Hey Mark Mulder, thanks for Yonder Alonso and Mark Rzepczynski


So the A’s made a minor move today, flipping swingman Drew Pomeranz, minor league pitcher Jose Torres and a PTBNL or cash to the Padres for first baseman Yonder Alonso and left-handed reliever Mark Rzepczynski. I get the impression that Oakland wanted to plug some holes ahead of the winter meetings and San Diego was motivated to squeeze some value out of two players they weren’t planning to tender contracts to today.

My knee-jerk reaction to the deal when the news broke on Twitter was I’d rather see Pomeranz pitching out of the A’s bullpen in 2016 over watching Alonso’s all-leather, no-power routine at first base and Rzepczynski’s attempt to bounce back from a lackluster 2015 season.

In terms of money, Alonso and Rzepczynski are due arbitration raises on their $1.65 million and $2.4 million 2015 salaries compared to Pomeranz’s bump from his $517,500 pay which is all chump change in a world where David Price just agreed to a deal that will pay him more than $30 million a season. The A’s have plenty of payroll flexibility this winter and adding Alonso and Rzepczynski to the books probably won’t have any significant impact on the team’s ability to make any other roster moves between now and Opening Day.

For the moment, the A’s have a slick-fielding platoon first baseman with strong on-base skills and a veteran LOOGY who may be a decent bet to bounce back to the form that made him one of the better left-handed relievers of the past few years. But that could all change very quickly with the way the A’s tend to wheel and deal in the offseason. Give it a month and Alonso and Rzepczynski could be on to new destinations without ever lacing up a pair of white cleats.

Even though I’m mildly annoyed to see Pomeranz go because I thought he could thrive in a full-time relief role in Oakland for a very affordable price, I can easily imagine him plagued by injuries and control problems in San Diego. Of course, the pessimistic, frustrated A’s fan in me can also easily imagine Pomeranz following in the footsteps of Tyson Ross and developing into a stud for the Padres.

markmuldebenmargotapBut as much as the 2016 roster implications of this trade intrigues me, it’s the long, winding transaction trail that amuses me the most about the Pomeranz-Alonso/Rzepczynski deal. Because you can’t get to today’s move without good old Mark Mulder.

Mulder, a 1998 first-round draft pick and beloved member of the Big Three, was traded to the Cardinals for Dan Haren who was traded to the Diamondbacks for Brett Anderson who was traded to the Rockies for Pomeranz who was just traded for Alonso and Rzepczynski … who will probably be traded one of these days for a few young players who will continue to give the A’s some tangible value for Mulder’s acquisition 17 years ago.

It’s kind of a neat trick to squeeze almost 20 years of roster moves out of one late-’90s draft pick. Sure, that’s about as trivial as it gets but at the moment winding through all the transactions associated with today’s trade is a lot more entertaining than looking at Alonso’s and Rzepczynski’s pedestrian, uninspiring stats from last season.

Despite my tepid initial reaction to seeing Pomeranz dealt to San Diego, I’ll cross my fingers that today’s little trade just netted the A’s a couple of reasonably-priced, key, complementary pieces to an entertaining 2016 club that can be in the playoff hunt in the last couple of months of the season.

At a bare minimum, the A’s snagged a couple of trade chips that can eventually be used to stretch out Mark Mulder’s seemingly neverending impact on the franchise. That’s a halfway decent amount of entertainment value for a minor trade leading into the winter meetings.

The hot stove slowly starts to heat up in Oakland


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. Athletics-Switch-Pitcher-BaseballThe 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 20150310pdPirates01Rambo. 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 hendriks-liam-620Jays 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.

Boo birds descend on new A’s closer Jim Johnson

Have you ever had a couple of bad days at a new job despite trying to make a good impression? Ever have thousands of people scream at you for making a couple of mistakes? Have you ever had an angry mob tell your bosses to send you home for the day or banish you to your former employer? Welcome to Jim Johnson‘s world.

The new Oakland A’s closer hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the home crowd during the season’s opening series. Going 0-2 while coughing up five runs in just one inning of work against the Cleveland Indians has brought the boo birds out in force and left Johnson and manager Bob Melvin facing some hard questions during post-game interviews.

