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Rumors are officially swirling that the Oakland Athletics have been in talks with the Seattle Mariners to potentially acquire third baseman/utility man Chone Figgins. The deal would likely involve the A’s sending Kevin Kouzmanoff and a pitcher out and getting Figgins back. Buster Olney added to the rumors by mentioning the possibility of the Toronto Blue Jays joining in to make this a three-team deal. Olney is reporting a possible deal that could send Kouzmanoff to Toronto, where Jose Bautista would then move into the outfield.
Although there are a variety of possible sticking points on this kind of deal, the salaries involved has to be the prominent issue. Prior to the 2010 season, Figgins signed a four year contract with the Mariners worth $36 million. He followed that with his worst season as a professional with a line of .259/.340/.306. Throw in the fact that he was fairly abysmal as a second baseman and it was a poor year for Figgins. He actually finished 17th out of 18 eligible second basemen in UZR. On the other side, A’s third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff had his own worst full season as a professional with a line of .247/.283/.396. Of course he countered that with a strong season at third base where finished second among all 3B in UZR. Additionally he remains in his arbitration years through 2012 and agreed to a $4.75 million contract for this season.
The folks at FanGraphs took a look at the possible deal and had some questions about it:
Kouzmanoff figures to be the better value in 2011 and 2012, while Figgins has a fairly hefty contract and is coming off one of his worst seasons in the majors. If cash changes hands perhaps the A’s can make it worthwhile. But in a one-for-one swap, and especially in a scenario where the A’s send an additional player to Seattle, they’d do better to keep Kouzmanoff at third. His numbers might not be the sexiest, but he remains a useful player, especially at his salary.
Figgins has been very solid when placed at third base in the past so even if he’s a defensive downgrade it’s not by much. However, given the salaries, the question is then twofold: 1) How much of his salary would the Mariners cover and 2) would his offensive production would be a sufficient upgrade from Kouzmanoff?
The first question we can’t answer at this point. The second question leaves a ton of question marks. Figgins has generally retained his stolen base abilities over the years and that is a clear cut upgrade over Kouz (42 to 2 in steals last year). In looking at Chone’s hitting numbers we certainly have to factor in Safeco Field as a pitcher’s park. Of course, the Oakland Coliseum is also a pitcher’s park so how much change could we expect? Figgins had a down year but given that he’s now 33, can A’s fans expect a bounce-back year at this point? Maybe they can, but I continue to think they can expect a bounce-back year from Kouzmanoff. While Kouz has never been a monster hitter, if he could get his OBP back above .300 and his slugging above .400, he seems like the better bargain.
The team has worked to build up speed and defense. Overall Figgins would provide an upgrade given his base-stealing skills. However, is his hitting really going to be that much better? If the Athletics made a deal for Figgins and had a sizable chunk of his salary covered I could probably live with the trade. However, as Nico says over at Athletics Nation, I’d lean towards sticking with Kevin Kouzmanoff.
After agreeing to terms with five arbitration eligible players yesterday, the Oakland Athletics exchanged arbitration figures with their remaining player. Relief pitcher Craig Breslow is in his first year of arbitration and asked for $1.55 million. The A’s offered him $1.15 million. Breslow was quite solid in the A’s bullpen and will be an important cog in what should be an impressive 2011 bullpen. Breslow pitched a career-high 74 2/3 innings last season but will probably see a decline in that total given the recent additions to the pen.
MLB- or baseball-style arbitration (often used to describe this style even outside of baseball) requires the two sides propose one year contracts. As would be expected, the player’s figure is higher than the team’s figure. The neutral arbitrator then hears both sides present evidence why their figure is the better figure. This is then concluded by the arbitrator picking one of the two figures as the winner. They do not split the difference or weight the figure based on the two submissions.
Since salary arbitration first developed in 1974 (PDF), there have been 495 arbitration cases that went to the hearing. In those 495 cases, the team has 57.6% of the time (285 victories). Last season the Giants had three significant players file for arbitration but they settled all three cases. Tim Lincecum settled his case with a two year contract, Brian went for a mid-way deal, and Jonathan Sanchez agreed on a one year contract before they needed to exchange figures.
The Oakland Athletics continued their impressive run of avoiding MLB arbitration cases as they came to terms on one year contracts with five players over the last few days. Although the A’s have gone to arbitration in years past, they’ve managed to avoid it with some of their key parts, and 2011 will be no different. The A’s agreed to 2011 contracts with Dallas Braden, Josh Willingham, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Conor Jackson, and Brad Ziegler (courtesy Jane Lee and Susan Slusser).
