Tag: Oakland Athletics

Santiago Casilla to A’s: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Veteran reliever Santiago Casilla has found a new home this offseason, agreeing to a deal with the Oakland Athletics.  

Robert Murray of FanRag Sports first reported Casilla and the A’s were nearing agreement on a two-year deal. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle confirmed the deal.

Casilla has spent the previous seven seasons with the San Francisco Giants, playing an integral role in the team’s World Series wins in 2012 and 2014 with a 0.63 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 14.1 innings over 20 appearances. 

The 36-year-old did start to show signs of slowing down last season, though he was hardly the only Giants reliever who struggled in 2016. His strikeout and strikeout-to-walk rates were fine, but opposing hitters did seem to be squaring him up with greater ease.

It’s hardly a surprise to see Casilla start to take a step back. He has pitched in a lot of games for the Giants over the years, recording at least 50 appearances six times in the last seven years, not to mention additional innings in the postseason. 

Granted, Casilla was rarely overextended in San Francisco. His innings total ranged from 50.0 to 63.1 since 2009, a testament to Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s ability to get the most out of his relievers. 

Casilla was an attractive free agent because of his extended role as the Giants closer, including racking up a career-high 38 saves in 2015. 

The A’s have taken a unique approach with their roster this offseason. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reported they offered Edwin Encarnacion a higher average annual salary of $25 million than what the slugger ultimately took from the Cleveland Indians, but the years on the contract were shorter. 

After missing out on Encarnacion, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, A’s general manager Billy Beane gave 36-year-old outfielder Rajai Davis $6 million for one year. 

After losing 93 games last season, the A’s are trying to build a more competitive roster in 2017. Casilla likely won’t be their closer, as Ryan Madson is coming off a solid season in the role and is under contract for two more seasons. 

However, Casilla does give A’s manager Bob Melvin more length to take advantage of in late-game situations. The team finished 20th in bullpen ERA last season, and its 23 blown saves were the seventh-most in MLB, per ESPN.com.

There was a clear separation at the top of this year’s market for relievers, with Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon setting the tone and everyone else following in their wake. 

Given Casilla’s age, he may not be the same pitcher two years from now, but his ability to miss bats makes him a safe bet to play a key role in the bullpen for the Athletics in 2017.  

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Rajai Davis to A’s: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Outfielder Rajai Davis signed with the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported Davis’ one-year deal worth $6 million from the A’s. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle confirmed the deal, adding Davis can receive another $450,000 in performance bonuses.

Davis, 36, had a solid season in 2016 for the Cleveland Indians, hitting .249 with 12 home runs, 48 RBI, 74 runs scored and an AL-high 43 stolen bases. While he is probably best served platooning in the outfieldhe often sat against left-handed pitching with the Indianshe can still offer solid production.

He has a .780 career OPS against left-handed pitching, but he actually hit better against righties (.708) than southpaws (.670) in 2016, per Baseball-Reference.com

While Davis’ offensive numbers were nothing special, he provided one of 2016’s most dramatic moments with a game-tying two-run homer off Chicago Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series. 

Davis is also still a terror on the basepaths, giving him a lot of value for an Oakland team that only stole 50 bases in 2016, the fifth-lowest mark in the majors. His defense in center has been all over the place throughout his career, with FanGraphs noting he cost Cleveland five runs at the position last season. 

Going to Oakland’s spacious coliseum likely won’t improve Davis’ defensive metrics, but his speed and ability to create scoring opportunities on the bases make him a worthy investment for the A’s. 

There may be questions about whether Davis can sustain his level of play, as he’s well into his 30s. He was a pleasant surprise for Cleveland in 2016, and his play was a big reason for the club’s Cinderella postseason run.

If Davis can replicate his success from last season, the A’s will have landed one of the better low-key free-agent signings.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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Matt Joyce to Athletics: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Outfielder Matt Joyce found a new home Wednesday, as he signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Oakland Athletics

The team announced the move after Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was the first to report the deal.

Joyce, 32, hit .242 with 13 home runs, 45 runs and 42 RBI in 140 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2016 season. It was his sixth season with at least 10 or more homers, though his batting average matched his mediocre lifetime average of .242.

That said, Joyce posted an excellent .403 on-base percentage and struck out just 67 times in 231 at-bats. In turn, he was fantastic for the Pirates as the team’s fourth outfielder, making him a valuable addition to Oakland’s depth.

