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 feel sorry for Bobby Crosby, not because the A’s took away his shortstop position this year, but because he can’t hit. Even in his Rookie of the Year season, he hit only .239. In 2005, his best year, he hit .276, but he’s hovered between .223 (2009) and .237 since then.
The A’s, as any team, have to do what is best for the team, and when they had the chance to get Orlando Cabrera, a proven hitter and very good shortstop, they took it, and rightly so. Bobby’s response was to pout unprofessionally to the media.
Then when it was obvious that the A’s would finish in last place in the AL West and Cabrera was traded, the A’s decided to look to the future and called up Cliff Pennington to play shortstop for the rest of the season. Bobby again opened his mouth and spouted off, calling the move “a joke.” Not a very good way to ingratiate yourself to potential teams who might need a shortstop. It screams loud and clear: “NOT A TEAM PLAYER!,” which certainly won’t help him in the free agent market.
This week in an article by Doug Krikorian in the Long Beach Press Telegram, Bobby’s father, former MLB player Ed Crosby, took Billy Beane to task for not treating his son fairly. “My feelings are that…Billy Beane has done a number on him,” complaining that Bobby is on the disabled list when “he’s not even hurt.” (More on this use of the DL in my next post.) He even went off on the Moneyball philosophy and criticized the A’s for not letting their players swing at the first pitch in an at bat, complaining that the A’s have “taken the bat out of the hands of their players.”
Statistically the chance of making an out by swinging at the first pitch is overwhelming, so Billy Beane presumably told the organization not to swing at first pitches. So opposing pitchers poured strikes in on the first pitch, getting ahead in the count most of the time. That didn’t work so the A’s have adjusted and we see many more first pitch swings this year. But I digress.
Ed Crosby has a right to vent his feelings, but his rant didn’t help his son’s future prospects. Ed is a former MLB infielder and he should know that teams will look at this and think twice about going after Bobby this offseason.
A .223 hitter needs to be a team player, keep his mouth shut and play his best when he’s put in the lineup if he wants to get a good contract when he becomes a free agent at the end of the year. Bobby will certainly not command a salary anywhere close to the $5.3 million that the A’s are paying him this year and a utility role is most likely all he will be able to get. Too bad really. He could have positioned himself so much better by sucking it up and keeping his mouth shut.
A good comparison might be to Jack Hannahan, who bounced around the Detroit Organization before being traded to the A’s where he’s played third base during Eric Chavez’ various stints on the DL over the last few years. Bobby is very much like Jack: great fielder but can’t hit. The difference is that Jack Hannahan is a gentleman and a true team player, and will always be able to find a job. I saw him play Monday night in Seattle as a Mariner and he made some great plays. It was a pleasure to watch, even though the gems were at the A’s expense.
So all this hoopla about how badly Billy Beane has treated Bobby is way overblown, in my opinion. The A’s organization hung with him through multiple serious injuries, and years when he averaged less than one hit per game, and kept him as the everyday shortstop. They could afford to do that when other guys were hitting the long ball and the team was having a winning season. But the team has been on a slide since 2006, and without power hitters the entire lineup has to be able to get on base and drive in runs to make small ball work. And Bobby can’t get it done. He should go at the end of the season, but he should have gone more quietly for his own good.
Yesterday’s Game Against the Twins: Trevor Cahill pitched well initially, but in the top of the 4th inning got into some trouble and gave up a 3-run homer to Joe Crede. Oh, no, not again, must have been going through the fans minds. Not another long losing streak, please? Thankfully, after that Cahill pitched 3 more scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Twins’ starter, Nick Blackburn, completely befuddled the A’s for the first 7 innings, allowing no one past 2nd base.
Jack Hannahan and Adam Kennedy Man Up: In the bottom of the 8th inning, Jack Hannahan, batting in the 9 hole, led off with a triple (has he finally solved the riddle of hitting?) He scored when Orlando Cabrera stroked a single to center field, making the score 3-1 Twins. Then Nick Blackburn left a pitch up in the middle of the strike zone and Adam Kennedy sent the gift over the right field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Brad Ziegler, who had pitched the top of the 8th inning, worked a 3-up, 3-down 9th, keeping the game tied.
Things Start Going the A’s Way: In the bottom of the 9th, Jason Giambi led off with a walk, and was replaced by the speedy Chris Denorfia. Suzuki tried to bunt Denorfia to 2nd base but was unsuccessful in 2 attempts. Then Twins relief pitcher, Matt Guerrier, hit Suzuki, which accomplished the same result. Daric Barton laid down a nifty bunt in front of home plate and the runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd. Now, there were 2 on and 1 out.
Rajai’s First Walk-Off Hit: Manager Bob Geren had told Rajai Davis in the dugout before he went out to the on-deck circle, “You’re gonna win the game.” After Barton was thrown out at first after his great bunt, Raj stepped into the batters box. He dumped the first pitch he saw into right field for a walk-off single, scoring Denorfia and giving the A’s a 4-3 victory and a split of the series at 2 games apiece. That shut down the losing streak at 2 games.
The Battle of the Young Guns: Tonight the A’s move across the Bay to begin a 3-city interleague road trip. The pitching matchup for the first game is stellar: Tim Lincecum (5-1. 2.96 ERA, Opp. BA .235, WHIP 1.211) is going against Vin Mazzaro (2-0, 0.00 ERA, OBA .170, WHIP .923). For those of you who are not familiar with the WHIP statistic, it stands for Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched. It’s a truer measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness than ERA. In all those categories, Mazzaro has the better stats, but he’s only pitched 2 games in the Major Leagues. It should be fun to watch.