base, making him appealing to a wide number of clubs. Beyond the A’s, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see any of the Angels, Twins, Indians, Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals, Mets, Brewers, Cubs, Rockies or Dodgers (among others) at least explore the possibility of adding Lowrie into their infield rotations.

    Lowrie’s change in representation, along with any subsequent changes stemming from Van Wagenen’s career change, can be viewed in MLBTR’s Agency Database. If you see any notable errors or omissions, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Athletics Outright Beau Taylor]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136615 2018-11-05T15:09:41Z 2018-11-05T15:09:41Z The Athletics have outrighted catcher Beau Taylor off the 40-man roster, as first noted on the Pacific Coast League transactions page. The 2011 fifth-round pick is now a free agent, as his initial minor league contract has expired. The A’s have 34 players on their 40-man roster.

    Taylor, 29 in February, made his big league debut in 2018 and went 1-for-5 with a double and a walk in seven plate appearances. While the seven games in which he appeared this year represent the entirety of his MLB experience to date, Taylor has shown strong on-base skills in the upper minors, hitting .261/.364/.363 with a 13.5 percent walk rate against a 23.3 percent strikeout clip in Triple-A across the past two seasons. Defensively, he’s been a bit below average in terms of throwing out would-be base thieves (24 percent) but has generally drawn average or better framing marks dating back to the 2014 season.

    With Taylor now off the 40-man roster and Jonathan Lucroy hitting free agency, the only remaining backstop on the Oakland 40-man roster is Josh Phegley. The A’s have a well-regarded prospect looming on the horizon in the form of Sean Murphy, but he’s only played three games at the Triple-A level and is likely viewed as a prospect in need of additional development. Additional help behind the plate figures to be an area of focus for the A’s this winter.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Offseason Outlook: Oakland Athletics]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135209 2018-11-05T17:33:16Z 2018-11-05T03:59:29Z MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams.  Click here to read the other entries in this series.

    The 2018 season was a resounding success for the Athletics, who entered the campaign as underdogs but ended it as one of the majors’ premier teams. Despite opening the season with baseball’s lowest payroll, the Athletics notched the sport’s fourth-most wins (97) and earned their first playoff berth since 2014. The postseason was a one-off for the Athletics, whom the Yankees bounced in the American League wild-card game, but it’s obvious the franchise came a long way this past year. Now, with the A’s looking to build an even better club for 2019, they’re set to increase payroll, as just-extended executive vice president Billy Beane announced this week. Of course, with the A’s still at least a few years away from potentially opening a new ballpark in Oakland, it may be unrealistic to expect their payroll to make a substantial near-term jump.

    Guaranteed Contracts

    • Stephen Piscotty, OF: $29.5MM through 2022 (includes buyout of 2023 club option)
    • Yusmeiro Petit, RP: $6.5MM through 2019 (includes buyout of 2020 club option)

    Arbitration-Eligible Players (projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

    Contract Options

    Free Agents

    [Athletics Offseason Depth Chart | Athletics Payroll Information]

    Here’s a statement which would have seemed believable in, say, 2010 instead of 2018: A team which saw Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Edwin Jackson total at least 17 starts apiece made the playoffs. Amazingly, Oakland accomplished that this past season after grabbing Cahill, Anderson and Jackson off the scrapheap. All three of those pitchers’ halcyon days were supposedly long gone, but each paid dividends for an A’s team whose starting staff dealt with a horrific rash of injuries, including to No. 1 option Sean Manaea and promising youngsters A.J. Puk and Jharel Cotton, among many others. Manaea easily led the A’s in innings (160 2/3) and ERA (3.59), but his season ended Aug. 24 because of a shoulder injury/surgery that could keep him out for all of 2019. Meanwhile, both Puk and Cotton missed the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and they’re also likely to sit out some portion of next year.

    Because of the injuries to Manaea, Puk and Cotton, not to mention the fact that Cahill, Anderson and Jackson are now free agents, questions abound in the A’s rotation. Unsurprisingly, it’s a major area of concern for Beane, who said this week that he and general manager David Forst – who, along with manager Bob Melvin, also just received an extension – want to “create a starting pitching group that Bob can rely on every day.”