And if Joyce continues to produce like he did in limited plate appearances in 2016, he may just earn himself a steadier dose of playing time.

The A’s have long embraced the Moneyball system under general manager Billy Beane, and the fact that Joyce registered a career-best OBP in 2016 likely endeared him to the organization.

Certainly, there will be concerns that Joyce could sink back to his 2015 form, which saw him hit just .174 with five homers and 21 RBI in 93 games with the Los Angeles Angels. But Joyce appeared to make significant changes to his approach at the plate in 2016, and it paid major dividends.

Now, Oakland will be hoping to cash in on those alterations.

Joyce is far removed from the career season he put up with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, when he hit .277 with 19 home runs and 75 RBI en route to his first and only All-Star nod, but he seemingly fits what the Athletics are trying to do at a reasonable price.

Although Joyce isn’t likely to put up huge numbers, he should provide an upgrade to an outfield that lacked in terms of production and experience outside of Khris Davis in 2016.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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Athletics Owner Lew Wolff Steps Down: Latest Details, Reaction

Oakland Athletics managing partner and co-owner Lew Wolff is stepping down. 

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Athletics primary owner John Fisher will be taking over Wolff’s role.

Slusser also reported Wolff will be selling a majority of his stake in the Major League Baseball franchise to the other partners and will be named chairman emeritus. 

The A’s officially announced the organizational shake-up Thursday. Dave Kaval moves into the role of team president, and Michael Crowley will transition into a senior adviser role. 

Kaval said the A’s are committed to staying in Oakland, per John Hickey of Bay Area News Group. Kaval said the team is looking at several potential sites but likes the idea of a “ballpark village” concept, according to Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area.

Wolff was part of a group that purchased the A’s from Stephen Schott and Ken Hofmann in 2005 for $180 million. The franchise has made four playoff appearances since that group took over; most recently, Oakland lost to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Wild Card Game in 2014. 

The A’s organization, particularly Wolff, has drawn heavy criticism in recent years for a number of reasons, both on and off the field. 

In October 2015, Eno Sarris of ESPN.com wrote about some of the issues that have plagued the A’s under their current ownership group:

Wolff has long refused to spend on the players or the stadium, which has led to situations like Scott Hatteberg at first base and sewage in the dugout. And fans are, quite frankly, tired of the concrete bunker that is the Coliseum — ranked worst in all of sports in stadium quality and fan-friendliness. Local transportation problems have contributed, and the stadium doesn’t sit in a part of Oakland that might attract foot traffic. 

The problems at the Oakland Coliseum have been well-documented, including several instances of flooding after heavy rains that have led to sewage seeping into the building. 

The A’s haven’t finished higher than 18th in payroll since 2000, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. They have made questionable trades, notably sending Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays in November 2014 before he was eligible for arbitration when his salary would exceed the MLB minimum for the first time.

Wolff’s decision to step down from a heavy hands-on role with the Athletics to a less prominent position gives the franchise an opportunity to move forward with greater success than they have had in recent years. 

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Sonny Gray Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Athletics SP

Following a disappointing 2016 campaign, the Oakland Athletics are reportedly willing to listen to offers for starting pitcher Sonny Gray.

Continue for updates.

Latest on Gray’s Future with Athletics

Friday, Nov. 11

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the A’s aren’t actively shopping Gray but are open to a deal if the right one presents itself.

After finishing third in the 2015 American League Cy Young Award voting, Gray experienced a huge drop-off in 2016.

The 27-year-old righty went just 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 117 innings. He was also limited to 22 starts due to a pair of stints on the disabled list with a strained trapezius and a strained right forearm.

Gray enjoyed a career year in 2015 with a 14-7 record, 2.73 ERA and a personal-best 1.08 WHIP, but he was nowhere close to the same pitcher last season.

The fall from grace was surprising since Gray went 33-20 with an impressive 2.88 ERA in his first three MLB campaigns.

Gray was 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA over his first four starts of the season, but the wheels came off after that. However, if injuries were primarily responsible for that, and he is now healthy, he is in position to bounce back in 2017 and beyond.

Since Gray is arbitration-eligible for the next three years, per Spotrac, there isn’t a ton of incentive for the Athletics to trade him.

