It is strange to write about the odds that someone is about to lose their job. In any other company it is impolite, or perhaps associated with a larger discussion about transition to one's next position. In my first offseason with Athletics Nation last year, coming off a third consecutive return to the postseason, the only candidate with any doubt as to his non-tender status was Ike Davis, whose rights the A's had just acquired for an international bonus slot just before the non-tender deadline.
It is some comfort to know that each player threatened with a non-tender decision has made more in their two or three years at the league minimum ($507,500 again for 2016) or higher than most of us will in many many multiples of those years. I would like to think every ballplayer whose skill-level makes his job security uncertain are as prudent as Eric Sogard in planning for his future.
But never mind all that. A typical "non-tender candidates" article will write about failures, and I will mention them. But there's something strange about this Oakland non-tender class. They've all had their moments in the sun with the A's. So I'm going to write about those. Because that just feels more pleasant.
Status: Final arbitration year (5.155 (5 years, 155 days service time year)), projected to earn $3.8 million by MLB Trade Rumors), can refuse minor league assignment.
I had high hopes that Ike Davis would be "the second coming of Brandon Moss." Instead, Ike Davis spent a lot of time on the disabled list in 2015 and only hit .229/.301/.350 (an 83 wRC+) in 239 plate appearances. Davis' moments for the A's came on three occasions:
April 21: Ike Davis pitches
This was the game where we determined there really was no hope for the A's bullpen this year. Having pitched the bullpen for six innings in the previous night's win and trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Bob Melvin was ready to hand R.J. Alvarez the ball for 50 pitches so he could throw three innings and send him to Triple-A to recuperate and save the rest of the bullpen.
Alvarez instead conceded an inherited runner and five more in a 36-pitch sixth inning and failed to retire the first two batters of the bottom of the 7th inning. Fernando Abad took care of those runners in a hurry, giving up a second-pitch home run and allowed another run in the inning to make it 14-1.
@JaneMLB This game is Bob Geren ugly.— Jennifer James (@jj37_james) April 22, 2015
In comes Ike Davis:
A 1-2-3 inning that also involved Mark Canha playing an "exciting" third base and Marcus Semien making an impressive diving stop but already making Glen Kuiper nervous anytime Semien "thrOOOOoooOOOOws" the ball.
Ike Davis ended up pitching again on August 16 and he was again the best pitcher in the game, throwing another scoreless bottom of the eighth, this time in an 18-2 blowout against the Baltimore Orioles. In that one, he threw a four-pitch walk to an American League reliever.
His 3.63 FIP was seventh best on the team (min 0.1 IP).
July 22: Ike Davis walks off on an infield single
At the end of July 21, the A's were still in last place, but only in the AL West (Boston was a half-game behind)! They were only two games behind the Texas Rangers at the time but 11 games behind the Angels and eight out of the Wild Card. A six-game win streak from the Angels put an end to any slim hope of buying at the deadline, and the A's would trade Scott Kazmir on July 23.
But there was still baseball to be played, and so Ike Davis was at the plate for the A's in the bottom of the 10th inning with Josh Reddick at third base:
A grounder deep in the hole to short and after a three-minute wait for a review, the call stood up for the walk off win.
I guess I have a thing for slow guys doing fast guy things?
Status: Two arbitration years remaining (4.041 years), projected to earn $2.5 million, out of options.
Felix Doubront is rumored to be in discussions to head to Korea, so I don't see the A's retaining him this offseason after putting up a 5.81 ERA in 52 2/3 innings with Oakland. Doubront acted as Oakland's ninth or tenth starter and did well to pitch innings that allowed Oakland's dreadful 68-win season to come to a close.
Okay, so I'm being dramatic here. Dubi had his share of great starts and his share of spectacularly awful starts, but I'd like to share one particular start:
You're supposed to lose Clayton Kershaw vs. Felix Doubront. Instead, Doubront had a better Game Score than Clayton Kershaw somehow on that August 18 because Doubront only gave up one hit to Kershaw's five, gave up just an unearned run to Kershaw's earned run, struck out one more batter than Kershaw, and "only" gave up six walks to Kershaw's two and walks only count for a single point against. Neither starter factored into the decision, but I'll say that Felix Doubront went toe-to-toe with the National League's defending MVP and Cy Young winner for one night.
