It has been a rough time for Jason Hammel as the Athletics number five starter, to say the least. Since joining the Athletics, Hammel is 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA with the club. His last start, on August 15, was the third start out of seven where he went less than five innings.
Should Bob Melvin relieve Hammel from the rotation entirely? Sure! Jesse Chavez appears ready to step back in as a more reliable number five starter, though concerns about his workload remain.
Why not send Hammel to Sacramento to hang out until rosters expand? I'll tell you.
It's always service time
Any veteran player with more than five years of service time can refuse assignment to the minor leagues. At the start of this season, Hammel had six years, 153 days service time. If the Athletics were to request he accept an assignment to the minor leagues, Hammel could either accept that assignment or he could refuse and the A's would have to pay him the remainder of the $6,000,000 he is owed this year.
However, it is not unheard of for a veteran player to accept a minor league assignment. Earlier this year, Trevor Cahill accepted optional assignment to Triple-A Reno, where he spent about a month trying to return to his proper starting form. Cahill, however, has at least 2015 left on his contract, and had been moved to the bullpen before being sent down. Knowing this was the only path to returning to starting, Cahill had good reason to accept optional assignment.
Jason Hammel is out of options, however, so he would need to pass through outright assignment waivers. Hammel would be especially unlikely to accept outright assignment, because it means his 40-man roster spot is up for grabs ahead of September roster expansion. Tyler Ladendorf, soon returning from his "drug of abuse" suspension, could be a candidate to add middle infield depth if neither Jed Lowrie nor Nick Punto are ready to return from the disabled list at the start of September.
What can happen
The bottom line is that if Hammel leaves the rotation, he probably will move into the long relief role with Jesse Chavez starting until rosters expand in just a couple of weeks. In September, Hammel can be in the mix as mop-up man with Drew Pomeranz the primary long reliever. A long reliever is seldom in a position to do much damage, because he is typically entering games in order to save the "good" bullpen for the next few games.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Athletics intended to skip Hammel's turn in the rotation next week with the two off-days allowed by the two-game Mets series. The rotation pencils out for the rest of August as:
- August 16 at Atlanta Braves: Sonny Gray
- August 17 at Atlanta Braves: Jon Lester
- August 19 vs. New York Mets: Scott Kazmir
- August 20 vs. New York Mets: Jeff Samardzija
- August 22 vs. Los Angeles Angels: Sonny Gray
- August 23 vs. Los Angeles Angels: Jon Lester
- August 24 vs. Los Angeles Angels: Scott Kazmir
- August 25 at Houston Astros: Jeff Samardzija
- August 26 at Houston Astros: Jason Hammel or Jesse Chavez
- August 27 at Houston Astros: Sonny Gray
- August 28 at Los Angeles Angels: Jon Lester
- August 29 at Los Angeles Angels: Scott Kazmir
- August 30 at Los Angeles Angels: Jeff Samardzija
- August 31 at Los Angeles Angels: Jason Hammel or Jesse Chavez
The A's can use both Chavez and Hammel as long relievers for the Mets series without messing up rest periods for an August 26 start. Outside of that for August, the team can survive with Hammel as the sole long reliever for 10 games. Too bad it will be the Angels for seven of them, but I have faith in those five starters anyway.