The A’s have some major question marks in their starting rotation aside from Gray, although youngsters Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton showed flashes of brilliance last season.

A package of high-quality prospects could entice an Oakland team that is rebuilding, but following Gray’s awful season, it seems unlikely that fair value will be offered in return.


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Sonny Gray Is the Wild Card of the MLB Offseason’s Ace Trade Market

Remember when Sonny Gray seemed to have one foot in an Oakland A’s uniform and one foot on the trading block? Those were interesting times.

Now they may be ready for a comeback.

No two Major League Baseball offseasons are exactly alike, but a prevailing theme through all of them is the widespread need for starting pitching. In a related story, another prevailing theme are the showers of cash that fall on the best free-agent aces.

The 2016-17 offseason, however, presents a conundrum: There are no aces on the open market.

Rich Hill is good, but also older and not very durable. After him, the best free-agent pitcher is Jeremy Hellickson. After him…Ivan Nova? Jason Hammel? Bartolo Colon? I mean, you can take your pick.

And so, teams in the market for an ace must turn to the trade market. The trade winds are blowing around names like Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Chris Archer. All good pitchers! Certainly better than any on the open market, anyway.

But therein lies another conundrum. The teams that employ those pitchers know they have key pieces of supply in a world flooded with demand. They can jack up the sticker prices, which could force suitors toward more affordable options.

Which brings us to Gray.

There’s a good reason Gray’s name doesn’t loom as large on the trade market. He put up a 3.08 ERA in 219 innings in 2014 and then finished third in the American League Cy Young voting after posting a 2.73 ERA in 208 innings in 2015. But in 2016, he pitched just 117 innings in 22 starts and watched his ERA balloon to an ugly 5.69.

Nonetheless, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has it on good authority that the A’s are ready to field some calls on their 27-year-old right-hander. 

“Sonny has been a popular trade conversation for the last couple of years, so it won’t be new,” A’s general manager David Forst said at the GM meetings in Scottsdale. “Certainly it’s expected, and we have to be open to anything at this point considering where we are and how much work we have to do to catch up with the teams at the top of our division. I can’t speak to how aggressive teams will be or when the calls will come in, but we have to be open to that conversation.”

When pressed, he added: “It’s nice to have assets people want.”

Given the nature of the A’s finances, it’s relevant that Gray will stop being cheap in 2017. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projects his salary will go from $528,000 to $3.7 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Gray’s arbitration eligibility also means his free agency is now there on the horizon, just three years away. Coming off a 93-loss season in 2016, the A’s are facing a rebuilding stretch that may not be over by then. Trading him for pieces that could boost said rebuild could be their best play.

The deflation of Gray’s value in 2016 should be a deal-breaker, but the lack of options on the open market and the gigantic price tags of alternative trade options are just the things to cancel that out. Rather than a broken pitcher to stay away from, teams may be compelled to look at Gray as a once-great pitcher who could be remade.

Gray is still in his prime years, and one positive sign from his rotten 2016 is that he wasn’t plagued by bad stuff. He lost only 0.2 miles per hour off his fastball from 2015, sitting at 92.7 mph. And according to Baseball Savant, he experienced a significant increase in spin rate.

Gray’s real problem? Command.

He went from 2.6 walks per nine innings in 2015 to 3.2 walks per nine innings in 2016. One thing Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs noticed early on is that Gray wasn’t able to command his breaking stuff. He was throwing too many non-competitive curveballs and sliders way down below the strike zone. That would lead to walks.

That also made it easier for hitters to sit fastball. Gray could find the zone with those, but too often found the wrong parts of it. Per Brooks Baseball, he threw more four-seamers and sinkers right down the middle:

Hitters responded accordingly. They hit .310 against Gray’s four-seamer and .380 against his sinker. This after hitting .262 and .270 against them the prior season.

The elephants in the room are the injuries Gray suffered. He went on the disabled list with a bad shoulder in May and with a bad forearm in August. 

The shoulder injury is especially alarming when paired with what was going on with Gray’s release point earlier in the year. It was down from where it had been throughout 2015. That won’t go unnoticed or unworried about by potential suitors.

But the silver lining also isn’t hard to spot. Albeit in limited exposure, Gray’s release point did move back up toward the end of the year. That’s a sign he’s not necessarily damaged goods, and that his struggles in 2016 may have been due to a mere mechanical funk.

