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World Baseball Classic 2017: Oakland A’s won’t be big participants after all

... and that’s just fine.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 World Baseball Classic starts on Monday, but the Oakland A’s won’t be taking as big of a part in the tournament as it once appeared.

When rosters were announced in February, the A’s had nine players confirmed to take part, including five major leaguers. However, most of the biggest names have withdrawn their commitments for various reasons, leaving the list much shorter (MLB players are in bold):

  • Sonny Gray, RHP, USA
  • Liam Hendriks, Australia
  • John Axford, RHP, Canada
  • ? Santiago Casilla, RHP, Dominican Republic ?
  • Cesar Valdez, RHP, Dominican Republic
  • Khris Davis, OF, Mexico
  • Jake Sanchez, RHP, Mexico
  • Ryan Lavarnway, C, Israel
  • Joey Wagman, RHP, Israel

Sonny was denied insurance coverage due to his time on the DL in 2016, causing him to pull out of the WBC. Khrush opted to focus on preparing for the MLB season, and Hendriks did the same. Axford generally cited “personal and professional reasons.”

As for Casilla, he is officially out for at least the first round of the tournament. The reliever was delayed by travel issues and finally arrived in camp on Sunday, so he’ll wait before joining the Dominican team. Coincidentally, he will be replaced on the D.R.’s roster by Valdez, a current NRI at A’s camp who was previously listed in the D.R.’s pool of alternate pitchers.

All of this might seem like kind of a bummer, but I’m selfishly happy. As neat as the WBC is, I am infinitely more interested in the A’s season — I don’t mind if our players take part and I’ll cheer them fondly if they do, but if I had the option I’d let the other 29 teams do the heavy lifting in March.

I was admittedly excited to see Sonny start his year off by taking a big stage national, nay, international stage, but it’s no biggie. As for the other guys, I will never be opposed to a player making sacrifices in order to focus more on helping my team win.

Meanwhile, the A’s remaining participants are low-profile minor leaguers and depth guys who will get a much cooler experience at the WBC than they likely would have sitting on the bench in A’s camp (if not A’s minor league camp). Here’s a writeup about Lavarnway playing for Team Israel (via Susan Slusser, S.F. Chronicle).

The 2017 WBC kicks off on Monday at 1:30 a.m. PT (so, in just a few hours), with Israel vs. South Korea. The first-round action picks up as the week goes on.