After sending Brandon Moss to the Cleveland Indians, the Athletics opening day payroll is presently projected to come in at around $77 million, with about $33 million going towards arbitration-eligible players based on the two settlements completed and projections from Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors. Shedding Moss' salary saved $7.1 million, and probably about $9 million in 2016.
Payroll can go to around the $95 million the A's reached by the end of 2015, but the A's have to plan ahead for the arbitration cases forthcoming in the next few years. After adding Ike Davis and subtracting Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson, 13 players are receiving arbitration raises in 2015. In 2016, Jeff Samardzija and John Jaso are free agents, but Derek Norris, Drew Pomeranz, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Otero will enter the arbitration process for the first time next year, meaning 15 arbitration cases.
Who's on first?
From the moment the A's signed Ike Davis' arbitration settlement last week, it was clear Davis was going to play the left-handed batting portion of the platoon at first base. Davis has always hit right handers well, though hasn't hit over 20 home runs against them since 2012 despite coming down with Valley Fever.
The 27-year-old's strikeout rate fell significantly from career highs, reaching a career low of 18.3% (compared to the league average of 19.9% by non-pitchers) after a 2013 strikeout rate of 26.8% (28th-worst among 276 players with at least 300 plate appearances).
Billy Butler will probably take on first base duties against left-handed pitching, unless John Jaso learns the position well enough to balance against whatever Oakland believes is the extent of the designated hitter penalty.
What's on second?
Although Joey Wendle has only advanced to Double-A, some in the Indians organization are high on him, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser:
Bolstering Wendle's case to be added to the 40-man roster for the 2015 season is that he will need to be added anyway ahead of the December 2015 Rule 5 draft, making him a strong candidate for a mid-season call-up.
If that strong spring does not pan out Eric Sogard may actually have a chance at a bounceback year on offense to complement his glove at second, with a surprisingly low .251 batting average on balls in play, well below the .299 league average BABIP. The right-handed batting side may be manned by any number of A's middle infielders. Nick Punto is slated to be utility man, but Tyler Ladendorf or Andy Parrino might get a shot against left-handed pitching.
I do care who is shortstop
We're still waiting to see just who is going to be the upgrade we've been waiting so long to see that will bridge the gap to Daniel Robertson, if he plays shortstop at the major league level.
The A's today were said to be eyeing Korean league shortstop Jung-ho Kang (Kang Jung-Ho would be the proper way to arrange the names), according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Kang will be posted next week.
Linked to the rumors swirling around Jeff Samardzija are notes about what the Athletics will insist upon. These rumors, I note, use the word "include" rather than being straight up one-for-one deals. A big part of Samardzija's value is the compensation draft pick that will stem from the qualifying offer Samardzija is sure to reject.
Red Sox would have to include SS Marrero in any deal with the A's for Samardzija.— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) December 8, 2014
Some who've spoken with Oakland re: Samardzija don't expect the A's to grant a negotiating window to any interested team.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 8, 2014
On that last note by Buster Olney, Samardzija is expected to test the free agent market at the end of 2015 rather than sign an extension. A trade negotiating window would only complicate and prolong matters over something that teams are unlikely to get anyway. Much simpler to bid up Samardzija on normal terms rather than wait for others to negotiate an extension.