Such things can be fixed. And in this case, fixing such a thing could turn Gray back into what he was in 2014 and 2015: one of the best pitchers in baseball.

What it would cost to take this chance won’t be cheap. The A’s can demand one or two elite prospects or perhaps some established major league talent with controllability and untapped upside.

However, that doesn’t sound so bad compared to what it would take to land one of the other guys.

Sale ($38 million through 2019) and Archer ($39 million through 2021) have value even beyond what’s left on their contracts. That would have to be matched by a bucket of top prospects in a trade.

Verlander and Greinke don’t have that kind of excess value on top of their remaining contracts. But if a team deals for either one, it would have to take on all or most of the $84 million (or $106 million if his 2020 option vests) owed to Verlander or the $172.5 million owed to Greinke.

Since going home without an ace isn’t an option, the choice before teams is to either pay a huge price for a sure thing or a lesser price for a lottery ticket. Gray’s the latter, and he could be a winner.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Billy Butler Injury: Updates on Athletics DH’s Concussion and Return

Oakland Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion Monday in the aftermath of an altercation with teammate Danny Valencia, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The team announced it would call up Arismendy Alcantara in the corresponding move.

Continue for updates.

Butler and Valencia Fined but Not Suspended

Monday, Aug. 22

In addition to reporting the two players were fined rather than suspended, Shea noted the Athletics training staff told general manager David Forst that Butler “would need five to seven days,” which prompted the decision to put him on the seven-day concussion DL.

“Forst said he’s not concerned, that this is not the first clubhouse fight ever,” Shea added. “He said it’s [the] first [the] A’s had this year.”

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Butler and Valencia had a “physical confrontation” before batting practice Friday. Slusser reported players had to break up the ensuing fight, and Valencia hit Butler on the head after the two exchanged shoves.

Citing players who spoke anonymously, Slusser reported an equipment representative asked Valencia about off-brand spikes in his locker that he was told not to wear in games. While Valencia said he uses them only before games, Butler reportedly told the representative otherwise and suggested the company should drop Valencia’s endorsement deal.

Slusser noted Butler “has an equipment endorsement with a different company.”

John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reported the two players haven’t spoken since the fight. 

“One [player] said that Valencia and Butler both played roles in the incident,” Slusser wrote. “Valencia should not have punched Butler. And Butler should not have provoked Valencia by potentially costing him an endorsement contract.”

Butler and Valencia both played for the Kansas City Royals during the 2014 season, and Valencia joined Oakland in August 2015.

Valencia has played for the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Royals, Toronto Blue Jays and Athletics since entering the big leagues in 2010.

Former teammate Eric Hosmer came to his defense in the face of potential criticism regarding the incident:

As for the temporary loss of Butler, Oakland will miss an important presence in its lineup. He is slashing .286/.338/.419 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 79 games this season, which are solid numbers but a far cry from his prime, when he slashed .313/.373/.510 with 29 homers and 107 RBI for Kansas City in 2012.

Last year, Butler’s first with the Athletics following eight seasons with the Royals, he hit 15 homers.

This is a lost season for Oakland, so there is no pennant race for Butler to rush back to as the calendar approaches October. Rather than risking further injury, he will take this time on the seven-day DL. 

The fourth-place Athletics were 19.5 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West entering play Monday.

Look for Oakland to turn to Khris Davis as an option at DH. Davis is in the middle of a career campaign with 32 home runs and 79 RBI in 115 games. Veteran Coco Crisp can play in the outfield when Davis is the DH or DH when Davis is in the outfield.

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Coco Crisp: Latest News, Rumors and Speculation Surrounding Athletics OF

After seven seasons, it appears outfielder Coco Crisp and the Oakland Athletics are headed for a contentious divorce. 

Continue for updates.

Crisp Accuses A’s of Benching Him for Financial Reasons

Tuesday, Aug. 16

Crisp said Monday the A’s have been avoiding playing him so his 2017 option does not kick in, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle

I’m extremely hurt, the way things are being handled. I’m not calling anyone names, but this is really frustrating and disappointing. This has been my favorite organization going back to when I was a kid, because of Rickey Henderson, and I’ve enjoyed playing here so much, and I’ve put it all out there. … Up until recently, it’s been tremendously enjoyable.

