The Oakland A’s announced a flurry of moves Tuesday afternoon. In terms of arrivals, they recalled RHP Cesar Valdez and OF Ryan LaMarre from Triple-A Nashville, and to make room on the roster they placed OF Rajai Davis on the 10-day disabled list and designated RHP Raul Alcantara for assignment.
Valdez has already pitched for the A’s this season, making a spot start last Thursday in place of the injured Kendall Graveman. In that game, he did a decent job of eating a few innings (4 ip, 3 runs, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 5 hits) in an eventual Oakland victory. Click here for more on who he is. He was optioned back to the minors on Friday, and normally a player has to wait 10 days to be called back up, but he was able to get around that rule since he’s replacing a player going on the DL (Rajai).
Although Valdez started last time he was here, this time around he’ll be used as a long reliever, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. In related news, Graveman will return to the rotation to start Thursday’s game, notes Slusser.
LaMarre was acquired from the Angels on Sunday in a minor move, and now he’ll immediately travel back to Anaheim to take on his old organization. Manager Bob Melvin calls him a “plus defender at all 3 OF spots” (via Joe Stiglich, NBCS), but the question is if he can hit at the MLB level. Slusser suggests he’ll start against lefties in CF. Click here for our writeup of his recent acquisition, which includes the following summary:
LaMarre, 28, has briefly appeared in MLB but has mostly topped out in the high minors. He debuted with the Reds in 2015 and suited up for the Red Sox in 2016, but racked up only 32 plate appearances overall (and only two hits, both singles). He was signed by the Angels last winter but designated for assignment by the club on Tuesday [April 18].
The right-handed batter (but lefty thrower) spent most of last year in Triple-A, posting a 135 wRC+ in 86 games with double-digits in both homers and steals. Defensively, he’s spent most of his time in CF but has also dabbled on the corners. Since 2015, he’s put up the following line in Triple-A (735 PAs, split among three different teams):
LaMarre, 2015-17 AAA: .280/.342/.418, 120 wRC+, 18 HR, 7.1% BB, 24.4% Ks, 32-for-43 stolen bases
Meanwhile, Rajai hasn’t played since Thursday due to a strained hamstring, and now he’ll go on the short-term DL to finish his recovery. The move is retroactive to April 22, which should put him on track for a return on May 2 — a total of only six more missed games, with the team enjoying an off-day on May 1. The insiders make it clear that his injury is minor (Slusser), that this is a precautionary DL stint for a guy who relies on his legs (Slusser), and that he should be ready to go when eligible to return (Jane Lee).
Finally, Alcantara ran out his long leash. He only lasted one disastrous start in the rotation this season, and then followed it with two forgettable long relief appearances. His ERA after seven innings was 16.71, which was only slightly higher than his 10.92 FIP, or his career ERA of 9.51 dating back to his debut last September. Most likely he’ll end up going through waivers, where he’ll either be claimed (and/or traded) or clear and go back safely to Triple-A Nashville.
Hot takes: Let’s start with the outfield move, which is pretty straightforward. The A’s are thin in CF, so when Rajai got hurt they picked up an emergency backup just in case because there wasn’t really another option waiting in Triple-A. Now that Rajai is on the DL, even if only briefly, they brought up that new acquisition.
Jaff Decker is proving his mettle so far as a decent starting CF, but now he has a proper backup, and a much-needed defensive-minded one at that. There’s also now a righty hitter to platoon with Matt Joyce, which is a role that young lefty-swinging Matt Olson can’t fill. I imagine LaMarre will go back down when Rajai returns, though at the rate this roster has been changing lately who knows what the landscape will look like even next week.
As for Alcantara, it was only a matter of time before he was DFA’d. I had predicted it would happen last week when Valdez came up the first time, but I missed by five days (he was still replaced by Valdez though!).
The 24-year-old righty is a solid prospect, but he was rushed to the bigs for procedural reasons — he was a teenage signing, then missed time on top of that to Tommy John surgery, and so he ran out of minor league options before he was truly ready for the bigs. It showed, as he got annihilated in both 2016 and 2017 and looked every bit as bad as his numbers suggest (couldn’t throw strikes, and didn’t fool anyone when he did). The fact that his DFA wasn’t caused by a need for his 40-man roster spot suggests that the A’s simply lost patience with his poor pitching, as opposed to squeezing him out due to another urgent need.
It’s unfortunate how it all worked out (did we ever find out why the A’s didn’t get him a 4th option year after his injury?), but the book isn’t closed on Alcantara. He can still pan out into an effective MLB pitcher, with the question being whether he’ll continue that path in Nashville or in another team’s organization. This is as good a time as any to DFA him and sneak him through waivers, with his value at its lowest, so stay tuned to find out what happens with him in the next couple weeks.
Why Valdez? The only other non-injured reliever on the 40-man is prospect Bobby Wahl, and he isn’t quite ready for the bigs yet. Therefore Valdez was the only convenient option, and anyway, he did a solid job last time he was up and the A’s seem to like him. Furthermore, Alcantara had been serving as the long man, ostensibly, so Valdez slips perfectly into that role — even better than he fit in as a starter, frankly.
Granted, the DFA of Alcantara means that there’s now a 40-man roster spot open, but there’s no need to rush into filling that. It’s a lot easier to add a player than remove one and you never know what you might need next week, so there was no need to commit to anything now; Valdez is a perfectly viable choice for the role in question.
Next up: Someone will have to go down for Graveman on Thursday. The smart bet there is Matt Olson, who is presumably just here taking the extra roster spot until Graveman needs it back.