    Piecing together a reliable starting group was an extremely difficult task for the A’s in 2018, which led them to deploy the “opener” on several occasions, including in their playoff loss to the Yankees. Veteran reliever Liam Hendriks was the main pick in such situations, totaling eight “starts” in September. With the exception of a subpar playoff showing, Hendriks pitched brilliantly in those short outings, thereby salvaging his season just a couple months after the A’s cut him from their 40-man roster. The 29-year-old is now among the A’s arbitration-eligible players, and it’s unclear whether they’ll retain him or how they’ll utilize Hendriks if they keep him. Whether it’s Hendriks or another pitcher(s), Oakland could take a page out of the 2018 Rays’ playbook and use an opener on a regular basis for the majority of the season, which would slightly lessen the need to acquire traditional starting pitchers over the winter.

    Of course, even if the A’s do continue rolling with that unorthodox strategy next season, they’d still need more help. After all, the unspectacular Mike Fiers – acquired from Detroit in August – looks like the most proven healthy starter they have. The 33-year-old did good work during his two-month stint in Oakland in 2018, but he’s more of a mid- to back-end arm than a front-line type. Fiers also won’t be cheap in 2019, but given the uncertainty throughout the A’s rotation, he seems more likely than not to stick with the club.

    Beyond Fiers, Oakland’s top healthy options look to be Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt. All three were reasonably effective last season, but each carry limited track records in the majors. Lefty Jesus Luzardo has never appeared in the bigs, on the other hand, but the 21-year-old is one of Oakland’s best hopes to find an ace from within. While Luzardo has only combined for 94 2/3 innings above the Single-A level, he’s regarded as a stud prospect, and Forst recently suggested he could vie for a starting spot with the A’s as soon as spring training.

    No matter what happens with Luzardo in camp, it’s clear the A’s will have to augment their rotation from the outside prior to then. The question is whether they have the financial flexibility to make headline-grabbing moves. Including arbitration projections, the A’s are already looking at an Opening Day payroll of more than $86MM, Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource estimates. They began last season just under $66MM, and they’ve only gone past $86MM once (in 2016). The A’s could create spending room by non-tendering some players and perhaps extending expensive designated hitter Khris Davis in order to lower his 2019 salary. However, even if those scenarios come to fruition, it’s tough to envision them being in position to splurge on anyone.

    The good news is that Beane and Forst proved they could bargain hunt on the starting pitching market recently with the additions of Cahill, Anderson and Jackson (plus Rich Hill in 2016). And looking at this year’s class of free-agent starters, there’s no shortage of available veterans who a.) have been successful and b.) won’t break the bank. A few of the many names include CC Sabathia (a Bay Area native), Lance Lynn, Derek Holland (Bay Area ties from spending 2018 with the Giants), Ervin Santana, Clay Buchholz and former Athletics Gio Gonzalez, Drew Pomeranz and Tyson Ross. On paper, nobody from that group is all that exciting, but they could be effective, affordable options for Oakland to pursue in free agency. Alternatively, the A’s may seek higher-upside types via trade.

    Even though he bombed as a member of the Yankees, who acquired him from the Athletics in July 2017, a reunion with Sonny Gray could make sense. The Yankees are all but guaranteed to sell low on the soon-to-be 29-year-old Gray, who pitched well outside of New York in 2018 and who’s projected to earn $9.1MM next season. If the A’s want to go bigger than Gray, perhaps they’ll make a push for a member of the Indians’ stellar trio of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. Cleveland will reportedly listen to offers for each of those hurlers, but because all three are fantastic and relatively inexpensive, the Tribe would demand bounties for any of them. With that in mind, it’s worth noting the A’s farm system sits a middle-of-the-pack 15th in Baseball America’s latest rankings. They probably wouldn’t be in the catbird seat with regard to acquiring any of the Indians’ aces, then.