Crisp, 36, is due $13 million in 2017 should he appear in 130 games. He has appeared in 93 of 119 games so far, meaning he can only miss five more games for that option to vest.

While the veteran has not spent any time on the disabled list, the A’s have become increasingly picky about when they play him. Manager Bob Melvin has sat Crisp 13 times since the beginning of July after leaving him out as many times in the first three months of the season—four of which were due to a lingering heel injury.

Crisp has been relegated to the bench against left-handed pitchers, and he has become suspicious of the team’s motives when he hasn’t been used as a pinch hitter.

“This is shady. Everyone else is getting used off the bench,” Crisp said. “[Melvin] can’t even look me in the eye right now.”

Crisp is hitting .239/.307/.410 with 10 home runs and 46 runs batted in. He has spent the last seven seasons in Oakland, making him the longest-tenured player on the roster. The A’s could look to move him before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, but Crisp has 10-and-5 rights.

“But this team has never been motivated to give up a dollar,” Crisp’s agent, Steve Comte, said. “I know Billy Beane has always been fond of Coco, but what they’re doing now is really a joke. I’ve advised Coco to take the high road, but the way things are going is a disservice to him.”

The path to playing time will become even more difficult in September when rosters expand to 40 players. It seems almost preordained that Crisp will leave the place he’s played for nearly half of his career with a bad taste in his mouth.

With the A’s sitting at 52-67 and well out of contention, though, it’s hard to blame them for wanting to give younger guys time if Crisp isn’t in their plans.

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Sonny Gray Injury: Updates on Athletics Pitcher’s Arm and Return

Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray suffered a forearm injury during his start against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. It is uncertain when he will return to action.

Continue for updates.

Gray Placed on 15-Day DL

Sunday, Aug. 7

The Athletics announced the roster move, noting Chris Smith was called up from Nashville to take Gray’s place.

Gray’s Injury the Latest in a Long Season for Star Pitcher

This is a difficult blow for Gray, especially since his durability was a defining characteristic in the past two seasons. He pitched 200-plus innings in both 2014 and 2015, but this year has been a different story, as the 26-year-old spent time on the disabled list earlier in the season with a trapezius strain.

Gray came into the 2016 campaign as Oakland’s clear-cut ace after his All-Star campaign in 2015, when he finished third in Cy Young voting with a 2.73 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 169 strikeouts in 208 innings on his way to 14 wins. While he has never posted an ERA higher than 3.08 in a full season, he has struggled mightily in 2016.

Thus far, Gray has posted a 5-11 record with a 5.74 ERA while allowing a career-high 18 home runs.

Oakland does have options to turn to in the starting rotation, including Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea. But with the playoffs already out of reach for the Athletics, there’s no rush to bring their ace back as they finish off a disappointing season. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Rich Hill Injury: Updates on Athletics SP’s Blister and Return

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Rich Hill had to leave his start Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays because of a popped blister, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle

Continue for updates.

Hill Running Into Issues With Blisters

Sunday, July 17

Hill was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday due to blisters, per Slusser, though Hill believed at the time he was over any concerns, according to Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet California:

Any recurring issues with blisters could affect his value on the trade market. 

According to Slusser and Bob Nightengale of USA Today, a number of scouts were in attendance for Hill’s start, with the pitcher perhaps garnering interest from a number of clubs looking to bolster their rotations before the MLB trade deadline.  

Indeed, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported on July 9 that Hill “is being watched closely by teams” and added that the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles and the Blue Jays had already scouted him.

And Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported that the Miami Marlins were trying to acquire a starting pitcher, with Hill being one of the team’s primary targets.

The 36-year-old has certainly earned the buzz. He’s gone 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 90 strikeouts in 76.0 innings pitched over 13 starts. And the Athletics may be perfectly content simply keeping him.

“Rich Hill is the best pitcher in the league right now. Period,” Athletics executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane told Peter Gammons of the MLB Network. “We would have no problem making him a qualifying offer.”

Of course, it seems unlikely that the struggling Athletics won’t cash in on Hill before the trade deadline, though interested buyers may be less likely to throw valuable assets into a trade given these blister issues. His upcoming starts before the Aug. 1 trade deadline will be watched closely by teams around baseball. 


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