The A’s have got themselves a good ol’ roster crunch. They are well stocked at every position, in quantity if not always quality. However, there are three players on the bubble for the Opening Day squad who are out of minor league options and thus don’t have the luxury of being optioned to Triple-A if they don’t make the cut out of spring: “Starters”-but-more-likely-relievers Raul Alcantara and Jesse Hahn, and third-baseman-lol-jk-DH Renato Nunez.
The three players in question are remarkably similar. Each are tweeners at their positions, with Alcantara and Hahn lacking the arsenal for the rotation and the command to be stud relievers, while Nunez’s defensive chops stop him from having an obvious home. Each is potentially blocked at their positions, with Nunez facing tougher positional competition than either of the pitchers. And each seemed to be well liked by the A’s front office for obvious reasons, as they all have shown tools that prospect analysts like to see.
Should a player without options not make the roster out of Spring Training, he would be subject to waivers. A team without a shot at contention could more easily give one of Hahn, Alcantara, or Nunez playing time, and it’s likely they would be claimed if they are unable to make the A’s Opening Day roster. Any of those three that do make the Opening Day roster would need to stay in the bigs for the duration of the year, being subjected to waivers should the A’s want to send him to the minor leagues.
It’s possible any of the three could pass through waivers, but the A’s will undoubtedly take their potential loss into consideration. The inability to send any of them to the minor leagues outright means the A’s will think long and hard before trying to do so.
This isn’t Alcantara’s first rodeo on the option bubble, and 2017 might offer some clues as to how his 2018 ride will go. Last season, Alcantara got the nod in the A’s rotation straight out of camp undoubtedly to protect him from waivers and keep him in the organization. The flaws in the plan showed quickly, as a clearly unprepared Alcantara was quickly exposed.
From the A’s perspective, it worked out as Alcantara did in fact clear waivers, likely as a result of his lack of success in the A’s rotation. He’d go back to AAA Nashville and pitch well prior to rejoining the A’s in relief later on in the year. That endeavor also failed in a small sample, leaving us again wonder what the A’s will do with Raul Alcantara.
The verdict? Alcantara’s ceiling has always been that of a backend starter and while he throws hard enough to seem enticing, his inability to miss bats likely means he won’t be able to hack it in a relief role either. His ceiling is too low to hang on to just for the sake of hanging on to, and Alcantara should only stick on the roster if there’s an imminent need. It’s likely the A’s will dangle him in trade talks but the option problem matters for most trade partners too, meaning his most likely destination is wherever the waiver wire takes him.
Once again, the allure of Jesse Hahn remains even coming off a third straight bad season. Hahn has shown some glimpses of the truly valuable piece he was in 2015, but his career has been mostly littered with injuries and disappointment.
Hahn is more interesting than Alcantara in that you don’t have to squint to see him as a solid reliever. The stuff has never been the question, locating it has, and if he could he’d be an asset. He hasn’t consistently in years, and it doesn’t seem like a skill that will appear in his age 28 season.
The good news is, the A’s should be able to suss out whether or not he’s got it rather quickly once the A’s get to camp. If he’s throwing balls all spring long? Probably best to let him go and try and regain that command with another organization. If he’s hitting his spots? Might be worthy of a spot in the pen.
The verdict? It’d be nice to see Hahn come back to form with the A’s. He seems to have fallen out of favor though, and it’s probably in everyone’s best interest to find him a new home to try and revive his big league career.
While the A’s pitching is a bit in flux, the other side of the ball seems to be more or less set. Nunez doesn’t have an obvious spot to see regular playing time, lagging far behind Matt Chapman at third and Stephen Piscotty/Matt Joyce in the corners of the outfield.
Nunez could find a home as a platoon mate for Matt Olson at first, tough as we saw in the gloomy Billy Butler era, a short side platoon player at a non-premium defensive position can be tough to squeeze on a big league roster. It’s not ideal to carry someone with such limited versatility and potential playing time.
All indications are that the A’s like Nunez and want to see what he can do, as baffling as that may be given his playing time in 2017. His presumed presence certainly hurts the A’s versatility, and the team will rely on Chad Pinder heavily to spell nicked up or tired players.
The verdict? It’s looking likely Nunez makes the roster, but his leash will be short and tough to overcome: sticking in the Bigs while seeing occasional at bats as a rookie is not an easy task.
Who makes your Opening Day roster?