The A’s haven’t even completed their first homestand and Melvin’s already fielding inquiries about whether he’s worried about his closer and if the next save opporunity might go to someone else in the bullpen. And Johnson’s been stuck in front of his locker most nights with reporters crowded around him as he faces the music after another tough loss.

It’s a brutal start to Johnson’s career with the A’s, which promised to be brief even before his implosions on Monday and Wednesday. Seeing the small-budget A’s make an offseason trade with the Baltimore Orioles for a $10 million closer to replace All-Star Grant Balfour was a surprising move but it’s probably a given that Oakland will let Johnson walk as soon as he hits free agency after this season.

Despite the rough outings this week, Johnson hasn’t tried to duck any questions thrown his way after each defeat. As he told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle last night, “We should be 3-0. I’ll take the blame for that. But if I sulk and pout, it doesn’t do anyone any good.”

In his two games against the Indians, Johnson has shown good velocity with his fastball regularly hitting 94 to 95 miles per hour on the radar gun. But location has been more of an issue as the closer’s signature power sinker hasn’t been catching the bottom of the strike zone with the consistency or movement that’s helped him lead the American League in saves the past two seasons. Last night it seemed like every ball Johnson left up in the zone was tagged for a hit by Cleveland’s batters.

The obvious question on everyone’s mind is what’s wrong with Johnson. For his part, the new A’s closer sounded just as baffled by his recent performances as anyone else. “I’ve got to be me. I’ve got to trust in what I’m doing, that it’s going to get better,” Johnson told Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group after Wednesday’s game. “Something’s going to click. That’s how this game works out. You go through slumps, and just one thing can get you going, and you’re off to the races.”

For the moment, it looks like the A’s coaching staff and Johnson have a puzzle to solve. Is Johnson wilting under the pressure of impressing a new team in front of hostile fans? Is he putting too much pressure on himself to have a near-perfect season as he enters free agency? Is Johnson overthrowing the ball, gaining impressive velocity at the expense of the natural sinking action on his fastball? Is he uncomfortable working with new catcher Derek Norris? Does Johnson lack faith in the ability of Oakland’s middle infielders to turn his groundballs into rally-killing double plays. Is he disgusted by playing in a ballpark where sewage leaks into the dugout and clubhouse? Does he feel uncomfortable pitching in the team’s distinctive white shoes?

Who knows? Feel free to join the overreaction party and venture a guess.

The more you think about what might be throwing off Johnson’s performance, the more complicated things can get. But the answer to what’s behind his early struggles may be as simple as a guy having a couple of bad days at work despite his best efforts. Baseball is hard and bad days can happen to the best players.

With three games down and 159 to go, the A’s and Johnson have to hope that his rough start is just a minor bump in the road, because in a vastly improved AL West, the margin of error for winning the division promises to be dangerously slim this year.

Daric Barton gives the doubters a little fuel for the fire

Last night the Oakland A’s lost to the Cleveland Indians, 2-0, extending their streak of season-opening defeats to 10 consecutive years. Oakland failed to come up with key hits with men on base and new closer Jim Johnson coughed up 2 runs in his debut with the A’s which pretty much sealed the team’s fate on Monday.

But the frustrating baserunning of Daric Barton on Josh Donaldson‘s near-homer/world’s-longest single was obviously a key point of frustration for the A’s after the game. Barton’s suprising failure to score kept the A’s off the board when they desperately needed a run to take a late lead in the season opener.

No one seemed particularly shy about how they felt in post-game interviews:

The palpable tension all around makes for fun reading and Barton’s gaffe just adds fuel to the fire for the segment of fans who never wanted to see him make the club out of spring training. In Barton’s defense, he made some slick plays at first base and he reached base twice while driving up pitch counts with his signature patient approach.

Ultimately, if the A’s came up with one or two key hits and Johnson shut down the Indians in the ninth inning last night, Barton’s misadventures on the basepaths probably wouldn’t be a topic of discussion after the game. But expectations are high in Oakland this year as the team pursues a third division title in a row and little mistakes like the one Barton made last night can add up by the end of the year, costing the A’s a few valuable wins when there’s little margin for error in the American League playoff chase.

If Barton really wants to prove the doubters wrong he didn’t do himself any favors with his baserunning last night.

