(Story updated Friday afternoon to include Parker, Alvarez, and Doubront.)
The Oakland A’s have taken the first step in their offseason this week, addressing 12 players who were either on the 40-man roster or the 60-day DL. Eleven of them remain in the organization for now, but utilityman Arismendy Alcantara was claimed on waivers by the Cincinnati Reds. There are now 33 players on the 40-man, with another five on the 60-day DL who will need to be added back onto the roster after the World Series.
Besides Alcantara, the other 11 players were outrighted to Triple-A Nashville. Most of them are in a position to elect for free agency after the season if they choose (or be non-tendered by the team), so we don’t know for sure which ones will actually be sticking around, but they’re all still here for now without taking roster spots.
Here’s a quick word on each player.
Arismendy Alcantara, Util: We had such high hopes. The 24-year-old never stuck with the Cubs, but he’s full of untapped potential and plays two positions the A’s have been thin at lately (2B/CF). When they returned the disappointing Chris Coghlan to Chicago, Alcantara seemed like an amazing consolation prize.
He hit well in 48 games for Triple-A Nashville (114 wRC+), with his usual blend of power, speed, and too many strikeouts, but apparently there wasn’t time to give him a real tryout in the bigs. He only started four games, appearing in another dozen as a pinch hitter/runner or a defensive sub, and his 19 plate appearances yielded four hits (one double) and eight Ks.
Alcantara is the kind of prospect who is easy to dream on, with big tools but also big flaws. He’s still young enough that he could feasibly overcome those flaws and deliver on his potential, but the A’s have shown that they’re more interested in some of their other rookies. It’s a bummer because I was really hoping he’d get a bigger shot in Oakland, but at the same time I have to admit that I don’t know where or when I would have given him playing time as things currently stand, so perhaps it was best to move on and use the roster spot for other purposes (which we’ll get to later in the article).
Good luck in Cincinnati, Arismendy!
Eric Sogard, 2B: He lost his entire season to injury, undergoing knee surgery in mid-April and hitting the 60-day DL for good in May. Even if he’s healthy, though, it’s hard to see where he would fit on the 2017 team. It’s been a great ride with the Keebler Elf, but the era of #nerdpower might be over in Oakland before the calendar flips to the new year.
Fernando Rodriguez, RHP: He has delivered around 100 innings of league-average production the last two years, with a strikeout per inning and low hit and HR rates. However, he’s only a couple years removed from TJS, and he missed the second half of this season with a torn lat, so you could also describe him as a 32-year-old middle reliever with a spotty injury history. He should be good to go again next year, though, so if he stays in the picture then he represents quality relief depth.
Tyler Ladendorf, Util: Time has probably run out for Ladendorf in Oakland. He never quite carved out the utility role many of us envisioned for him, even despite finally staying healthy most of this year. He made some excellent defensive plays, especially at 2B, but he only got into 45 games and he went 4-for-50 at the plate for a wRC+ of negative-58 (real stat, not a joke). He didn’t hit in Nashville either, and at this point the A’s have better options than the 28-year-old.
J.B. Wendelken, RHP: His MLB debut was not encouraging, as he averaged one run and two baserunners per inning over eight appearances. But his strikeout numbers were huge in Triple-A and he did fan a batter per inning in the bigs, so the 23-year-old certainly deserves another chance. He’ll likely have to wait until 2018, though, because he’s probably headed for Tommy John surgery this winter.
Chris Smith, RHP: The 35-year-old spent most of the year as minor league depth, but the A’s lost so many pitchers this season that Smith got to take a turn in the bigs for the first time since 2010. To his credit, he made the most of it, posting a 2.92 ERA over a couple dozen innings with well over a strikeout per frame. I’d imagine he’s likely to head for free agency, but he delivered much more than I expected this year.
Matt McBride, C: The 31-year-old served as a perfectly competent emergency third catcher, stashed down in Triple-A for the most part but coming up when needed. If he sticks around in the same role next year, that would be just fine with me.
Andrew Lambo, OF: He got one at-bat this year, in the first week of the season, and he didn’t do much in Triple-A after that. His play on the field turned out to be a footnote, though, as he ended up being diagnosed with testicular cancer during the summer and sitting out the rest of the season. The good news is he’s recovered now and is a “full go to play baseball” (Susan Slusser, S.F. Chronicle), and he’s made it crystal clear that he wants to give it another try specifically in Oakland after the support they gave him this year.