The one-year contracts break down as follows:
1. Dallas Braden: $3.35 million
2. Josh Willingham: $6 million
3. Kevin Kouzmanoff: $4.75 million
4. Conor Jackson: $3.32 million
5. Brad Ziegler: $1.25 million
Ziegler’s deal is one of the more interesting because he reached his first year of arbitration courtesy of his Super Two status. The A’s have added serious depth to the bullpen and Ziegler’s numbers declined in 2010. It will be interesting to see what role he ends up filling this season. More importantly, if his numbers don’t improve, one has to wonder how long the team will continue giving him raises as he has three more years of arbitration in front of him.
Josh Willingham was in his final year of arbitration and will be a free agent at season’s end. He’s had health issues that have prevented him from completely realizing his potential. However, when healthy he’s put together impressive offensive numbers. The ideal early season A’s outfield at this point would have him in left field, Coco Crisp in center field and David DeJesus in right field.
Of course, given all the injuries, it makes sense to bring back Conor Jackson for one more year. Given the A’s injury woes the last decade, there’s an excellent chance Jackson will see significant playing time in 2011. Jackson will be a free agent in 2012 and I see very little likelihood that the A’s bring him back after 2011.
Major League sources are reporting that the Oakland Athletics are close to signing former Angels closer Brian Fuentes. The left-handed reliever, who finished 2010 with the Minnesota Twins after an August waiver trade, would likely get something a bit higher than Grant Balfour’s $8.1 million deal. Sources indicate he wants $5 million to $6 million per year.
Fuentes had previously been pursued by the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, but apparently both teams have dropped out of the bidding. Fuentes would make a strong A’s bullpen even stronger. The team was unable to land some of the bigger name free agents so one has to imagine they think a dominant bullpen will improve their starting pitching (fewer innings needed from the starters), which makes it a sort of two-for-the-price-of-one kind of deal. On top of that, the team has several options available in case Andrew Bailey has any health issues. Fuentes would likely be the next in line for closer duties, but Balfour and Ziegler could potentially close the door on a short-term basis as well.
RHP Andrew Bailey
LHP Brian Fuentes
RHP Grant Balfour
A major league baseball source has confirmed that the Oakland Athletics agreed to terms on a two-year contract with relief pitcher Grant Balfour. The deal is for $8.1 million over two years and is pending a physical. Balfour, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays, would be scheduled to earn $3.75 million in 2011 and $4 million in 2012. The deal would include a 2013 club option for $4.5 million as well as a $350,000 buyout.
Balfour would likely fill one of the top setup roles for the A’s behind closer Andrew Bailey. Last season Balfour threw 55 1/3 innings posting a 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He averaged 9.1 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings. Balfour’s season qualified him as a Type A free agent, which normally would cost the A’s a first round draft choice. However, due to their finish in the standings, their first round pick is protected. Thus, Oakland will give up its second round pick to Tampa Bay.
Numerous reports across the Internet are indicating that the Oakland Athletics have agreed to send two unnamed players to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Josh Willingham. The deal is still pending some final medical information, but appears good to go for the most part.
Editor's Update: The two players going to Washington are RHP Henry Rodriguez and minor league OF Corey Brown (Rosenthal)
Willingham would slot into left field, joining an outfield that already includes Coco Crisp and David DeJesus. While that’s not exactly a Murderer’s Row out there, it’s a fairly significant upgrade over what the A’s rolled out for much of last season. Last season Willingham hit .268/.389/.459 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs in 114 games. He suffered a knee injury and did not play after August 15. As is often the case with A’s players, he’s a guy who has suffered through a variety of ailments and never played more than 144 games. Part of that is because of platooning, but coming off the injury, he’s one more brittle bone in the A’s outfield.
Of course, Oakland has some depth available to them in case of injury. Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson will likely be on the bench and available to rest any of the three starters. Additionally, Chris Carter, who I have been extremely high on since his strong close to 2010, will be around if and when one of the starters goes down with any kind of significant injury. It seems likely that Chris Carter will start the season in AAA, although I’d have to imagine a big time spring training could force the issue with the A’s.
Whatever the decision, the Athletics find themselves with considerably more offensive depth. It remains to be seen how this will all come together, but the offense is considerably improved from some of the options the A’s rolled out last season. Athletics Nation is fairly psyched about the addition, although as with any deal there is a mixed bag of opinions. It will make for an interesting 2011 for the Oakland Athletics.
As the Oakland Athletics continue making a variety of offseason moves, they find themselves close to bringing back a former Athletic. Susan Slusser has been tweeting throughout the morning and early afternoon that the A’s have agreed to terms on a one year contract worth $1.5 million plus incentives. Given the competition for the fifth spot and Harden’s injury history, it is believed he would be slotted for a spot in the bullpen.
