Billy Beane has continued to make roster moves since I last posted here. Some seem to be improvements for the team. Others are downright puzzling.
Sheets Signs One-Year Deal: Undoubtedly, the biggest move is the signng of free agent Ben Sheets to a one-year $10-million deal plus incentives, to anchor the starting rotation for 2010.
That makes it the largest 1-year contract the A’s have given to a free agent from outside the organization.
The 31-year old hurler didn’t pitch at all in 2009 because he underwent flexor tendon surgery in his right elbow a year ago. In his 8 years in the majors, he achieved an 86-83 record with a 3.72 ERA, and had double digit wins in 7 of the last 8 seasons. In 2008 he went 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts.
On January 19th he threw a pitching session at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and impressed scouts from several organizations, including Oakland, reportedly hitting the low-90’s with his fastball. If he is healthy he’ll most likely be the #1 starter and will be an invaluable veteran presence for the younger guys in the rotation.
2010 Pitching Rotation: The rotation will most probably line up as follows: Sheets, Duchscherer, Anderson, Braden and Cahill, not necessarily in that order. Spring training will shake this out when we see how Sheets, Duke and Braden do, coming of long stints on the DL and surgeries last year. We can’t forget about Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazarro, and Josh Outman who could pitch their way into the rotation, especially if one or two of the guys above don’t fare so well in Arizona. The presence of Sheets will go a long way toward reducing the pressure on the young arms that was so evident in 2009.
Wuertz Returns to the A’s Bullpen. The A’s rewarded Michael Wuertz for his outstanding work in the bullpen last year with a 2-year, $5.25 million contract.
The team also has a $3.5M option for 2012, with a $250K buyout if the option is not exercised. He is expected to earn $2.2M in 2010 and $2.8M in 2011. Wuertz was the A’s last arbitration-elligible player to sign. His record in 2009 (6-1, 2.63 ERA, 74 appearances, and league-leading 102 strikeouts) was so good that the A’s violated their rule to tender only 1-year deals for arbitration-elligible players.
Monday, Feb 1st, Was a Busy Day. The A’s signed free-agent outfielder Gabe Gross to a 1-year contract. Gross hit .227 with 6 homers and 36 RBI’s in 282 at-bats last season for the Tampa Bay Rays.
He can play all 3 outfield positions, bats left, and has always been a solid defender. “We just felt like he was a good fit for th team, whether it’s spotting some of our guys agains tough righties or filling at time since he can play both corner outfield positions. We’ve always liked the way he plays,” said Assistant GM David Forst. His signing spelled the end of the speculation that Johnny Damon might resign with the A’s.
Also, last Monday, the A’s completed a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, obtaining infielder Adam Rosales and outfielder Willy Taveras for infielder Aaron Miles. It was made evident that the key player in the deal for the A’s was Rosales, as they immediately designated Taveras for assignment.
Rosales completes the infield picture for the 2010 A’s, as he can play all 4 infield positions, and will be used as a utility infielder and to spell Cliff Pennington at shortstop. If any of the other infielders go down with injuries, he could get significant playing time. “Our scouts have seen a lot of him over the past few years, and every single one of them just loves the way he plays the game and really likes his versatility,” said Asst. GM David Forst, who compared his energy to that of Eric Byrnes.
The A’s have until Feb. 11th to trade or release Taveras or they will be on the hook for $1.7M of his $2.3M salary for 2010. The A’s are not in need of another outfielder, especially after the signing of Gross, so they will be looking to move him in the next week. If they can’t and he clears waivers, he could go to the minors, most likely the Sacramento River Cats.
Finally, the A’s also designated for assignment infielder Gregorio Petit, and pitcher Dana Eveland (long overdue IMHO)
Hot off the wire, Eveland was traded today (Saturday 2/6) to Toronto for cash and a player to be named later, just 5 days after he was designated for assignment.
They also claimed Twins’ minor-league infielder off waivers. Tolleson, according to Forst, “…is another guy our scouts have liked since seeing him play in the Arizona Fall League in 2008. He can play a number of positions and helps add to the depth.” Both he and Rosales have options left, giving the A’s lots of flexibility, esepcially of one or two of the regular infielders go down with injury (Chavez?).
After the A’s acquired Aaron Miles, I became very curious about his role on the team as we didn’t hear his name mentioned at all in plans for the upcoming season. Apparently, Miles know he might be used as trade bait when he was acquired by the A’s. An Antioch native, he admitted, “It would have been nice to stay local and play for the hometown team. But in the end, you gotta go with what’s best for your career, and I think that’s definitely in Cincinnati.”
