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Walk-Offs, Super Twos, Momentum, Oh My!

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You will forgive any typos as I write from the Land of Infusions with an IV on my left hand. (Do Romans call this a "4"?) Worry not, though: You can pick up much of what you need from context, especially if you understand the code. I have figured out that:

  • "vsll" means "ball"
  • "Fwjwi Ssvis" means "Rajai Davis"
  • "Ezrpdsynfki" either means "Rzepczynski" or else it means that I am having a seizure

Thus, if you read that "Fwjwi Ssvis took a vsll from Marc Ezrpdsynfki," you will understand. Meanwhile, as I enjoy my second antibody infusion I am using important visualization techniques to help my body help itself. I am imagining that the mutated B-cells are an A’s rally and that the antibody is an infusion of Trevor Plouffe.

Anyhoo...nothing keeps spirits higher than back-to-back walk-off wins against noted nemesis, and Sulk-off king Francisco Rodriguez. Suddenly a lost season turns into one in which the A’s are just 3 games under .500 and surely due for their first sweep of the season.

Meanwhile, Matt Chapman is heating up and Franklin Barreto continues to make a mockery of the AAA slash line. Currently, Barreto sits at .360/.411/.550. When the A’s call up Barreto will depend partly on two key factors: do his coaches think he is ready, which remains a question despite the gaudy numbers due to his 37 Ks (120 PAs) and also are the A’s competitive enough to seek a "shot in the arm"?

A 14-17 record looks a lot better than the 12-19 one the A’s were two heartbeats away from owning. The longer the A’s hang around the .500 mark — and let’s face it, if you’re at .500 at the All-Star break you are relevant in the wild card race — the more likely they will take a shot at seeing if they can get more athletic and talented, sooner, with an infusion (why did that word pop into my mind?) of Barreto and Chapman, hoping to take the league by storm 2012-style.

Then comes the question of "super 2 status," a quirky CBA provision that allows the top percentage of players to become arbitration eligible a year early. With potentially several million dollars at stake, it is tempting to manipulate service clocks if you can avoid allowing a player to hit arbitration a year earlier.

I will leave the gory details and explanations to Jeremy F. Koo, but the bottom line is there is no precise date for avoiding the risk of "super 2" eligibility because it is all graded on a curve and depends on factors like peer performance that are currently unknowable. So to some extent, there is a window of "higher or lower risk factor" but to be sure the A’s would have to wait roughly 5 weeks, I believe, in order to be certain that Barreto could not wind up hitting arbitration a year early.

My own opinion, and I could be wrong, is that the A’s are not going to keep Barreto down over "super 2" concerns. He is down right now because he is still striking out a lot, has barely turned 21, and it is far from clear that Oakland is going to compete even for a wild card spot in 2017.

All of these factors could change in a couple weeks or a couple months. If the A’s creep closer to .500, maybe even go to and over .500, in the next 2-3 weeks, and if Barreto is making more contact while still making great contact, I don’t think the A’s will hesitate to bring him up even if they risk Barreto being in the "super 2" mix down the road.

Conversely, if the A’s hit the skids or if Barreto continues to look "talented but still raw," I see the A’s keeping him at AAA longer — not for "super 2" reasons but rather for development reasons and in order to align him with windows of possible competitiveness for the team.

In other words, if the A’s are looking potentially competitive and believe Barreto is ready, even if they are only a matter of weeks away from getting out of "super 2 purgatory" I think the A’s will not keep Barreto down just to keep him down. Same with Matt Chapman, only Chapman’s natural time line — especially with the wrist injury from which he just returned — will not intersect with "super 2" considerations.

Now I heard seen many fans write, "What does it matter with Barreto anyway? If he’s really good, they’re just going to trade him when he hits arbitration." It does matter, and here are two reasons:

- Even if the A’s continue to operate under the model of trading stars as soon as they become expensive, a player’s trade value is directly tied into his contract. How many years they have before arbitration, how many years they have before free agency, how much they earn now and how much they might earn next year or the year after, these are all factors that can significantly impact the return you get.

- Barreto and Chapman are the pups of a new era of A’s baseball. These are the guys who will be hitting their prime around 2020 as the A’s presumably are moving into a new stadium. Don’t count on the A’s boosting their budget in 2018 or 2019 to open their pocketbooks for the likes of Khris Davis and Sonny Gray, but do look for them to select centerpieces like Barreto and Chapman (if they succeed) as the wave of players Oakland can commit to long term. These are not pre-arby talents and subsequent trade chips; these are the the players Oakland is hoping will help them to open a new stadium with a team capable of winning the World Series.

So the "super 2" issue is real. I just don’t see the A’s as the type of organization that will manipulate service time to the detriment of the big league team having a chance to compete. I see Barreto now being 2-3 weeks away, with a promotion dependent on his coaches giving the "thumbs up" that he is fully ready and on the A's maintaining contact with the .500 mark.

In other words, we may look back and view this weekend of drama as the weekend when K-Rod fast tracked the promotion of a player he might retire never having faced.