While the contract terms have apparently been confirmed, the deal will not be done until the physical examination. And considering Rich Harden’s injury history, this physical is no small thing. Harden struggled in 2010 with injuries and general ineffectiveness as the Rangers elected to decline their half of an $11 million option for 2011.
If he can pass the physical this week and get on the A’s roster, a consistent role in the bullpen could be the cure to what ails Harden. While Harden has electric stuff, he’s always run up his pitch count incredibly high and thus has rarely finished any starts. In the bullpen pitch count would be much less of an issue. The A’s have a solid bullpen as it currently stands, so Harden would not have a lot of pressure to be “the guy” in any particular situation.
The Oakland Athletics added some depth to their pitching rotation and/or bullpen today by signing free agent right handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy to a one-year contract worth $1 million. The A’s also handled some internal business by agreeing to a one year contract with reliever Joey Devine worth approximately $560,000. The contract keeps the two sides out of arbitration this year.
Both pitchers have dealt with numerous injuries and will be looking to prove they can stay healthy. Both pitchers are considered solid talents, but they’ve rarely put together complete seasons. Devine is coming off Tommy John surgery and missed the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In his first season with the A’s in 2008, Devine put together a stunning 0.59 era in 45.2 innings of work. It was the lowest era in history for anybody with at least 40 innings pitcher, but the record isn’t recognized because the league requires a minimum of 50 innings for such recognition. If healthy, Devine could prove to be a key setup man for closer Andrew Bailey.
McCarthy spent a chunk of last season in the Texas Rangers farm system with triple-A Oklahoma City. In 11 appearances (nine starts), McCarthy was 4-2 with a 3.36 era. He’s dealt with various shoulder injuries including stress fractures and has to prove he can stay healthy. He put together a very solid winter league campaign in Venezuela that brought numerous teams calling. McCarthy will compete with Bobby Cramer, Josh Outman and Tyson Ross for the A’s fifth starter spot.
Oakland Athletics beat writer Susan Slusser is reporting that the A’s are on the verge of working out a contract with free agent designated hitter Hideki Matsui for the 2011 season. The team has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday (tomorrow) and while a contract has yet to be announced, that press conference is expected to announce the signing of Matsui.
The deal sounds like it might be a one-year deal, although I would not be surprised to see some kind of second year option. It could be a vesting option based on plate appearances, or some kind of player, team, or mutual option for 2012.
Hideki Matsui’s agent Arn Tellem has indicated Matsui wanted to sign with a team that offered a combination of significant playing time and a chance to play in the postseason. Oakland can trump just about anybody in playing time as Matsui would be their every-day DH. Additionally, the A’s can move players around enough to get Matsui some time in the outfield if he wanted.
The question for some would be whether the Athletics would be a sufficient winner for Matsui. Oakland was 81-81 last year with strong pitching and defense, but questionable offense. If the A’s can sign Matsui they’ll have made two significant moves that should boost their offense considerably. The team dealt fifth starter Vin Mazzaro and prospects to the Royals for David DeJesus. The outfielder would provide a strong doubles-hitting option that alone would boost the A’s offense. Adding in Matsui to hit in the clean-up spot only adds to that. Finally, if Chris Carter can continuing his strong September development, the team could see a rare power surge.
All together these moves put the A’s in prime position to challenge the Rangers and Angels for the AL West. That combined with guaranteed playing time seems to be reason enough for Matsui to sign with the Oakland.
After negotiations went to the final hour, word is out that the Oakland Athletics and Japanese starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma were unable to reach an agreement on a contract. As the deadline approached over the last few days, a deal was not expected, particularly when Iwakuma remained in Japan. Had he thought a deal was close he would have flown to Oakland for a physical examination. CSN columnist Mychael Urban tweeted the news earlier tonight:
Iwakuma deal is ... Dead. #athletics tried; kid's agent is a loon. Bright side: $19 mil plus the contract was a bit much for a No. 3-4 guyless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®Mychael Urban
The team had put forth a $19 million posting fee and will get the fee back in light of the non-signing. Iwakuma will head back to Japan, but apparently will be a free agent next year. That would seem to indicate posting would be unnecessary. Susan Slusser tweeted that the A's would have interest in him in free agency next year. Rumors swirled that he wanted some fairly large numbers. At one point someone mentioned Barry Zito's contract. Iwakuma's agent denied that and later news was talking about $11-$13 million a year. Next year in free agency we'll see what kind of value he really has.