Donn Roach, RHP: I promise this is a real person. He is employed by the A’s as a baseball player. He is not an insect mobster, as suggested by guessatomo in the comments section. (Well, I guess I can’t say for sure that he’s not also that as a second job; life in the minors is tough.) Oakland picked him up in September, and the only game he pitched was a start for Nashville in the Triple-A playoffs -- he turned in five decent innings in a 7-1 loss.
Felix Doubront, LHP: He never threw a pitch after going down on the last day of spring training and undergoing TJS. He was a depth guy with a low ceiling to begin with, and now he’s been passed in the rotation by a bunch of rookies. He’s a strong non-tender candidate.
Jarrod Parker, RHP: He threw his last MLB pitch in 2013, and it’s been all surgeries and setbacks and new, horrific injuries ever since. Anyone with the slightest bit of heart is pulling for Parker, but the comeback gets less likely every year and it was no longer worth a roster spot waiting for it.
Henderson Alvarez, RHP: The A’s took a flyer on the former All-Star coming off shoulder surgery. It was worth a try! But a series of setbacks prevented him from ever reaching Oakland. Will he get another go at it here, or will the A’s move on?
As mentioned, the A’s now have 38 players between their roster and DL. After the postseason, Sam Fuld and Ross Detwiler will become free agents, which will bring the number down to 36. That list (don’t get too hung up on the categories):
Starters (11): Sonny, Graveman, Manaea, Cotton, Mengden, Triggs, Alcantara, Hahn, Overton, Bassitt, Montas
Relievers (7): Madson, Doolittle, Dull, Hendriks, Axford, Neal, Coulombe
Catchers (3): Vogt, Phegley, Maxwell
Corner Infielders (6): Healy, Alonso, Canha, Nunez, Muncy, Ravelo
Middle Infielders (4): Semien, Lowrie, Wendle, Pinder
Outfielders (5): Davis, Smolinski, Valencia, Eibner, Olson
It’s not as simple as just getting under 40, though. The Rule 5 draft is coming in a couple months, with teams able to steal away minor leaguers who they think can stick on a 25-man roster next year. The A’s have several top prospects who might need to be added to the roster to protect them, which would require further trimming. The list of eligible players includes:
- Franklin Barreto, SS
- Jaycob Brugman, OF
- Yairo Munoz, SS
- Bobby Wahl, RHP
- Tucker Healy, RHP
- Sam Bragg, RHP
There are some others, like RHP Dylan Covey, OF Tyler Marincov, 1B Sandber Pimentel, and RHP Kyle Finnegan, who I don’t think are at any real risk.
Barreto and Brugman are no-brainers to add to the roster; the former is Oakland’s top prospect, and the latter is already expected to fight for a spot in the 2017 outfield. Munoz is a tougher call, because he’s got a lot of promise but probably isn’t close enough to the majors that a team will waste time on him. We’ll talk more about this as the deadline approaches, but my current gut feeling is not to protect him — remember, if he’s added to the roster now then he’ll burn an option year in 2017 while possibly repeating Double-A.
Wahl, Healy, and Bragg are all quality relief prospects, and you never know if some team with a weak pen might take a flyer and try to steal a gem. Wahl was a closer in the upper minors this year, Healy posted a 13.1 K/9 in Triple-A, and Bragg is headed to the Arizona Fall League for a high-profile audition. My guess for now is that Healy has the best chance of getting protected.
Depending on how many players the A’s wish to add to their roster, not to mention any early trades or free agent signings or waiver claims they might make, there are still some cuts that can be made. There are plenty of rumors that Valencia won’t be retained,
and Doubront is a non-tender candidate after missing the year to TJS. It might be time to move on from Parker and/or Alvarez, depending how Oakland feels about their comeback chances after so many setbacks (update: those three were indeed removed). There are also some fringe guys who could be on the bubble if it really comes down to it, like Muncy, Ravelo, or even Eibner. However many players the A’s choose to add to their roster before December, they should be able to make space for any of them.
Stay tuned. This is only the beginning of another Oakland A’s offseason, and as we all know a lot can happen over the next five months.