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Who should the Oakland A’s DFA for Trevor Plouffe and Santiago Casilla?

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That’s about how Brett Eibner’s trial went last year in Oakland.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s signed two new players this week, 3B Trevor Plouffe and RHP Santiago Casilla. Before those additions can become official, though, space must be made on the 40-man roster. That means two current players have to be removed, so, unless there is a specific follow-up trade in the works, two guys will be designated for assignment.

Here is the 40-man roster as it stands entering Friday:

Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Sonny Gray (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Kendall Graveman (R)
Andrew Triggs (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Raul Alcantara (R)
Jesse Hahn (R)
Dillon Overton (L)
Frankie Montas (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)

Relievers

Ryan Madson (R)
Sean Doolittle (L)
Ryan Dull (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
John Axford (R)
Daniel Coulombe (L)
Zach Neal (R)
Bobby Wahl (R)
Catchers

Stephen Vogt (L)
Josh Phegley (R)
Bruce Maxwell (L)

Infielders

Ryon Healy (R)
Yonder Alonso (L)
Mark Canha (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Renato Nunez (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Joey Wendle (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Marcus Semien (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Yairo Munoz (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Rajai Davis (R)
Matt Joyce (L)
Jake Smolinski (R)
Brett Eibner (R)
Jaycob Brugman (L)

That’s a lot of names! In related news, the two most recent subtractions from this roster were Rangel Ravelo and Max Muncy, who were DFA’d to make room for the signings of Joyce and Rajai, respectively. However, they both cleared waivers and returned to Triple-A Nashville.

Alright, here is a second version of the table, but this time I added three things:

  • Bold denotes an absolute MLB lock. Anyone could theoretically be traded, but these guys at least won’t be straight-up DFA’d or demoted or released. (Note: Still unsure on the permanence of Yonder Alonso’s contract status, but also still assuming they won’t just dump him until/unless we hear an insider float that possibility.)
  • Italics denotes one of two things: either a top prospect/youngster who is definitely, definitely not getting cut, or a formerly established player returning from long-term injury (specifically, Bassitt and Phegley).
  • An asterisk* is everyone who is left over. These are the guys we’ll be discussing in this post.
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Sonny Gray (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Kendall Graveman (R)
Andrew Triggs (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Raul Alcantara (R)*
Jesse Hahn (R)*
Dillon Overton (L)*
Frankie Montas (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)*

Relievers

Ryan Madson (R)
Sean Doolittle (L)
Ryan Dull (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
John Axford (R)
Daniel Coulombe (L)
Zach Neal (R)*
Bobby Wahl (R)
Catchers

Stephen Vogt (L)
Josh Phegley (R)
Bruce Maxwell (L)

Infielders

Ryon Healy (R)
Yonder Alonso (L)
Mark Canha (R)*
Matt Olson (L)
Renato Nunez (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Joey Wendle (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Marcus Semien (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Yairo Munoz (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Rajai Davis (R)
Matt Joyce (L)
Jake Smolinski (R)*
Brett Eibner (R)*
Jaycob Brugman (L)

There are a few names there that I didn’t imagine I’d put an asterisk next to, especially on the pitching side. But two guys have to go, and there aren’t really many obvious choices left. The list: Raul Alcantara, Paul Blackburn, Jesse Hahn, Zach Neal, Dillon Overton, Mark Canha, Brett Eibner, Jake Smolinski.

Let’s start with process of elimination. I don’t think Smolinski is going anywhere. He’s currently the best 4th OF candidate, and the best platoon partner for Matt Joyce. He’s safe, even though I don’t think he’s a lock for the team just yet.

I also don’t think they’ll give up on Overton yet, though many readers may disagree. He was truly awful in his debut trial and there’s no telling if he’ll ever be able to retire big leaguers with his weak velocity, but he was a good prospect up until last summer. Alcantara got an asterisk because he’s out of options, but at the least he could slot in as a long man in April. I’m also deeming Blackburn safe, considering they just went out of their way to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. All three of those pitchers have fairly high-profile prospect pedigrees that could get other teams’ attention on the waiver wire, too.

We’re down to four now. I think Eibner is an easy call to DFA -- he was bad last year in his MLB chance, he’s redundant with the superior righty Smolinski here, he’s extra redundant now that the new CF is a righty (Rajai), and he’s extra extra redundant now that the other new hitter is a righty (Plouffe). Add a righty corner player, cut a righty corner player. It makes sense to me, and I’d choose to keep Canha over Eibner.

And now a pitcher. I’m cutting Neal and keeping Hahn, and hoping for a bounce-back from the latter. Neal was better than expected last year, but he still is what he is: a replacement player, more or less. He’s the guy you bring up when you don’t have anyone else, and last year was very possibly his career year. Right now, the A’s have a ton of starters and swingmen, so they don’t need to go out of their way to keep an extra as filler. This gives Hahn one more chance this year to show that 2016 was a weird fluke and that his talent is still there.

Final verdict: DFA Brett Eibner and Zach Neal. Either or both may even clear waivers, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get claimed. Which two players would you DFA? Or is the absolute only tenable option for the A’s to go all-out looking to trade someone — Axford, Alonso, Lowrie, Hahn, Alcantara, etc.?