Status: Final arbitration year (5.140 years), projected to earn $2.0 million, out of options.
Defensive metrics, an only slightly below average bat, and an above average base running game were what propelled Sam Fuld to what FanGraphs rated as a nearly 3-win season in 2014 over just 402 plate appearances, but those metrics were not as kind to him in 2015. A sharp uptick in his groundball rate from 50 percent in 2014 to nearly 60 percent in 2015 might have something to say for a BABIP that fell from .280 to .235, and a final batting line of .197/.276/.293 (a 60 wRC+).
Still, Sam Fuld made some spectacular defensive plays. If the A's feel that Fuld could return to being a so-so hitter (instead of a very poor one) with great defensive tools, he could survive Wednesday's cuts, even if only to trade him later to another club desperate for a fourth outfielder after some critical spring training injury or something else.
There are, by my count, 16 spectacular defensive plays in 2015 that match a search for "sam fuld catch" in an MLB.com video search. This one is my favorite:
Tal's Hill will survive another year thanks to Houston's postseason run delaying the start of renovations that will bring in the center field fence and add seating around the new batter's eye. I think more players will get hurt running into walls than tripping on a manicured hill, but reasonable people may disagree.
Prediction: Tendered a contract
Status: Two arbitration years remaining (4.064 years), projected to earn $1.7 million, one option year remaining.
#NerdPower, the Face of the American League, or what have you, has tenaciously stuck to the A's active roster for the last three years and change, doing just enough to be the consummate replacement utility infielder. Sogard has amassed, in the last three years, a .247/.305/.315 batting line and four home runs, good for a 76 wRC+, and a 67 wRC+ for each of the last two years.
What should save him from being non-tendered is that as it stands, if the A's go into the offseason with a healthy infield, Sogard starts the year in Triple-A behind Brett Lawrie, Danny Valencia, Marcus Semien, and Jed Lowrie. The alternatives in Triple-A (Renato Nunez, Chad Pinder, and Joey Wendle) are going to be prospects that the A's will want to play full time to continue their development and would be unsuited to a bench role at the MLB level. MLB.com's Jane Lee puts him in her list of players that should be tendered a contract tomorrow.
Anyway, Eric Sogard's homerless streak was growing Jason Kendall-esque, having not homered since August 6, 2014, when he stepped up on September 23, 2015 to face Sam Freeman:
Prediction: The A's paid $2.75 million to Nick Punto to retire. They took a risk on Hiro Nakajima and ended up paying him $3 million to lead the Midland RockHounds to a Texas League championship. They'll pay Eric Sogard $1.6 million to be a Triple-A leader.
Status: Two arbitration years remaining (4.125 years), projected to earn $1.6 million, out of options. Gentry cleared waivers and was removed from the 40-man roster after being designated for assignment to add Joey Wendle, Jose Torres, and Rich Hill to the roster.
The A's traded Michael Choice to the Texas Rangers to get Craig Gentry, and Choice put up the worst 2014 season in baseball by fWAR (minus-2.3) and only needed 280 plate appearances to do it. He was sent to the Cleveland Indians for cash, and earlier this week he was successfully outrighted off their 40-man roster and given an invitation to spring training.
Craig Gentry put up a good 2014 (1.6 fWAR) before a concussion prematurely ended his campaign, mostly in a platoon role. His return was terrible, and he would have surpassed Choice's mark of terribleness if the A's hadn't had the good sense to demote him before he could do any further damage. His 2015 wRC+ was 9, he made some bizarre fielding blunders before his demotion, and he was only used very lightly in September call ups.
He just turned 32 on Sunday, the day before his outright waiver status was announced. Was it age? Was it a lingering effect from his concussion? Who's to say? Let's just remember Gentry at his most ridiculously best:
Prediction: Non-tendered, farewell Kittenface.
Status: Second arbitration year (4.073 years), projected to earn $1.5 million, out of options. Abad cleared waivers and was removed from the 40-man roster after being designated for assignment to add Joey Wendle, Jose Torres, and Rich Hill to the roster.
