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The Weekly Bernie, 1/23/17: Oakland A’s make free agent signings official

The A’s signings of free agents Santiago Casilla and Trevor Plouffe were made official this week, and two beloved members of the baseball community were lost over the weekend due to tragic accidents, among other news.

Minnesota Twins v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Welcome back to The Weekly Bernie! It’s the best dance in the game, so let’s get rolling once more!

  • The A’s finalized their two most recent free agent signings of right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla and third baseman Trevor Plouffe over the past week. Casilla will, somewhat surprisingly, be a ninth inning option for the A’s going into the spring. The 36 year-old struggled in the closer’s role with San Francisco in 2016, but has a very strong track record overall. Plouffe, on the other hand, will see the bulk of his time at third base, pushing youngster Ryon Healy to first base and designated hitter. (The two seem to be getting along just fine, though.) To make room for the two additions, righty Zach Neal and outfielder Brett Eibner were designated for assignment, as Alex predicted last week. If I had to guess, I’d predict Neal makes it through waivers but Eibner is claimed and lost.
  • Tragedy struck twice in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning. Kansas City Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, 25, and former Cleveland Indians infielder Andy Marte, 33, died in separate car accidents. Little is known yet about the cause of either accident. For more information and to offer condolences, check out the coverage on Royals Review and Let’s Go Tribe respectively. These incidents come less than four months after the untimely passing of Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident.
  • On Wednesday evening it was announced that outfielder Tim Raines, first baseman Jeff Bagwell, and catcher Ivan Rodriguez will become the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For AN’s coverage, check out Alex’s piece on the trio. Near misses this year included closer Trevor Hoffman and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. Both will almost certainly be enshrined in the Hall next year.
  • The two top bats on the market both returned to their 2016 clubs this past week. Mark Trumbo, 31, signed a three year, $37.5 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, while Jose Bautista, 36, is headed back to the Toronto Blue Jays on a one year, $18 million contract with two options (a 2018 mutual option for $17 million and a 2019 vesting option worth $20 million). Both players struggled in free agency due to an abundance of right-handed power bats on the market. However, both Trumbo and Bautista are quality hitters that should continue to succeed with their respective clubs.
  • In addition to their two significant free agent signings, the A’s also picked up outfielder Alejandro De Aza and lefty Ross Detwiler on minor league contracts. Detwiler returns to the A’s as a depth arm after a passable performance for the club late in 2016, while De Aza could make the team out of camp as a left-handed hitting fifth outfielder. For more, once again, check out Alex’s write-up.
  • The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in agreement with free agent infielder Luis Valbuena on a two year deal, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Valbuena, 31, will provide insurance for the aging and injured Albert Pujols. The addition also adds depth to a lineup that already featured the game’s best player in Mike Trout as well as quality hitters such as Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Yunel Escobar, and C.J. Cron. If the Angels’ pitching staff can hold together, the team could be a surprise contender.
  • The Marlins have acquired righty Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for prospects Luis Castillo, Austin Brice, and Isaiah White. Straily, originally drafted and developed by the A’s, enjoyed a bounceback campaign with Cincinnati in 2016, posting a 3.76 ERA over 34 appearances (31 starts). The 28 year-old’s slider was phenomenal, and while his 4.88 FIP didn’t agree with his success, he still has significant potential. The prospects sent to the Reds are each interesting in their own way, but none of the three are much more than lottery tickets. While a relatively minor deal, it will be interesting to watch how this one unfolds over the next few years.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers signed right-handed reliever Neftali Feliz to a one year, $5.35 million contract, and the Philadelphia Phillies inked outfielder Michael Saunders to a one year, $8 million deal with an $11 million club option for 2018. Neither club figures to contend in 2017, but both players could become notable trade chips at the deadline.

Bernie’s Weekly Deal: John Axford and Casey Meisner to the Detroit Tigers for Joe Jimenez

At this point, barring a surprise move, the A’s roster seems to be set. It seems unlikely the team will be able to dump infielders Jed Lowrie and/or Yonder Alonso, and the team won’t be dealing any major prospects at this point. One area of depth, however, is the bullpen, and the A’s could look to move a veteran before the season begins. The Tigers’ bullpen has been an issue for years, and while Axford isn’t anywhere near what he used to be, he could still provide quality middle relief innings for them. In addition, while Meisner was awful in High-A in 2016, he still has a huge frame and decent potential.

In exchange, the A’s would be getting an exciting relief arm that they could stash in Triple-A. Jimenez, 22, tore up the minor leagues in 2016, striking out 78 batters in only 53.2 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. His fastball touches 100 mph and he throws a wipeout slider in the mid-eighties. However, his control could be an issue, and having only two effective pitches will hurt him. All in all, I see him as a bullpen-only version of A’s prospect Frankie Montas, and if he can fix his control issues, he could be helping close out games for the club for years to come.

What to expect this week:

Jason Hammel is the top remaining free agent. Yes, we’ve reached that part of the offseason. Hammel could sign, as could catcher Matt Wieters, and sluggers Mike Napoli and Chris Carter will have to find homes at some point. Beyond those modest free agents, though, I don’t expect much more activity until Spring Training.

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