In light of the deal not getting done, some folks have questioned the Athletics decision to deal away fifth starter Vin Mazzaro. He was showing solid development last season and would have been an incredibly solid fourth or fifth starter for the A's, depending on if he passed Dallas Braden on the depth chart. However, the team acquired a very solid outfielder in David DeJesus who can slot into the top third of the batting order. The team had an excess of pitching and has some depth in the minors to fill the fifth spot, so it made sense to deal from depth to boost an offense that had a lot of struggles.
The dominoes are quickly falling into place for the Oakland Athletics to push through their bid for Boston Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre. This morning the Red Sox reportedly acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres for prospects. Now, SI.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting that the St. Louis Cardinals came to terms with potential A’s target Lance Berkman on an $8 million deal. The team will move Holliday to right field and play Berkman in left field.
These moves led to Susan Slusser tweeting, “With today’s dominoes falling, #Athletics are very likely to feel even more as if they need to get Beltre wrapped up.” The options are certainly drying up for any kind of impact bat. Of course, as I’ve said over and over again, Beltre is not trustworthy as such an impact bat given his numbers in the middle of contracts. He’ll get the A’s quality defense, but I just don’t trust his bat and the fact that he’s 32.
The A’s now find themselves without a designated hitter after non-tendering Jack Cust. Although the team could still bring back Cust, one has to imagine he’s getting a little tired of this annual game and might try and sign elsewhere. The only real internal option would be for Chris Carter to continue his strong development and for Michael Taylor to blow up in spring training. If that happened, the A’s could go with an OF of Coco Crisp, David DeJesus and either Carter or Taylor, with the alternate filling the DH role.
There are also some decent options remaining on the free agent market. A primary option might be Hideki Matsui who was quite solid last season for the Angels. He had a line of .274/.361/.459. While that’s not fantastic, it’s quite solid and would be a nice addition to the A’s lineup.
“These guys are my friends and they made me feel part of the team,’’ he said. “There’s a lot going on right now, but I do hope I stay with the Red Sox.’’
“I could make a deal right now if I wanted to,’’ he said. “But I want to wait and make sure I make the right decision.’’
Beltre would not go into specifics about his choices beyond saying that his preference would be Boston.
“I got used to seeing that park full in the first inning and still full in the ninth inning. I liked that atmosphere,’’ he said. “If everything was close to the same, I would go back to Boston. But we have to see. The number of years is what is important to me.’’
Buster Olney is now breaking news that would seem to indicate the Red Sox are not prepared to meet Beltre’s contract request and are moving on. Olney is reporting that the Red Sox have agreed to deal three prospects and a player to be named later to the Padres for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Assuming this deal is completed as expected, the Red Sox would have the option of moving current 1B Kevin Youkilis to 3B or the outfield. Olney indicated the Red Sox were more inclined to move Youk to third base. If that’s the case, there’s no way they re-sign Adrian Beltre.
If this is the case, then Adrian Beltre will indeed have to look to other suitors. And as Athletics Nation wrote, that might mean the A’s will need to loosen the purse strings just a little bit. They’ll have some competition for Beltre but they do have some money to spend, particularly if they don’t get a deal done with Hisashi Iwakuma.
Beltre would add some pop to the A’s lineup and would be an upgrade over Kevin Kouzmanoff. However, one has to wonder if he’s worth the 10+ million a year it appears that it will cost to sign him. He’s coming off a huge season, but he’s shown in the past that his biggest years have come with money on the line. The two best lines of his career were last year at .321/.365/.553 and his last year with the Dodgers in 2004 at .334/.388/.629. With OPS’ of .919 and 1.017 in those seasons, his next closest OPS was .835 in 2000 and .802 in 2007. Not exactly inspiring numbers from a guy you’re considering paying a ton of money.
The Oakland Athletics took care of some house-cleaning this week in advance of next week’s 2010 MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Yesterday was the non-tender deadline for arbitration eligible players. If a team tenders a contract to such a player, the two sides then advance to the arbitration process where the player and team exchange one-year contract offers on January 18. If the sides can’t come to an agreement on a contract the two sides present their cases before a three-judge arbitration panel and that panel picks one of the two offers.
The A’s elected to not tender contracts to OF/DH Jack Cust, OF Travis Buck, and recently claimed 3B Edwin Encarnacion. This is the second consecutive year the A’s have not tendered a contract to Jack Cust. Cust earned $2.65 million in 2009 and would have seen a sizable increase via arbitration. While non-tendering Cust makes him a free agent, if there isn’t another interested team the Athletics will gain significant leverage and save some money on his contract.