    There are fewer pressing issues elsewhere on the A’s roster, but they aren’t devoid of concerns. While most of the A’s terrific, Blake Treinen-led bullpen remains intact, they could lose two important pieces from it in Jeurys Familia and Shawn Kelley, who are now free agents. Meantime, on the position player side, their biggest questions are at catcher and second base, where their 2018 starters are also free agents.

    At the keystone, Jed Lowrie has been an extension target for the A’s since at least the summer. Oakland wasn’t able to lock the 34-year-old up before the market opened, but it still seems to want him back. Considering Lowrie was among the majors’ most valuable second basemen from 2017-18, that’s not surprising. But the A’s will have to consider his age and injury history, not to mention the presence of intriguing youngster Franklin Barreto, when determining how much they’re willing to pay Lowrie. In the event Lowrie walks, Oakland could simply turn second over to the soon-to-be 23-year-old Barreto – who, despite posting palatable production in the majors and minors, struck out and walked at untenable rates from 2017-18 – or add one of the many veteran stopgaps available in free agency as a fallback.

    The A’s took the veteran stopgap route behind the plate an offseason ago, signing Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year, $6.5MM deal. Lucroy’s a free agent again as a result, and it’s possible the A’s will bring him back on another short-term agreement. Lucroy, 32, is nowhere near the player he used to be, though he seemed to fit in nicely with the Athletics in 2018. Aside from Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos, each of whom should be out of the A’s price range, free agency’s lacking in game-changing backstops. That could lead the A’s to at least kick the tires on baseball’s best catcher from 2018, J.T. Realmuto, whom the Marlins figure to trade this winter. However, as is the case with the aforementioned Indians starters, acquiring Realmuto would mean surrendering a haul. As such, the A’s may be more inclined to go with a Lucroy type and continue waiting for 24-year-old catching prospect Sean Murphy, who could arrive in the majors sometime next season.

    While catcher and second base are clearly the A’s biggest problem areas among their position players, there’s an argument that they should also add to their outfield. However, they’re already crowded out there, and most of the returnees acquitted themselves well in 2018.

    The A’s most established outfielder is right fielder Stephen Piscotty, one of their shrewdest acquisitions from last winter. Center fielder Ramon Laureano was also an impact pickup from an offseason ago, but his addition came with much less fanfare than Piscotty’s. Laureano joined the A’s via waivers from the division-rival Astros in November, and he surprisingly went on to emerge as a standout during a 176-plate appearance campaign. Along with playing tremendous defense, the righty-swinger held his own against same-handed pitchers and lefties alike, creating hope that he can be an everyday starter for the long haul. The unheralded trio of Mark Canha, Chad Pinder and Nick Martini also proved to be tough outs, and the A’s may be confident they’ll deftly hold down left field in 2019. There’s also Dustin Fowler, whom the A’s acquired in the Gray deal. Fowler, 23, had a difficult rookie year, though in fairness, it was his first action since he suffered a brutal knee injury while with the Yankees in 2017.

    Evidenced in part by their outfield, there should once again be plenty to like about the A’s cast of position players in 2019. Superstar third baseman Matt Chapman – whom the A’s may try to extend – will continue to be their franchise player, while Davis, first baseman Matt Olson, shortstop Marcus Semien and at least a couple outfielders represent quality complements who remain on hand. The bullpen also continues to look formidable, leaving the A’s shaky starting rotation as their most significant issue this offseason. Between the unit’s injuries, its potential free-agent departures and the A’s payroll constraints, Beane and Forst have serious work ahead to turn the staff into a strength prior to next season. If they’re able to achieve that feat, it would go a long way toward helping the A’s stay among baseball’s elite in 2019.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Athletics Exercise Club Option On Fernando Rodney]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136027 2018-10-31T22:20:56Z 2018-10-31T22:20:47Z 5:20pm: MLB.com’s Jane Lee tweets that performance bonuses met by Rodney in 2018 actually increased the value of his option to $5.25MM.

