The Oakland A’s have declined Jake Diekman’s contract option, the team announced. The two sides had a $5.75 million mutual option, but instead the relief pitcher will get a $500K buyout and become a free agent.
Oakland acquired Diekman a few days before the July trade deadline, in a swap from the Kansas City Royals. The lefty was supposed to help shore up the club’s bullpen for the stretch run as they contended for a postseason spot, and in a way he did — he converted 13 holds without ever technically blowing one (though he did earn one loss). However, at best he was effectively wild, and his shaky control made each of his outings an adventure.
Diekman, 2019 OAK: 4.43 ERA, 20⅓ ip, 21 Ks, 16 BB, 0 HR, 3.95 FIP
Add in three hit batsmen, and he issued 19 free passes in just over 20 frames, nearly one per inning. For the full season, including his time with the Royals, he posted a 4.65 ERA in 62 innings, with 39 walks and 11 hit batsmen (but also 84 strikeouts, for a monster rate of 12.2 K/9).
With Diekman out of the picture for now, the A’s have five players under contract for 2020 at a total commitment of $46.2 million: DH Khris Davis, OF Stephen Piscotty, RHP Mike Fiers, RHP Joakim Soria, and RHP Yusmeiro Petit, who’s own option was picked up by the team on Thursday. There are another dozen eligible for arbitration, which you can read about here.
Analysis: This was easily the correct call. Diekman is good enough to be in the majors, but not at this price. His control issues are too serious for him to be a reliable late-inning arm, and the A’s can either find a comparable middle reliever much cheaper, or a superior setup man at a similar cost.