The Cust non-tender is also significant because the A’s have been putting on the press to try and land former Astros and Yankees OF/1B/DH Lance Berkman. As Susan Slusser pointed out, the A’s likely non-tendered Cust because either they think they’re close to landing Berkman, or they figure Cust is just too expensive in arbitration for his skill-set.
The A’s also elected to non-tender Edwin Encarnacion while tendering Kevin Kouzmanoff. Both are primarily third basemen so it’s not surprising that they split the difference in tendering one of them. And given the Athletics reported interest in Adrian Beltre, there isn’t need for three third basemen. Even if the A’s don’t land Beltre, they would have had to make a choice between Kooz and Encarnacion.
The final non-tender saw the A’s cut loose disappointing OF Travis Buck. After an extremely promising rookie season, Buck has seen his numbers get progressively worse amidst mounting injuries. Although the A’s OF has some question marks, the three starting spots are likely filled by Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, and Chris Carter.
Additionally, the team came to terms with Ryan Sweeney on a one-year contract to avoid arbitration. Sweeney dealt with a patella injury and will look to bounce back in 2010. This contract leaves the A’s with six arbitration-eligible players left including SP Dallas Braden, RP Craig Breslow, RP Joey Devine, OF Conor Jackson, 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, and RP Brad Ziegler.
This coming week should be an interesting one as talks with Lance Berkman should heat up. Although a deal might not get done, the Athletics can get closer to getting something done. We’ll have a running stream on all next week’s events, but in the meantime make sure and check out Athletics Nation for all sorts of in-depth A’s discussion.
Susan Slusser is reporting that the Oakland Athletics talks with Japanese ace Hisashi Iwakuma have broken off. Slusser tweeted that Major League Baseball sources were indicating to her that Iwakuma wanted a deal in the neighborhood of Barry Zito’s contract with the San Francisco Giants. Considering Zito received a deal of 7 years worth $126 million, it’s safe to say that won’t be happening anytime soon. I hope Iwakuma hasn’t bought a plane ticket to SFO or OAK yet.
The Oakland A’s won the posting fee on Iwakuma with a reported post of $17 million, according to SI’s Jon Heyman. However, if the Athletics cannot come to terms on a contract with Iwakuma in the thirty day window (around December 8), they will not have to pay the posting fee. I’m guessing Iwakuma would be available again for posting and this process might start all over again.
The A’s traded away previous fifth starter Vin Mazzaro to the Kansas City Royals in a deal for outfielder David DeJesus. Iwakuma would have slotted quite nicely into the rotation and moved Dallas Braden down to the fifth spot. If Iwakuma ends up elsewhere, the team will let various in-house candidates and maybe a cheap free agent or two battle for that spot in the rotation. Bobby Cramer got some time in the rotation and the team will be getting Josh Outman back in time for spring training. I’d suspect those will be two of the top candidates this spring.
Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Toronto Blue Jays are on the verge of acquiring outfielder Rajai Davis from the Oakland Athletics. MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the A’s will receive relief pitcher Trystan Magnuson from the Blue Jays.
Magnuson was a first round draft pick in the 2007 Amateur Draft and projects out as a middle reliever or setup man in the majors. He hasn’t made his way beyond AA to this point but will likely start the 2011 MLB season with the A’s AAA affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats. Magnuson spent 2010 with the Blue Jays AA affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. In 46 relief appearances, Magnuson was 3-0 with a 2.58 ERA, a WHIP of 1.091 and a K/9 ratio of 7.7.
The A’s decision to deal Rajai Davis is not a big surprise. After the team picked up Coco Crisp’s option and then dealt for David DeJesus, the writing was on the wall. Davis is an excellent base-stealer, but the team has sufficient speed in Crisp and DeJesus brings better power numbers and consistency to the table.
There are two reports out indicating the Oakland Athletics have offered third baseman Adrian Beltre a five-year contract. ESPN’s Enrique Rojas tweeted the offer was for $64 million while NESN earlier reported it was an offer for $45 million. If either is correct this would be a monster financial move by the Oakland A’s.
The market for Adrian Beltre is fairly sizable, which isn’t shocking considering he is coming off a season in which he hit .321 with 28 home runs and 102 RBIs, all while continuing his solid play at third base. If the A’s did go with a $64 million offer it might be because they feel they need to put up a huge number early to keep out other bidders. NESN’s report indicated the Red Sox would go as high as $52 million over four years. That would be $200,000 more per year than the Athletics offer, but the A’s offer includes the security of a fifth year and more total money. Adrian Beltre is 32 years old and by the end of the Red Sox offer it’s doubtful he could make up the $12 million difference from the A’s fifth year.
