Despite my better judgment, I’ll invest some time and keystrokes kicking around the A’s early offseason moves because I’m a transactions geek with some time on my hands. I assume that every trade will lead to at least one or two other trades or minor transactions in the next couple of months and the real time to assess Oakland’s winter moves will be a couple of weeks before spring training starts. Assessing each move as they’re made can become an exercise in futility when the front office kicks into high gear and starts its annual, dizzying flurry of transactions. But for the sake of amusement I’ll run through Beane and Co.’s recent moves.
10/14/15: Released CF Jason Pridie
A center fielder who hits .310/.380/.515 at Triple A? Wow, the A’s might have the next Mike Trout on their hands. Oh wait, he’s 32 and he’s been taking his hacks at that level for about 9 years? And he’s only hit .216/.290/.351 in limited exposure to MLB pitching since 2008? Scratch those big hopes for a young, cheap, fantastic position player exploding out of the farm system. Feel free to cut him loose, make room for a younger player and give Pridie a chance to latch on with an organization that may offer a clearer path to the majors. 2015 was a helluva a year Jason Pridie, Nashville will never forget you.
10/19/15: Toronto Blue Jays claimed LHP Pat Venditte off waivers
Well, the Pat Venditte Experience was fun while it lasted. The switch pitcher’s long-awaited major league debut was one of the few highlights in a dismal 2015 season for the A’s. Venditte’s 4.40 ERA wasn’t particularly impressive but he held opposing hitters to a .210 average and struck out almost twice as many hitters as he walked. Right-handed hitters crushed him to the tune of a .896 OPS but he held lefties to a paltry .407 mark. One amusing tidbit (OK, it’s more like a sad, frustrating tidbit): $30 million man Billy Butler posted a abysmal -0.9 WAR in 2015 while little Pat Venditte came in on the positive side at 0.1. Best of luck to Mr. Venditte as he heads north of the border.
11/3/15: Philadelphia Phillies claimed RHP Dan Otero off waivers
It’s amazing how maddeningly inconsistent relief pitchers can be from year to year. Otero went from key member of Oakland’s bullpen in 2013 and 2014 to a train wreck in 2015. On the bright side, unexpectedly effective relievers like Otero seem to come out of the woodwork every year around the league so patching up Oakland’s ineffective bullpen should be an affordable, promising venture for the A’s front office this winter.
11/6/15: Claimed Andrew Lambo off waivers from Pittsburgh Pirates
I’m immature enough to like any A’s player whose name rhymes with Rambo. I’m enough of a Baseball Reference stats geek to like any player coming to the A’s with a history of slugging percentages north of .500 throughout his minor league career. The natural pie-in-the-sky hope is that Lambo excels in the A’s organization and blossoms into the second coming of Brandon Moss. Moss’ career Triple A line? .276/.354/.497 in 5 years. Lambo’s? .267/.336/.495 in 3 seasons. The chances of Lambo being lost on waivers in the near future are far more likely than him emerging as a poor man’s Brandon Moss but it doesn’t hurt to dream on a slow day in the offseason does it?
Approximately 11/9/2015: A’s miss out in the bidding for Byung Ho Park
The Twins earned the right to negotiate a contract with the Korean slugger on the strength of their $12.85 million bid. I’m not a moral victories kind of guy, but hearing that the A’s made a strong run at Park is an encouraging sign. It shows that Oakland is being aggressive, has some money to work with and it wants to fill the power void that hampered last season’s offense. Then again, this is the same franchise that came in second in the bidding for Aroldis Chapman and even though it won the bidding for negotiating rights to Hisashi Iwakuma several years ago they couldn’t seal the deal when it was time to hammer out a contract. Whether it’s losing closely-fought ALDS Game 5s or making failed bids for international players, the A’s seem to be mastering the art of just barely coming up short. But the offseason is young, maybe there’s still a splashy international signing in the A’s future.
11/20/15: Traded RHP Jesse Chavez to Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Liam Hendriks
Chavez gave the A’s a lot of good innings as a low-cost purchase from the Jays back in 2012. And now that he’s advancing into his 30s with a price tag climbing over $2.1 million he’s been flipped back to Toronto for a younger, cheaper, much-needed relief pitcher. At the moment, it looks like a good deal all around for everyone involved. Hendriks has bounced around over the past several years but it looks like he’s found his niche and some extra velocity since he switched from starting to relieving last year in Toronto. The A’s bullpen can use all the help it can get and Hendriks is the first of what’s likely to be a few new additions to the beleaguered relief corps.
11/20/15: Signed free agent LHP Rich Hill
$6 million for a veteran left-hander to pencil into the back of the rotation? Yes, Hill is 35 and this deal is mostly based on the stellar 29 innings he worked with the Red Sox last year, but I have no problem with this deal. I mean, it’s just $6 million. Other than pro sports, where else can you say that? For a mere $6 million the A’s get some rotation depth and the flexibility to move Drew Pomeranz to a bullpen role in 2016. With one modest transaction the rotation and bullpen get a little better. It’s a small move, but in the early part of the offseason it looks like a decent one.
11/25/15: Release A.J. Griffin
Griffin was a colorful, effective starter for the A’s through a couple of playoff runs but it looks like there’s only room in the organization for one pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery and his name is Jarrod Parker. With an influx of young pitchers via trade the past couple of years Griffin got pushed out of the picture as he works his way back from arm surgery at a tediously slow pace. It’s not too hard to see why the A’s would prefer to use a roster spot on someone other than a 27-year-old lacking top-shelf stuff who has barely pitched in two years.
11/25/15: Houston Astros traded 3B Jed Lowrie to Oakland Athletics for RHP Brendan McCurry
OK, let’s be patient and wait for the other shoe to drop because this move can’t be the last one for the A’s infield can it? Will Danny Valencia or Brett Lawrie be on the move? Will Marcus Semien be pushed to a new position? You have to think the A’s are just getting started in juggling the roster around as the hot stove league slowly heats up.
My gut feeling is the A’s got the best out of Lowrie for the best price during his first tour of duty in Oakland. If Lowrie is the brittle, injury-prone, light-hitting, mediocre defensive infielder I fear he could be, then $7.5 million is a high price to pay in 2016 for his services. But if Lowrie can stay healthy, play passable defense (hey, it’s hard not to look like a Gold Glover in the wake of Semien’s mess of 2015 season with the leather) and post his typical .700+ OPS then this could turn out to be a very successful reunion depending on how the A’s front office moves forward with the rest of their offseason plans for the infield.
So there you have it, a quick and dirty look at the A’s opening moves in the offseason. Nothing too big, but some interesting little moves that may hint at Oakland’s plans for the rotation, bullpen, infield and need for power. Now it’s time to sit back, relax and wait for the bigger moves to come as David Forst’s first offseason as the team’s general manager continues to unfold.