    5:09pm: The Athletics announced that they’ve exercised their club option on right-hander Fernando Rodney. Rodney, who will turn 42 during Spring Training, will earn a $4.25MM base salary next season under the contract.

    The veteran Rodney joined the Athletics in an August waiver trade that sent right-handed pitching prospect Dakota Chalmers to the Twins. He’d opened the season as the closer in Minnesota but served as a setup man to breakout closer Blake Treinen in Oakland, enjoying relative success in both settings (though he did pitch better with the Twins than with the A’s). In all, Rodney turned in a 3.36 ERA with 9.8 K/9 against 4.5 BB/9 in 64 1/3 innings between the two clubs.

    Despite his age, Rodney hasn’t shown much in the way of obvious signs of decline. His average fastball still checked in at a solid 94.2 mph in 2018, while his 11.1 percent swinging-strike rate and 29.2 percent chase rate on out-of-zone pitches were both within striking distance of league average (slightly above average in terms of swinging-strike rate and slightly below on his chase rate). Opponents did up their hard-contact rate against Rodney by a hefty five percent, thanks largely to a notable spike with the A’s.

    Still, Rodney continued to generate results, and his modest price tag made the decision a fairly easy one — especially when considering the continually rising prices of bullpen help in free agency. He’ll return to the A’s alongside Treinen, Lou Trivino, Yusmeiro Petit and Ryan Buchter as part of a quality group of late-inning options for recently extended skipper Bob Melvin.

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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Athletics Announce Contract Extensions For Billy Beane, David Forst, Bob Melvin]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135693 2018-10-30T13:57:38Z 2018-10-29T16:41:46Z The Oakland A’s announced new long-term deals today for Executive VP of Baseball Ops Billy Beane, General Manager David Forst, and Manager Bob Melvin, per a team report.

    Melvin’s deal will take him through 2021 at about $3.5MM per season, which puts him in the upper echelon of managers in terms of yearly salary, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco chronicle, who provides some of the contract details. Forst is now signed through 2023, giving him another four years as the Oakland GM. The length of Beane’s extension is as of yet unknown, though the expectation is that he will be in Oakland for the foreseeable future.

    Extensions were expected for the Oakland trio after a surprising 97-65 record took the team to the Wild Card game versus the Yankees despite fielding a team with the lowest opening day payroll in the league. Faced with those limited resources and a host of injuries, Beane, Forst and Melvin frankensteined together a pitching staff from veteran castoffs and reclamation projects like Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. Together with an offense powered by a defensive third basemen and the most consistent hitter in baseball history, Oakland stormed past the Mariners to place themselves in the elite class of American League contenders. With their braintrust locked in, Oakland has achieved its primary goal of the offseason and can now turn the trio’s attention toward building on their 2018 success and staying atop a crowded AL West.

    Beane was the GM of the A’s for 18 years before the promotion to his current title in 2015. He has been named Executive of the Year twice by Baseball America, twice by The Sporting News, as well as MLB.com’s Greatness in Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) award as the 2012 MLB Executive of the Year. He is most famous, of course, for launching the moneyball era of baseball sabermetrics, but he continues to hunt for and find market inefficiencies that help his Oakland A’s overcome the payroll disparity they face year in and year out. He holds an ownership stake in the A’s, so it seems he is secure in his role running the baseball ops department ad infinitum. Beane signs this new deal as he wraps up the five-year deal he signed back in 2012.

    Melvin is a two-time manager of the year recipient, most recently in 2012 with Oakland. He is third in franchise history with 634 wins, and it’s certainly conceivable that he’ll pass Tony La Russa (798) for second on that list before this new deal is done. Before the extension, Melvin had inked a series of short-term arrangements, including when he and the club agreed to tack on the 2019 season as the 2017 campaign drew to a close. Amazingly, this season’s 22-win improvement is the third time Melvin has led a team to a 20-game improvement. He has been with the A’s since 2011, making the playoffs four times in that span (2012, 2013, 2014, 2018).