While I would certainly be intrigued by the addition of Beltre, he is a player whose performance raises a very specific concerns. The two biggest seasons of his career came in walk years. This past season he was working on a one-year deal with the Red Sox. His other monster season came in 2004 when he was in the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit .334 with 48 home runs and 121 RBIs. It’s interesting to note that his only two seasons of hitting over .300 came in those walk years. His third walk year with Seattle in 2009 was a struggle in part because of injuries.
Now that the Oakland Athletics have added David DeJesus to their lineup, ESPN.com and Baseball America writer Jerry Crasnick is reporting the A's have Lance Berkman on their radar as a possible designated hitter next season.
In 2010 the A's primary designated hitter was Jack Cust. Over 112 games Cust hit .272 with an OPS of .834, which came in large part due to a monster .395 on base percentage. Berkman had a fairly horrendous 2010 season split between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. In 122 total games Berkman hit .248 with an OPS of .781. He didn't get a ton of playing time in New York, but during his Houston time he hit .245 with an OPS of .808. Berkman's numbers have continuously decreased since his monster 2006 season.
I'm a big fan of the DeJesus trade because a strong doubles hitter can be a big benefit in the spacious confines of the Coliseum. However, signing Lance Berkman would be a bit of a risky deal, even if it was short term. If the team was adding a DH I'd personally prefer they make a run at Adam Dunn. I don't expect the Athletics to land Dunn, but in a perfect world he would be a perfect addition to the lineup. He would instantly become the most explosive hitter in the A's lineup and give them a power presence they sorely need.
I'm convinced that adding Dunn would be the one move that could put this team over the top. It would cost a decent amount of money, but considering his last contract was a two year, $20 million deal I'd certainly think they could make a reasonable offer. Considering how much power he brings and his ability to draw a lot of walks, he would bring a huge jolt to the middle of the A's lineup. I'm not holding my breath for it to happen, but it's a move that would pay huge dividends.
The Oakland Athletics continue to keep busy this offseason, making another foray into the international market. The team has come to terms with center field prospect Vicmal de la Cruz. The 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic is considered one of the top hitting prospects in this year's international signing class. BA indicates that de la Cruz has some of the best all around tools of the class.
The A's have stepped up their international presence this year with significant signings since July. On July 2 it was announced that they signed Venezuelan third baseman Renato Nunez with a $2.2 million signing bonus, which was tied for the third highest bonus for any international amateur prospect this year. On July 22, the A's announced the signing of a top catching prospect in Argy Raga.
Given that these prospects are all 16 or 17, it will certainly be a while before they make an impact with the major league squad, if ever. As teenagers these players are still developing physically, which means a lot could change in the coming years. Nonetheless, by investing this much money the Oakland A's have to believe they're getting some high quality talent that could make a big difference over the long haul.
When the Oakland Athletics posted the highest fee to acquire the negotiating rights with Hisashi Iwukama, we mentioned that there was another shoe out there ready to drop in the form of a trade involving starting pitching. Well, one such shoe has dropped in the form of a trade with the Kansas City Royals.
AOL’s Jeff Fletcher tweeted that the Oakland A’s have dealt starting pitcher Vin Mazzaro and class-A pitcher Justin Marks to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder David DeJesus. In 91 games with the Royals last season, DeJesus hit .318 with 5 home runs, 37 RBIs and 23 doubles. He posted an OPS of .827 thanks in large part to a sizable .384 on base percentage.
While Vin Mazzaro didn’t exactly blow up in his second season with the A’s, he showed considerable improvement and was a very solid fifth option for the team. The addition of Iwukama, as well as some potential arms at the AAA level made Mazzaro expendable. While DeJesus does not bring home run power to the team, his doubles power could prove quite valuable. Home runs are great, but a gap hitter can be just as valuable in the spacious confines of Oakland Coliseum.
Both the Oakland Athletics shortstop and Chicago White Sox shortstops Alexei Ramirez have legimitate gripes after they were both snubbed in favor of the renowned but defensively overrated captain of the New York Yankees.
Derek Jeter, well, his selection is likely to set off another loud round of dispute over whether the award is relevant anymore.
Also chosen were first baseman Mark Teixeira and second baseman Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees; third baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Rays; Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Seattle outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.
The Tucson Citizen points out that Ramirez and Pennington both finished as the top two in AL shortstops in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). Jeter finished in the bottom third. Yikes.
What is this fancy UZR stat? Bless You Boys (the Detroit Tigers SB Nation blog) has more.
What is Ultimate Zone Rating?
In its simplest terms: Just a statistic that values how much a player contributes to his team defensively. It's graded above/below the positional average. One thing I've seen is people comparing different positions. Average at shortstop is not the same as average in right field just like hitting a home run isn't the same in Coors Field and Comerica Park.