Sizing up the Oakland A’s and AL West on Opening Night

The A’s finally get back to playing games that count when they open their 2014 season against the Cleveland Indians tonight in Oakland and first pitch can’t come a moment to soon for this die-hard fan. I took a look at the team’s Opening Day roster decisions and what the A’s learned in spring training over at Hot Stove Baseball but there’s always more for me to ramble about when it comes to the green and gold:

  • BREAK THE STREAK: If it feels like the A’s haven’t won on Opening Day for a long time, it’s because they haven’t. Oakland hasn’t come out on top in its first game of the season since 2004 when the team beat Texas, 5-4. Want a blast from the past? Chad Bradford got the win and Arthur Rhodes got the save that day and the lineup featured Eric Karros as the starting first baseman. Drawing the Cleveland Indians tonight should help the A’s chances of finally winning on Opening Night after hitting a brick wall in Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners for the past four years. I know Opening Night is just one game out of 162, but it’s still nice to kick the season off with a win.
  • A.J. GRIFFIN: I’m cautiously optimistic that Griffin can come back from elbow tendinitis and be an effective, reliable member of the A’s rotation all season. But that gut feeling is heavy on the caution and light on the optimism considering the fact that an entire offseason of rest didn’t cure what ails Griffin. I’m not sold on a month or so of rest along with a shot of platelet-rich plasma and some rehab getting Griffin back to full speed but I have my fingers crossed.
  • MICHAEL CHOICE: Admit it, you’re going to be keeping a close eye on what the former A’s prospect does in Texas while crossing your fingers that Craig Gentry plays a big role in Oakland winning the AL West again. Nervously viewing the Gentry-Choice trade in the same light as the Milton BradleyAndre Ethier trade may be a little lazy but it’s impossible to avoid. At least Ethier did his damage in the National League. If Choice develops into a power hitting beast in Texas he’ll torture the A’s for years in the AL West.
  • STEPHEN VOGT: Reading about Vogt getting choked up and holding back tears after learning that we was being sent to Triple A Sacramento despite hitting the cover off the ball actually pulled at the hearstrings of this cold-hearted A’s fan. Vogt’s rise to the big leagues is a fantastic story, his game-winning hit in the 2013 playoffs will never be forgotten and on top of all that, he sounds like a genuinely good guy. You pull for players like that and it was brutal seeing him squeezed out of the Opening Day roster. But with John Jaso‘s susceptability to concussions, Vogt is just a couple of foul tips away from being in Oakland for most of the season. He’ll be back and he’ll be a part of any success the A’s enjoy in 2014.
  • Daric Barton refuses to go away.

    Daric Barton refuses to go away.

    DARIC BARTON: I’m sure there’s segment of the A’s fanbase that’s starting to view Barton as the baseball equivalent of crud stubbornly stuck to the bottom of a shoe. No matter how hard you try to scrape it off, the crud just won’t go away. Breaking camp with Barton penciled in for regular playing time may not be popular, but everyone’s favorite whipping boy is going to be standing on the foul line during Opening Night introductions so there’s no point in hoping for anything but the best out of Barton. I have to tip my hat to the kid for the perseverance he’s shown over the years. He knows he doesn’t exactly have a big fan club but he seems to be using the doubters as motivation. If it leads to some key hits and slick defensive plays I’ll take it.

  • TEXAS RANGERS: With Jarrod Parker, Griffin, Ryan Cook and Gentry on the shelf for the A’s, I’m relieved that the Rangers are also dealing with their fair share of bumps and bruises right now. On paper, it doesn’t look like they’re in position to pull away from the pack early in the season. But we’ll soon discover whether Texas’ patchwork starting rotation is ready for prime time.
  • THE ANGELS AND MARINERS: I’ve gotten so used to the A’s and Rangers being the top dogs in the AL West that I keep catching myself dismissing Anaheim and Seattle these days. If Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton have rebound seasons the Angels won’t need great pitching to make some noise in the division. And the Mariners just need their young players to provide Robinson Cano with a supporting cast for them to move into contention if their pitching comes together.
  • HOUSTON ASTROS: Smart money says they’re still going to be cellar dwellers in the AL West but Houston should be halfway decent which is a vast improvement over last season’s 100-loss club. The rebuild is going to pay off soon for the Astros and winning the AL West is going to be harder than ever for the A’s now that everyone in the division is rising to the challenge of keeping up with Oakland and Texas.
  • JOE BLANTON: The big guy is back and he’s scheduled to report to Sacramento to try and get back on track and provide the A’s with some insurance if the starting rotation needs reiforcements. You knew general manager Billy Beane would start dumpster diving for some affordable arms as soon as Parker and Griffin went down. Blanton’s about as interesting as any of the other veteran options out there who are willing to eat up some innings at Triple A with no guaranteed call to the big leagues. Now that Blanton’s back, it’s time to sign fellow 2006 A’s starters Barry Zito and Rich Harden.