    It’s not entirely clear how Forst’s contract situation has been handled in the past, but he has been with the Oakland organization for twenty years. He served for twelve years as the assistant general manager before his promotion to GM four years ago. He may not have as much name recognition as Billy Beane, but Forst has long been a part of the braintrust in Oakland and seems to be, like Beane, an Oakland lifer.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Athletics’ Contract Talks With Melvin, Front Office]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135540 2018-10-26T22:41:26Z 2018-10-26T22:41:26Z As a stunning 2018 campaign drew to a close, it emerged that — rather unsurprisingly — the Athletics intended to pursue a new contract with manager Bob Melvin. But we had yet to really hear anything firm on the outlook for executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane and GM David Forst since some mid-season questions arose.

    The latest indication is that all three are working on new contracts that could be announced in a coordinated fashion. Julian McWilliams of The Athletic reports (subscription links) that a deal with Melvin is all but a foregone conclusion, with “similar extensions” for the front office duo “being hashed out as well.”

    It is not yet clear what kind of term of years might be anticipated, or whether all three will end up on similar timelines. At present, Melvin, Beane, and Forst are each under contract through the 2019 season, but they reached that common terminus through different paths.

    In Melvin’s case, he has inked a series of short-term arrangements. Most recently, he and the club agreed to tack on the 2019 season as the 2017 campaign drew to a close. Beane is wrapping up a five-year deal that he agreed to way back in February of 2012. It’s not entirely clear how Forst’s contract situation has been handled, but it seems reasonable to presume that he is also working on a long-term deal — perhaps dating back to the point that he was promoted in the fall of 2015.

    If all three leaders are indeed extended, they’ll be tasked with overseeing what is hoped to be quite an exciting period in franchise history. The A’s have their work cut out if they are to repeat their 97-win campaign, but certainly have an impressive core of young talent to build around now and for some time to come. Meanwhile, upper management will hope that the on-field excitement helps drive the organization’s efforts to line up a new ballpark and open other revenue sources.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Extension Candidate: Matt Chapman]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135001 2018-10-20T02:59:39Z 2018-10-18T17:39:40Z The chatter started last year as Matt Chapman burst onto the scene for the Athletics. The early returns were impressive. Still, Dave Cameron was seemingly pushing the envelope a bit when he asked in early August whether Chapman could be emerging as a star.

    Of course, as Cameron noted, there was plenty of reason to wonder whether Chapman would really be able to hit enough to profile as a true star. The thrust of the post, really, was that his outstanding glovework made Chapman a potentially excellent player even if he only hit around the league average. From that point in the season, moreover, Chapman’s output at the plate faded, leaving him with a solid but unspectacular 109 wRC+ at season’s end.

    The overall rookie showing was still plenty promising, no doubt. A quality regular on a league-minimum contract for years to come? Sign any team up, especially one that’s somehow still playing in the O.co Coliseum.

    Of course, it still remained to be seen how Chapman would look over a full season in the majors, after opposing pitchers had a chance to adjust. Would his prodigious minor-league strikeout levels be too much to overcome? Would his obvious defensive talent be sufficient to carry him if the bat lagged?

    Consider those questions answered. Put most simply: he finished third in all of baseball in position-player rWAR (8.2) and rated among the top ten by measure of fWAR (6.5).

    With 2018 in the books, the only question left is how much it’d cost the A’s to lock Chapman in for the long run. It’s a question that was already on the minds of the Oakland brass, as the organization reportedly sought to talk about a deal over the 2017-18 offseason. Unfortunately for the club, Chapman and agent Scott Boras declined the opportunity to discuss a contract at that time.

    It could be, then, that discussing Chapman’s value now is mostly an exercise in the hypothetical. But it stands to reason that the A’s will at least try to open the door to talks once again — perhaps with added motivation as they seek to continue the momentum from an exciting 2018 season and keep pushing for a new ballpark. And perhaps Chapman’s camp will show some willingness to consider numbers now that he has set down a marker as a top-end player rather than a target for a cheap pre-arb deal. He is still reasonably youthful, at 25 years of age, but won’t reach arbitration until 2021 and can’t qualify for free agency until the 2024 season — his age-31 campaign.

