The Oakland A’s designated slugger Brandon Moss for assignment on Sunday, the team announced. His removal from the roster makes room for a new waiver claim, lefty reliever Jairo Labourt.
Moss was always a longshot to make the A’s roster this season. When they acquired reliever Ryan Buchter from the Royals this winter, Moss’ contract came attached as a salary dump in order to give Kansas City some payroll relief out of the deal. Oakland already has tons of power in its lineup, and plenty of other superior options at Moss’ positions of DH, 1B, LF, and RF.
An injury could have opened a role for him, but instead the A’s will give the 34-year-old the chance to pursue other opportunities while it’s still early in the spring. If he doesn’t find an MLB job this season then he will retire, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. For his part, his quotes in Slusser’s article make clear that he understands the situation and holds no ill will over being the odd man out.
Meanwhile, Labourt is a lefty who made a brief MLB debut last September. The Dominican pitcher, who will turn 24 on Wednesday, began 2017 in High-A before moving his way up to Double-A, Triple-A, and eventually Detroit’s big club. He’s spent this spring bouncing around on waivers, first to Cincinnati and now here.
Labourt, who originally went to the Tigers in the 2015 trade that sent David Price to Toronto, was ranked Detroit’s No. 16 prospect this winter by Bless You Boys. They describe him as “a live left arm with excellent stuff but poor ability to locate it.” After struggling as a starter, he converted to the bullpen last year and found immediate success. His wildness reappeared in Triple-A and MLB, but he still made significant progress in his first full season in relief. A rundown of his 2017 progress:
Labourt, A+: 0.66 ERA, 13⅔ ip, 22 Ks, 3 BB, 0 HR, 0.75 FIP
Labourt, AA: 2.64 ERA, 30⅔ ip, 36 Ks, 7 BB, 3 HR, 2.83 FIP
Labourt, AAA: 2.45 ERA, 22 ip, 21 Ks, 23 BB, 1 HR, 5.29 FIP
Labourt, MLB: 4.50 ERA, 6 ip, 4 Ks, 7 BB, 0 HR, 5.32 FIP
In terms of stuff, Bless You Boys has Labourt sitting at 94 mph and topping out at 96, with an inconsistent slider that has a chance to be a plus pitch. GM David Forst has him topping out at 97, per insider Jane Lee. He was tough on both lefties and righties last summer, giving him the potential to be not just a LOOGY but maybe even a setup man if all goes well.
Losing Moss is a bummer, but it was always the most likely outcome. Keeping him into the regular season would have been bittersweet because it probably would have meant something else went wrong to make room for him. He’s declined sharply since his first tour in Oakland and the A’s simply have better options now. Nothing gold can stay.
This is also an annual lesson about not taking spring stats too seriously or jumping to conclusions too quickly. Moss was 4-for-10 with two walks so far this spring, but exhibition numbers alone weren’t enough.
Brandon Moss may be earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Two walks and an RBI single today. Has had a nice spring so far at the plate.— Martin Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) March 3, 2018
As for Labourt, I love this addition. He’s the classic A’s pickup — he doesn’t look like much right now, but it’s easy to see how he could break out into a quality performer. He’s got power stuff and the capacity for high strikeout rates, a big frame at 6’4, and a clean health record. He’s extremely young and only just began his new career as a reliever, so he’s still an up-and-coming wild card as opposed to any kind of reclamation project. He has an option year remaining, and I’d expect him to open the year in Triple-A.
The A’s desperately need lefties on their depth chart, even after the addition of Buchter this winter. Labourt is one more promising name to throw on the pile along with holdover Danny Coulombe and a few minor league free agent signings from the offseason (Eric Jokisch, Jeremy Bleich, Jarret Martin). His biggest downside is that his name is Jairo, which doesn’t elicit positive responses from A’s fans given the disdain for the (former) Jairo we’ve already got in the pen, but we won’t hold that against the new guy.
Welcome, Labourt! Best of luck and all the love in the world to Moss!