How does it work?
It's complicated, I won't lie. This isn't something the average fan is going to be able to calculate on the fly with an excel spreadsheet. You can, but it's a lot more work than it's worth, so-to-speak. That is why the sabermetric community is so important. Mitchel Lichtman (who goes by MGL if you see him referenced on places like Fangraphs or The Hardball Times) has already done the heavy lifting for us.
UZR splits the field into 78 different slices called zones. Don't worry, only 64 of those are used in the UZR formula. You figure out the average number of balls in play in each zone and then the rate at which plays made are recorded in each zone. This will give you a baseline average for the position. Now, you do this on an individual basis and graded against what the average fielder would do. If a player comes out with less plays made recorded in their zone compared to league average, they have a negative zone rating. As well, they'll have a positive zone rating if the player records more outs in the zone than the average defender at the position.
Do that for every zone the position you're looking at is responsible for.
But that's just a fraction of the process. You then take that unadjusted UZR and, well, adjust it. Because, like I noted above, you need to contextualize it so you can understand what may be the true talent of the player. Some pitching staffs may give a player more balls to field. For instance, Brandon Inge would likely have more grounders to him if the Tigers had a staff full of left-handed pitchers. The opposite would be true if the staff was filled with righties.
What do we need to adjust for? The ballpark (more-so for the outfielders), handedness of the pitcher and hitter, the number of outs, the number of base runners, which bases those runners are on, and batted ball speed. A long fly ball from Miguel Cabrera into the left-center gap in Comerica Park off of a right-handed pitcher is not going to be the same as a long fly ball by David Eckstein into the left-center gap in Petco Park off of a right-handed pitcher.
Once you've adjusted for all of those factors that can greatly impact the raw, unadjusted UZR, you now have a viable defensive metric that can be misused and misquoted across the internet!
I'm guessing the people who vote on this award don't care for acronyms that aren't HR or RBI.
According to a preliminary breakdown by danmerqury of Athletics Nation, Iwakuma should do very well as an Athletic. Click on the link to read further analysis.
Iwakuma, thankfully, is a groundball pitcher with good control that should thrive in front of Oakland's fantastic infield defense. Detailed stats can be difficult to find for his time in Japan, but he threw twenty innings in 2009's World Baseball Classic. And aside from his first WBC start (which was in the Tokyo Dome), his other three WBC appearances were in San Diego and Los Angeles, where he was recorded by the PitchFX cameras.
First things first—scouting reports indicate that Iwakuma throws a four-seam fastball, a shuuto, a splitter, a slider, and a curveball. His fastball is usually thrown in the low 90s although he can dial it up to 93, whereas his shuuto and splitter sit in the high 80s. (The shuuto is a Japanese pitch that is most closely related to a two-seam fastball or a sinker.)
Here's an image diagramming his pitching movements, courtesy of PitchFX.
The pitch is mainly designed to break down and in on right-handed batters, so as to prevent them from making solid contact with the ball. It can also be thrown to left-handers to keep them off balance. Good shuuto pitchers often break the bats of right-handed hitters because they usually get jammed when trying to swing at this pitch. It could be said that the shuuto has a somewhat similar break and purpose as the screwball for a left-handed pitcher, even though the latter is also meant to be primarily thrown at right-handed batters. If the shuuto pitch was thrown off the outside part of the plate, it would tail back over the outside border of the strike zone. Conversely, if it was thrown on the inside part of the plate, it would move even further inside.
The shuuto is often described in English as a "reverse slider", but this is not strictly the case, as the shuuto generally has more velocity and less break than a slider. The two-seam fastball, the sinker, or the screwball in differing degrees, will move down and in towards a right-handed batter when thrown, or in the opposite manner of a curveball and a slider.
The Oakland Athletics began getting their house in order this offseason by clearing up and assigning some cash. In the least surprising move just about ever, the A’s declined the $12.5 million option on third baseman Eric Chavez. The decline of the option means the A’s will instead pay him a $3 million buyout. Life’s certainly rough for Chavez.
Chavez was the guy more or less “chosen” by Billy Beane to be given a long term extension back when Beane was letting players walk at free agency. The team signed him to a big extension in 2004 while letting the likes of Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada walk in free agency. It remains to be seen whether it would have been smart to re-sign either of them, but it’s clear that the Eric Chavez contract did not work out as hoped. Although Chavez was an outstanding Gold Glove third baseman, his offensive numbers never lived up to his immense potential and he was beset by an inordinate amount of injuries throughout the life of the contract. Chavez is now contemplating retirement.