    A lot can change in the meantime, as Chapman’s just-announced thumb surgery underscores. Fortunately, it seems as if there isn’t any reason to think that procedure will represent an ongoing problem; exactly how it could influence the possibility of a deal isn’t entirely clear, though odds are it won’t be a major factor in any direction.

    In examining Chapman’s merit as a player, there’s frankly not a ton to discuss regarding his glovework. It’s lauded by scouts and stats alike and there’s no real reason to think it’ll fade any time soon. He’s also a solidly graded baserunner even if he isn’t a threat to swipe any bags. The floor, as has long been suspected, is rather lofty. Those skills won’t really pay in arbitration, which is certainly a relevant consideration in contemplating the valuation of a potential extension, but their value isn’t in question.

    The bat is where it’s still interesting to dig in. Even as Chapman’s output sagged some late in 2017, he made a notable improvement in his contact ability. For September and October, Chapman recorded a 21.2% strikeout rate — far superior to what he had shown as a professional to that point. He sustained the improvement in 2018, showing a similar approach to what he exhibited in 2017 but posting a much-improved 8.8% swinging-strike rate.

    Even as he put the bat on the ball more often, ultimately carrying a 23.7% strikeout rate that sits barely above the leaguewide mean, Chapman kept producing power numbers. He finished the season with 24 long balls, a .508 slugging percentage, and .230 isolated slugging mark. With a solid 9.4% walk rate chipping in, Chapman managed a .356 OBP.

    There’s a lot to like here, clearly. Upping his contact rate clearly didn’t prevent Chapman from making good contact. To the contrary, he posted an outstanding 93.0 mph average exit velocity and 47.6% hard-hit rate, according to Statcast. That said, some of the numbers also suggest some cause for skepticism with regard to the sustainability of Chapman’s output. His on-base numbers were boosted by a .338 BABIP — the first time he cleared the .300 barrier as a professional. Chapman’s average launch angle dipped to 14.7 and his groundball rate jumped to 40.3% (well over his minor-league average), perhaps explaining why Statcast credited him with only a .333 xwOBA — well shy of the .370 wOBA he actually recorded.

    Perhaps it’s not a slam dunk that Chapman will produce at a rate thirty percent better than league average for the foreseeable future. But he has already shown more adaptability as a hitter than was generally anticipated and established a fairly significant overall offensive ceiling. If there’s some danger of regression, perhaps there’s also some possibility that Chapman will continue to improve at the plate. Supposing he settles in as a solidly above-average hitter who can’t ever quite fully combine both high-end power and strong on-base ability, Chapman could still easily run off a few more 5-WAR campaigns before he sniffs the open market.

    Let’s get down to some salary numbers, then. Chapman largely matched Nationals star Anthony Rendon in output this year and likely has even greater arbitration earning upside with his potential to drive the ball out of the park. Though Rendon benefited from having originally signed an MLB contract, boosting his first arb salary, his anticipated total of around $35MM in total arbitration earnings seems to be a reasonable ballpark tally for Chapman. Of course, Oakland wouldn’t need to begin paying that for a few more years, during which time the club can pay him no more than it does any other player who happens to be taking up an active roster spot. And Chapman also was a bit slower to reach the majors, limiting his eventual free-agent value. Even if we guess he’ll ultimately command $30MM+ annual salaries in his open-market years, there’s a limit to what the A’s in particular would be willing to promise to lock those seasons in.

    From a practical perspective, then, there’s reason to be skeptical that Chapman warrants anything approaching a nine-figure guarantee. He certainly would scoff at the kind of deal that he might have been presented with last offseason — say, the sub-1.000 service record deal (six years, $26MM) signed by Paul DeJong after a similarly strong 2017 debut. But there’s a reason that the current record for a player with less than two years of service is still held by Andrelton Simmons, at a relatively modest $58MM over seven years. In short, there’s not a ton for teams in this situation to gain by going wild at this early stage — particularly for players, like Chapman, that aren’t especially precocious.