In a few hours (weather permitting), the A’s will start the 162-game grind to pursue a third-consecutive AL West title. There’s obviously no guarantee that the regular season will end with champagne flowing in the locker room again but if the past few seasons are any prove anything, there definitely won’t be many dull moments for manager Bob Melvin’s talented and colorful ballclub.

Thinking way too much about every MLB team on Opening Day


A quick run through some totally random gut feelings and stuff I’m looking forward to, or dreading, now that another season of baseball is finally upon us:



  • Grady Sizemore hasn't been healthy since his glory days in Cleveland but he's on the comeback trail with Boston.

    Grady Sizemore hasn’t been healthy since his glory days in Cleveland but he’s on the comeback trail with Boston.

    Boston Red Sox – Sure, it’ll be interesting to find out whether Boston can win back-to-back championships but I’m more interested in seeing how Grady Sizemore‘s comeback pans out. Just making it to Opening Day as Boston’s starting center fielder is fantastic story, I just hope it has a happy ending by the time the season wraps up. Sizemore’s a spectacular talent who deserves a break after too many years lost to injury.

  • Tampa Bay Rays – They’re the A’s small-market counterpart in the AL East and it’s impossible to root against’em as they go toe-to-toe with the AL East’s well-heeled powerhouses. Manager Joe Maddon‘s crew is once again in position to take the division race right down to the wire and they’re a good bet to be one of the league’s best teams in 2014 despite their modest payroll. Gotta love that.
  • Baltimore Orioles – With two free agents in and two relatively high draft picks out during the offseason, it’ll be interesting to see whether Baltimore’s win-now moves to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz pays off with glory in the regular season. Manny Machado‘s health, Tommy Hunter‘s ability to fill Jim Johnson‘s shoes as closer and the emergence of a reliable second baseman may have as much to do with Baltimore’s success as anything Jimenez and Cruz do.
  • New York Yankees – The Bronx Bombers spent a zillion dollars over the winter and they’re definitely vastly improved with Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran donning pinstripes. But their infield looks like a wasteland of over-the-hill stars and other teams’ discards. Maybe it’s just the small-market fan in me, but there’s always something satisfying about seeing the Yankees miss the playoffs. Hopefully all their spending won’t pay off with an appearance in October this year.
  • Toronto Blue Jays – Last season the Jays failed to live up to the hype, bombing in the AL East in 2013 despite an aggressive offseason. Now that all the pressure is off and no one is expecting much out of Toronto it’ll be interesting to see if they can sneak up on the AL East and make some noise in the playoff race. A healthy, productive Brett Lawrie and solid work out of questionable rotation will go a long way toward digging the Blue Jays out of the cellar.

Continue reading

Burgers, karaoke, biased umps and the world’s oldest former big leaguer

Just looking at this thing makes my arteries hurt. If you're a Rays fan and you can put this baby away there are some free tickets to a ballgame with your name all over it.

Just looking at this thing makes my arteries hurt. If you’re a Rays fan and you can put this baby away there are some free tickets to a ballgame waiting for you.

If you’re a baseball nut like me, your Twitter timeline has been chock full of roster moves, inane spring training game updates and fantasy baseball blather lately.

But there’s always a handful of tweets that catch my eye and lead my down the rabbit hole of the Internet as I follow shared links to a mix of odd, interesting and entertaining stories. This week we have a whopper of an eating challenge, partying in Korea, biased umpires (I knew it) and the world’s oldest former big leaguer: