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The Weekly Bernie, 12/26/16: A’s settle for stocking stuffer after disappointing holiday week

The Oakland Athletics shot for the moon in free agency but didn’t quite make it, and the Braves locked up their stud outfielder, among other news.

Oakland Athletics Introduce Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes
The one and only Norge Forst.
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Merry Christmas, Athletics Nation, and welcome back to The Weekly Bernie! It’s the best dance in the game, so let’s get rolling once more!

  • The A’s narrowly missed out on free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who agreed to a three year, $60 million contract with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday evening, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Oakland came very close to signing the veteran, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, offering a two year, $50 million contract with an opt-out after the first year and a third year team option. However, the team refused to offer Encarnacion a third guaranteed year, so he chose to stay closer to his Dominican Republic home by joining the American League Champion Indians. While this certainly feels like a punch in the gut for A’s fans, it does show that the front office behind new president Dave Kaval might actually be willing to spend. With holes still remaining on the roster and quite a bit of budget space left, expect the A’s to be very active in January and February.
  • The Athletics made a smaller move on Friday morning, signing Cuban righty Norge Ruiz to a minor league contract with a $2 million signing bonus, according to Jesse Sanchez of This bonus will be taxed 100% as the A’s went over their international pool limit back in July when they signed Lazaro Armenteros and a handful of other prospects. Ruiz, 22, has received mixed reports. While some like Ben Badler of Baseball America see Ruiz as a potential mid-rotation arm, others like Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs see him ultimately ending up in the bullpen. He throws a low-nineties fastball, a plus changeup, and a decent slider. Many worry that his short 5’10” stature could affect his durability. However, this still seems like a very nice, low-cost pick-up for Oakland. He could start in High-A or Double-A in 2017, and potentially debut in 2018.
  • Centerfielder Ender Inciarte is no longer a possible solution to Oakland’s outfield woes, as the 26 year-old inked a five year, $30.525 million contract extension with the Atlanta Braves. The deal, now official, includes a sixth year team option. Originally acquired in the highway robbery that was last offseason’s Shelby Miller deal, Inciarte is a phenomenal defensive outfielder with a league average bat and some speed, very similar to Adam Eaton. The extension, however, does officially pencil young speedster Mallex Smith into a fourth outfielder spot with the club. He could fit the A’s very well, so he could be an interesting target if the Braves were to make him available.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies have acquired righty Clay Buchholz from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for minor league infielder Josh Tobias. The deal has been made official. Buchholz has been maddeningly inconsistent through his career, but makes sense for the Phillies. The veteran will round out their rotation, and if he performs well, he can be flipped at the trade deadline. Tobias, on the other hand, is a fairly mediocre 24 year-old infielder in High-A that could possibly find his way to a bench role at some point.
  • Righty Ivan Nova will be returning to the Pittsburgh Pirates on a three year, $26 million deal, according to Robert Murray of FanRag Sports. Once a promising young arm, Nova hadn’t been the same after his 2014 Tommy John Surgery until he was traded to Pittsburgh at the deadline in 2016. There, he really hit his stride, posting a 3.06 ERA down the stretch. The Pirates will hope the 30 year old can continue to improve.
  • The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have officially signed outfielder Ben Revere to a one year, $4 million deal. Revere is very one-dimensional, but from 2011-2015 he was a reliable two-win speedster. That all fell apart with the Nationals in 2016, as he slashed only .217/.260/.300 in what was a dreadful season overall. He’ll hope to bounce back in an Angels outfield already comprised of Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun.

Bernie’s Weekly Deal: A’s sign Jose Bautista to a two year, $36 million deal

The A’s missed on Encarnacion. However, his former teammate Bautista is a similarly amazing hitter, and is still looking for a home. He could fit well into a corner outfielder/designated hitter rotation with Khris Davis, Jake Smolinski, and Matt Joyce. The defense wouldn’t be pretty, but those four will make any opposing pitcher shudder.

Credit BWH on the specifics of the deal. It would pay Bautista $20 million in 2017 - likely more than any other team would offer - and it would include an opt out after 2017, giving Bautista another chance to cash in while also providing the A’s payroll and roster flexibility for next offseason. If he opted in, the next year would pay $16 million. The A’s could also try to tack on a third year club option for $14-16 million.

Bautista’s bat would instantly deepen the lineup and make it look much more threatening. His glove isn’t pretty, and who knows how he would fit into the clubhouse, but he would certainly make the team more exciting to watch in what will likely be a lost year regardless. The A’s have money to spend, and Bautista would be a much better use of their resources than a player like Mark Trumbo.

What to expect this week:

Not much, it’s still the holidays. I suppose Bautista could sign, as could fellow slugger Mike Napoli, but I wouldn’t expect anything huge.

That’s all for this week. Feel free to dump any links in the comments below. Until next time - lean on, A’s fans!