    It seems fair to assume that beating the Simmons deal would represent a bare minimum starting point to capture the attention of Boras, who is a notoriously hard bargainer in early extension talks, in particular. Even handing over control over a pair of free agent seasons for Chapman could, after all, have a monumental impact on his eventual open-market earning capacity. My own guess is that Boras would take aim at some other notable pre-arb targets, even if they were landed for players with more than two seasons of MLB service. The Mike Trout contract (six years, $144.5MM) is assuredly well out of reach, but Carlos Gonzalez showed way back in 2011 that even mere mortal pre-arb players can secure big guarantees (seven years, $80MM).

    It might well take something approaching or exceeding that salary level to get Chapman to bite. That’d be an unprecedented payout for a player who hasn’t even recorded two full years of service time, but today’s youthful superstars seem to be holding for such a move in the market. It’s notable, after all, that we haven’t seen a premium all-around player ink a deal at that stage of his career in recent years, with the largest sub-2 extensions of recent vintage being secured by players like Simmons and Christian Yelich before they fully broke out in the manner Chapman has. Here, Chapman has not only already turned in a superstar-level campaign, but features the kind of offensive profile that will boost his arb earnings.

    Whether there’s appetite on either side for a full exploration of a contract isn’t yet known. It could be that last year’s non-talks and/or the thumb surgery will interfere. Chapman may simply not have interest personally. The A’s have a clean balance sheet to work with, but they also have other priorities to address and have never yet opened a season with a payroll of even $90MM. Then, there’s the fact that the team’s record for a single contract is still owned by former hot corner stalwart Eric Chavez — a player who in some ways serves as a fairly interesting comp for Chapman on the field — which on the one hand illustrates the extent to which the Oakland organization would need to leave its comfort zone to do a deal, and on the other hand perhaps suggests it’s time it does so again.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Matt Chapman Undergoes Thumb Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135002 2018-10-18T16:20:07Z 2018-10-18T16:08:02Z The Athletics announced today that third baseman Matt Chapman has undergone surgery on his left thumb. Specifically, he underwent an ulnar sided sesamoid bone excision on the troublesome digit.

    While it’s never good to hear of the need for surgical intervention, it seems there’s good cause for optimism in this case. The announcement indicates that physician Dr. Steven Shin “was pleased with the outcome of the surgery and anticipates Matt to make a full recovery prior to the start of spring training.”

    If that prognosis holds up, this could be a generally positive development for Chapman’s outlook. After all, he missed time and ultimately required a cortisone shot to treat the thumb during the 2018 season. Upon his return, Chapman’s offensive productivity shot up. Resolving the problems for good would obviously be quite a relief for player and team.

    Chapman ended up turning in an outstanding all-around 2018 campaign, making core contributions to an A’s club that stunningly streaked to 97 wins. If he can maintain anything approaching that output moving forward, he’ll be a foundational piece for the organization for years to come.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[MLB Issues Statement Clearing Astros Of Rule Violations]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134941 2018-10-17T19:46:29Z 2018-10-17T19:40:28Z 2:40pm: Major League Baseball has issued the following statement on the investigation:

    “Before the Postseason began, a number of Clubs called the Commissioner’s Office about sign stealing and the inappropriate use of video equipment. The concerns expressed related to a number of Clubs, not any one specific Club.  In response to these calls, the Commissioner’s Office reinforced the existing rules with all playoff Clubs and undertook proactive measures, including instituting a new prohibition on the use of certain in-stadium cameras, increasing the presence of operations and security personnel from Major League Baseball at all Postseason games and instituting a program of monitoring Club video rooms.

    With respect to both incidents regarding a Houston Astros employee, security identified an issue, addressed it and turned the matter over to the Department of Investigations.  A thorough investigation concluded that an Astros employee was monitoring the field to ensure that the opposing Club was not violating any rules.  All Clubs remaining in the playoffs have been notified to refrain from these types of efforts and to direct complaints about any in-stadium rules violations to MLB staff for investigation and resolution.  We consider the matter closed.”

    8:45am: There was no shortage of drama surrounding the Red Sox and Astros last night following a series of reports regarding an Astros employee who was removed from the photo well next to the Red Sox’ dugout in Fenway Park during Game 1 of the ALCS, as first reported by Danny Picard of the Metro News. The employee, reported by Yahoo’s Jeff Passan to be Kyle McLaughlin, was said to be pointing a small camera into the Boston dugout. However, both Alex Speier of the Boston Globe and Joel Sherman of the New York Post report that the league’s investigation was concluded by the time Game 3 began. That probe actually revealed that McLaughlin was trying to determine whether the Red Sox themselves were illegally using video monitors to steal signs from the Astros.

    Passan writes that the league has not punished the Astros for any illegal behavior following the investigation. Picard’s initial report even indicates that McLaughlin wasn’t removed from the stadium — only the media area in which he’d been set up. However, it does not appear as though this was an isolated incident.

    Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer further reports that the Indians filed a complaint with the league against the Astros following a pair of similar incidents in the ALDS and also reached out to the Red Sox to warn them prior to the start of the ALCS. Passan also details a complaint filed by the Athletics, who alleged that the Astros were using a clapping-based system from the dugout to relay stolen signs to the players on the field during an August game. To this point, though, there’s been no word on whether Houston was punished in that incident.

    Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski does not believe the matter had any influence on the outcome of Game 1, which Boston lost 7-2. Red Sox manager (and former Astros bench coach) Alex Cora agreed. The series of complaints against the Astros, Sherman notes, could stem in part from a reputation in the industry that portrays them as a “[New England] Patriots-like” organization — that is, one that “pushes to the limits of the rules — and perhaps beyond.” Passan adds that some clubs are “wary” that Houston may utilize its Edgertronic ballpark cameras, which can record 2,000 frames per second, in sign-stealing schemes.

    As Passan notes, however, the Astros aren’t the only organization that has been accused of this manner of sign-stealing efforts. While he doesn’t cite specific teams that have been placed under the microscope, it’s worth remembering that the Red Sox themselves were fined in 2017 for illegal use of an Apple Watch in the dugout in an effort to steal signs from the division-rival Yankees. The  Yankees, too, were also fined for violating a rule pertaining to the use of the dugout phone, and there have been similar reports that other teams believe the Yankees use the YES Network to steal signs from opponents. Back in 2015, the Royals believed the Blue Jays were stealing signs during the 2015 ALCS (to say nothing of the infamous “man in white” conspiracy in Toronto a few years prior).

    If anything, the series of reports serves as a reminder and/or an eye-opener that most, if not all teams throughout the league are willing to push the boundaries and utilize technology in an effort to gain a competitive edge. It’s arguable that these tactics are of in the spirit of more “traditional” sign-stealing methods that have been employed for decades (e.g. runner on second base looking in on a catcher’s signs), though the advent of technology obviously presents new methods of gaining that edge — methods that exist in what is at best an ethical gray area.

    The utilization of technology in sign-stealing efforts isn’t likely to go away, and it’ll continue to force teams and players into more rigorous efforts to protect signs. Hoynes notes in his column that Cleveland worked so diligently to protect its signs in the weeks leading up to the ALDS that the efforts “bordered on paranoia.” Players, too, recognize the need for increased caution.

    “It’s part of the game now,” Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart tells Speier. “…The game is changing. It’s making it tougher. You see a lot of pitchers and catchers get crossed up now — it’s crazy. The game sequences, the signals that you come up with are crazy. You’ve just got to stay in tune with everything.”

    Perhaps the greater issue in all of this, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston writes, is Major League Baseball’s lack of transparency on matters of this regard. As Drellich examines, the lack of clear rules in place and the unnecessarily hushed manner in which the league handles such scenarios only incentivizes teams to continue rule-bending/breaking and to make accusations in the first place.

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