In 2014, Fernando Abad was another Billy Beane bullpen scrapheap special, with the A's trading one John Wooten for the out-of-options left-hander the Nationals had no place for now that they had Jerry Blevins, who the A's traded for one Billy Burns, and Ross Detwiler. Abad had the best ERA of any reliever with at least 10 innings pitched for the A's, a 1.57.
In 2015, Abad tumbled to a 4.15 ERA and 5.50 FIP after his fastball velocity took a tumble, going from 92-93 to 90-91. Still, he had some good stretches, including 25 innings between May 6 and August 9 where he had a 1.80 ERA that allowed his ERA to drop from a peak of 7.04 down to 3.03. His final six weeks were not good, but by then the A's were playing out the string.
Here's Fernando Abad making Carlos Santana look silly:
Status: Super Two arbitration (2.142), projected to earn $700,000, out of options.
If the A's really are still active in the market for relievers, I can't see a way the out-of-options Evan Scribner stays with the club, even if it's just to see if his MLB worst 2.10 HR/9 was just a fluke.
Scribner has been an effective eighth reliever in the years he did have options, and it was always a little bit of a disappointment when before 2015 he would get sent down after filling it quite well for a pitcher taking a brief trip to the disabled list. This year, he was for a time one of the two or three decent relievers in Oakland for the first half of the season before hitters just started teeing off on him.
Scribner does have some fine 2015 highlights, but I like to look at him at his best, most emotionally amazing performance, Oakland's comeback win in 2012's Game 162. He entered the game with two out and two on, trailing 5-1 in the top of the 3rd. At worst, Scribner was in to save the rest of the bullpen ahead of the inaugural AL Wild Card game. At best, well, is what happened:
Three innings later, the A's were winning 8-5 with two outs in the top of the sixth, and Evan Scribner was leaving the mound to a standing ovation from the A's faithful on the way to the 12-5 final score.
Predicted payroll as it stands
Including A.J. Griffin's release, the A's will have shed over $10 million in payroll and three more roster spots will open between Davis, Doubront, and Scribner:
|Oakland A's 25-man and contracted players payroll projection|
|Position Players||Starting pitchers|
|Player||2016 (Swartz est.)||Type||Player||2016 (Swartz est.)||Type|
|Coco Crisp||$11,000,000||Contract||Rich Hill||$6,000,000||Contract|
|Billy Butler||$10,000,000||Contract||Sonny Gray||$507,500||Minimum|
|Jed Lowrie||$7,500,000||Contract||Jesse Hahn||$507,500||Minimum|
|Josh Reddick||$7,000,000||Arb Est.||Kendall Graveman||$507,500||Minimum|
|Brett Lawrie||$3,900,000||Arb Est.||Chris Bassitt||$507,500||Minimum|
|Danny Valencia||$3,400,000||Arb Est.||Relief pitchers|
|Sam Fuld||$2,000,000||Arb Est.||Sean Doolittle||$1,580,000||Contract|
|Eric Sogard||$1,700,000||Arb Est.||Fernando Rodriguez||$1,300,000||Arb Est.|
|Stephen Vogt||$507,500||Minimum||Drew Pomeranz||$1,300,000||Arb Est.|
|Billy Burns||$507,500||Minimum||Jarrod Parker||$850,000||Arb Est.|
|Mark Canha||$507,500||Minimum||Liam Hendriks||$507,500||Minimum|
|Marcus Semien||$507,500||Minimum||Sean Nolin||$507,500||Minimum|
|Josh Phegley||$507,500||Minimum||Ryan Dull||$507,500||Minimum|
|September callups (15)||$ 1,200,000|
|GRAND TOTAL||$ 64,820,000|
|Ike Davis||$ 3,800,000|
|Felix Doubront||$ 2,500,000|
|Craig Gentry||$ 1,600,000|
|Fernando Abad||$ 1,500,000|
|Evan Scribner||$ 700,000|
|A.J. Griffin||$ 507,500|
So if payroll returns to the $85-95 million level, there's still $20-30 million to spend. Winter Meetings are next week!