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Oakland A’s option Bruce Maxwell to Triple-A to make room for Cesar Valdez

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s optioned catcher Bruce Maxwell to Triple-A on Thursday, the team announced. The move makes room for the promotion of pitcher Cesar Valdez, who will start the day’s game against the Mariners in place of the injured Kendall Graveman. To make room for Valdez on the 40-man roster, injured shortstop Marcus Semien was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

Maxwell was recalled on Monday when Graveman went on the DL, but apparently it was just a quick stop for a couple days while there was a free spot open on the squad. The catcher started two games (Monday and Tuesday), going 2-for-5 overall. The A’s still have their two veteran catchers, Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, but now they are back down to only three total position players on their bench.

Valdez, 32, was signed as a minor league free agent last winter. He’s made two starts for Nashville this year, with excellent results — 10 innings, 3 runs, 12 Ks, 0 BB, 8 hits. Here’s my profile about him from the offseason:

The last time Valdez pitched in MLB, Rajai Davis was on the A’s. Wait, that doesn’t ... you know what I mean. Last time Rajai was on the A’s. It was 2010.

Valdez was 25 at the time, after a steady if unspectacular march up the minors as a starter. He got torched for a 7.65 ERA in 20 big league innings for Arizona, with shoddy peripherals (13 Ks, 10 BB). After another year in Triple-A, he went to the Mexican League from 2012-15.

It’s in 2015 that he starts to get interesting, as this FanGraphs community post details. He put up a 2.95 FIP in 160⅔ innings in the Mexican League that season thanks to suddenly microscopic walk and HR rates, which was enough to get him back to the minors with the Astros. He repeated that performance in the Pacific Coast League last year (see numbers below), and then did so again in the Dominican winter league — he led his team to the title and won the championship series MVP award along the way.

Valdez, 2016 AAA: 3.12 ERA, 138⅓ ip, 114 Ks, 13 BB, 8 HR, 3.24 FIP

(That walk rate comes out to 2.3% of batters, or 0.85 BB/9)

Again, to stress the most interesting point here, Valdez hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2010. That makes this the second straight year the A’s have pulled up a veteran journeyman hurler who hadn’t reached the bigs since 2010, after doing so with Chris Smith last year.

Hot take: First thing’s first. I guessed wrong on the corresponding move. My prediction was a DFA for Raul Alcantara, but he hangs on for another day.

I don’t really understand the move to send Maxwell down, but I’m also not going to worry too much about it. I’m way done with the eight-man bullpen, especially since the starting rotation is doing surprisingly well even despite all the injuries to the most reliable arms. I would really like a fourth hitter on the bench, and specifically I prefer Maxwell over Vogt behind the plate (with Vogt continuing to get some at-bats at DH instead).

But, whatever. It seems clear that the roster is going be changing on a regular basis, so let’s not get too bent out of shape about any individual snapshot in time — especially so early in the season. There will be more injuries, and more shakeups, and lots of guys will get chances. Let’s make sure to enjoy whoever is here at any given moment, and that includes an intriguing new journeyman diamond-in-the-rough starting pitcher with an actual bit of upside remaining.

Good luck today Cesar, and see you soon Bruce!