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A’s free agents: Blake Treinen to Dodgers, Tanner Roark to Blue Jays

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Two former A’s righties have found new homes.

Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

On Wednesday, two of the Oakland A’s top free agents came off the market. Former closer Blake Treinen signed a one-year, $10M contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers (first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN), while midseason acquisition Tanner Roark joined the Toronto Blue Jays on a two-year, $24M deal (according to Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet).

Treinen joined the A’s at the 2017 deadline, coming over from the Washington Nationals in the Sean Doolittle trade. The righty pitched well down the stretch and had the closer’s role locked down by the end of the season. In 2018, he was historically dominant. He was arguably baseball’s best closer, earning Baseball Digest’s Relief Pitcher of the Year Award.

But in 2019, it all fell apart. Treinen struggled out of the gate and never got back into a groove, losing the closer’s role to Liam Hendriks by midseason. He spent two stints on the injured list and found himself without a contract for 2020, as the A’s elected to non-tender him rather than pay the 31-year-old’s projected $7.8M arbitration salary.

Treinen, 2018: 80.1 IP, 38 SV, 0.78 ERA, 1.82 FIP, 100 K, 21 BB, 3.6 fWAR
Treinen, 2019: 58.2 IP, 16 SV, 4.91 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 59 K, 27 BB, -0.3 fWAR

The Dodgers’ biggest weakness over the past few years has been their bullpen. He’ll join a late inning mix in Los Angeles that includes two other righties coming off down seasons in Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly.

Roark’s A’s story is much shorter. In need of rotation help, the A’s acquired the veteran righty from the Cincinnati Reds at the 2019 deadline. He was solid but unspectacular down the stretch, allowing four or more runs in four of his 10 starts.

Roark, 2019, Reds: 21 GS, 4.24 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 8.81 K/9, 3.10 BB/9, 1.14 HR/9, 1.9 fWAR
Roark, 2019, A’s: 10 GS, 4.58 ERA, 5.63 FIP, 8.18 K/9, 2.13 BB/9, 2.29 HR/9, 0.1 fWAR

The 33-year-old is not an ace by any means. But he’s a reliable veteran arm, and he’s made at least 30 starts in each of the last four seasons. That has value, especially to a Toronto rotation currently headlined by Chase Anderson and Matt Shoemaker.

Analysis

Of the two, Roark never seemed likely to return to the A’s. He was serviceable and filled a need for the team down the stretch, but with Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea returning from suspension and injury respectively, the arrival of top prospects A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo, and the stable presences of Mike Fiers and Chris Bassitt, there wasn’t much room for Roark in the rotation going forward and there were more pressing needs for any available payroll space.

The size of Roark’s contract did surprise me. The A’s re-signed Fiers — a comparable veteran innings-eater — to a two-year, $14M contract last offseason. This year’s starting pitching market is arguably deeper, and I don’t see any reason to pay Roark $5M more per season than Fiers.

Treinen is a different story. It was a tough decision to non-tender the right-hander, and the A’s were reportedly still in contact with him down to the wire. If payroll wasn’t so limited, perhaps the team hangs onto Treinen and takes another chance on their former relief ace in 2020. But the budget was too tight and tough decisions had to be made.

What’s curious to me is the gap between Treinen’s $7.8M arbitration estimate and the $10M he’ll earn on his Dodgers contract. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, teams (including the Dodgers) had trade discussions with the A’s before the team cut Treinen loose. My best guess is that the A’s thought they could non-tender the righty and bring him back for less (as they did with Fiers last year), but drastically misread the market and he ended up outside of their price range.

Personally, I’m not too upset to lose Treinen. I’m very torn on what to expect from him in 2020, as he was two completely different pitchers each of the last two seasons. As was the case with the since-traded Jurickson Profar, I’d much rather his $8-10M go toward more reliable solutions in the bullpen and at second base. But it’s also disappointing to know that the A’s could have gotten something for him — even if it was just a lower minors lottery ticket — had they played their hand differently.