Spring Training. The A’s will have a lot of depth when they arrive at spring training later this month. Is Billy Beane happy with who they have now? Not so fast. Forst said that the swarm of roster moves last Monday doesn’t necessarily mean the club is done wheeling and dealing.
Miscellanea. OC Signs: Former A’s Shortstop, Orlando Cabrera signed a $3M deal with the Cincinnati Reds, which includes a $3M option for 2011 with a $1M buyout of the club doesn’t want to sign him for the additonal year.
A Higher Calling: A’s Minor-League outfielder Grant Desme, the MVP of the 2009 Arizona Fall League, got a call, but it wasn’t from the A’s brass.
He resigned from professional baseball in late January to embark on the 10-year path to becoming a priest, starting with studies at St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County beginning next August. “It’s like I’m re-entering the Minor Leagues,” he said.
Sacramento River Cats Owner Dies: Arthur Lynn Savage, the man who changed evenings in Sacramento and gave the River-City baseball fans a home team to brag about, passed away at his East Sacramento home on Nov. 22, 2009. He was 58.
The River Cats organization is one of the nation’s most successful minor league franchises. During the last 10 years, the River Cats broke attendance records every year, outdistancing 200 other minor league teams in the country.
Mr. Savage was named the Sporting News Minor League Executive of the Year in 2000 and the franchise was honored with the Bob Freitas Award for Excellence in Minor League Baseball for the 2004 season. He will be sorely missed by all who knew or played for him.
That’s all for now. I’ll be at spring training with the A’s from March 17th to the 25th. It should be lots of fun watching all that talent contend for the right to break camp with the A’s.
I apologize for not posting an entry in over a week. I have been under the weather for that period and we are without a hot water heater, because the old one decided some time ago to leak and rotted out the floor underneath it and the 2 nearby furnaces, which now have to come out so that the floor can be fixed. GI showers with cold water are no fun! Also, in less than 2 weeks I leave for a milestone high school reunion in Massachusetts which I am running, so I am tearing my hair out trying to get ready for that.,
Sweeney Saves the Day and Holiday gets a Dinger: I hope you all saw Ryan Sweeney time his jump perfectly and reach over the wall to rob Ian Kinsler of a 3-run homer in the eighth inning yesterday in Texas. It was a thing of beauty and saved the A’s lead. I’m sure it made ESPN’s Web Gems last night. Here is his being congratulated by Matt Holliday after making the spectacular catch.
In the top of the ninth, Holliday finally hit his first homer as an A. I hope this opens the floodgates and he starts pounding the ball out of the park with regularity.
Eric Chavez to the DL? Eric is one of the nicest guys on the planet and his presence in the clubhouse and the dugout are invaluable. Having won more gold gloves than he can carry certainly speaks to his talent. That being said, can he be healthy enough to contribute on the field or at the plate? I just don’t know. Last night, Bob Geren hinted that he might be headed for yet another stint on the DL.
What Happened to Our Infield? Yikes! The infield was decimated in Texas. Garciaparra and Ellis went down with calf injuries, Willy Casilla stepped down wrong on the mound and injured his calf and Brett Anderson got a blister on one of his pitching fingers, which is not a wimpy injury if you’re a pitcher. It was a very bizarre game on Tuesday night in Arlington. Jason Giambi gave his hanstrings too much of a workout in the same game and now he is day-to-day. I guess it’s back to the drawing board to raid the River Cats, once again. Maybe we should activate Mike Gallego!
Things were so bad last night that no one was available to warm up Michael Wuertz in the bottom of the ninth inning, so Manager Bob Geren, a former catcher, donned a mitt and crouched down behind the plate for a few pitches until Kurt Suzuki could get his gear on and relieve him. Way to go, Bob. I hope your hammies can take it.
Now on to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field: Let’s hope the A’s left the injury bug back in Texas. They open a weekend series tonight in Seattle. The Mariners are sitting in first place at the moment, although as my brother in Seattle often points out, “They’ll fade!” I hope he’s right. The A’s are only 3½ games behind the M’s. This series could change that in a big way.
Hold it, Hot Off the Presses! The A’s just now put Chavez on the 15-day DL with a strained right forearm, retroactive to April 25th. They recalled Gregorio Petit from Sacramento. Petit was hitting a mere .238 at Triple A this season, but that is a whole heck of a lot better than Chavez’ .100 batting average. Last year Gregorio batted .348 in 14 games over three stints with the A’s.