On the flipside, the Oakland A’s announced they had exercised the 2011 contract options for OF Coco Crisp and 2B Mark Ellis. Crisp’s option is worth $5.75 million and Ellis’ option is worth $6 million. The team is considering a long term extension for Ellis but negotiations have only just begun.
The Crisp option makes sense, particularly if Crisp can stay healthy. When healthy he brought some excitement to the top of the A’s lineup and keyed an impressive base running attack. Crisp stole 32 bases in only 75 games and will look to spark the A’s offensive attack in 2011.
The Oakland Athletics are reporting that they have won the bidding process that allows them to now negotiate with 29-year old Japanese starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. By winning the bidding process, the A's now have exclusive negotiating rights with Iwakuma and his agent Don Nomura for the next thirty days. If they can't make a deal in the next month they lose their posting fee. This comes on the heels of Nomura's tweet yesterday afternoon:
Nomura is a well known agent of Japanese starters, with Iwakuma being just the latest in his stable of Japanese stars. Iwakuma was 10-9 with a 2.82 ERA with 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 2009. In 2008 he won 21 games with a 1.87 ERA and pitched for the Japanese team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
It's being reported that the posting fee for Iwamuka was approximately $16 million, although specifics have yet to be known. Given the A's need for big bats, any deal for Iwamuka would put the team in line to deal some pitching for a potential bat. One possibility is inking Iwamuka to a long term deal and then trading him. On the other hand they could sign Iwamuka and then move one of their plethora of starting pitchers for the necessary bat(s).
With $20 million and change potentially coming off the books this offseason, they certainly have money to spend. The question becomes when will the other shoe drop. There are no guarantees anything will happen, but it would seem to be a misappropriation of resources if this move was not followed at some point by a trade of starting pitching. We'll see how this plays out in the coming months. Maybe a big deal at the Winter Meetings? Who knows...
For more details on this news and more, check out Athletics Nation.
The Oakland Athletics announced that relief pitcher Brad Ziegler and outfielder Travis Buck have each earned Super Two arbitration status this offseason. Simply put, this means Ziegler and Buck earned enough playing time with the A’s to gain a fourth year of arbitration, instead of the usual three.
More specifically, arbitration and super two are described as follows:
A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a “Super Two” and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.
Normally a player entering his third season gets the normal minimal bump in salary keeping him in the mid six figures. Brad Ziegler and Travis Buck both earned $410,000 last season. Had they not been classified as Super Two, they would have received a slight raise but not much more than that.
I would imagine that Ziegler will have no problem getting his arbitration with the Athletics given his quality work thus far. He’s an effective reliever and the bullpen is part of the core of this team.
On the other hand, Travis Buck could very well be non-tendered given his struggles thus far. Buck was quite solid his rookie season, hitting .288 with 7 homeruns and 22 doubles. However, injuries have slowed his progress and in reality he’s regressed each season since 2007. The A’s have a variety of outfield prospects and it’s questionable whether they would want to invest additional money in Buck. I could see them attempting to work out a one year deal and if that did not work, then cutting him loose and moving forward.
The Oakland A’s other arbitration eligible players are:
The Oakland Athletics wrapped 81-81, which marked their best record and first non-losing season since reaching the 2006 ALCS. The 2010 Oakland A's road excellent starting and relief pitching out of the AL West cellar, but relatively poor hitting kept them from contending for the American League West division title. They received enough timely hitting to be a tough out, but it became clear by season's end that hitting needed to be improved if this team was going to contend for a playoff spot.
As we head into November, MLB free agency has begun with some big names freeing themselves up. The A's have the opportunity to free up a considerable amount of money by shedding some unnecessary contracts, which would put them in a position to add at least one impact player, if not multiple such players.
As the team moves through the offseason their offense does have some positive developments to build on moving forward. The primary development has to be outfielder Chris Carter. While Carter's only hit .186, it was a nasty slump to start his MLB career that caused the poor batting average. However, an impressive September has put him in a position to do some serious damage in 2011. He's got a nice compact power swing that A's announcer Ray Fosse actually compared to Hank Aaron. While Fosse is certainly prone to exaggeration about the A's, it's certainly nice to see some potential power developing in the farm system.
Whether Chris Carter develops into a big bat or not, the Oakland Athletics will need to make some additions on the offensive side of the ball if they want to take the next step forward. Their pitching has some small holes, but is otherwise in fairly good shape.
We'll be here all offseason providing regular updates on the Oakland A's dealings. They've got plenty to deal with whether it be expiring contracts, arbitration issues, free agency or even potential trades. We'll have all the news for you. For more detailed breakdowns of each story, make sure and check out Athletics Nation.
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