Monday brought the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, and the Oakland A’s chose to non-tender three names: relievers Blake Treinen and Ryan Buchter, and catcher Josh Phegley. All three now become free agents.
The A’s entered the day with 12 arbitration-eligible players, who were under team control but didn’t yet have contracts for 2020. They traded one of them before the deadline, as second baseman Jurickson Profar moved to the Padres. They agreed to a contract with another in reliever T.J. McFarland, avoiding arbitration entirely with the lefty. Of the remaining 10, seven more were tendered contracts, though their salaries are yet to be determined, either via an agreement like McFarland’s or (rarely) a hearing in front of a third-party arbiter.
But for the three non-tenders, the team decided that the estimated price tag was not worth it. According to the generally reliable projections from MLB Trade Rumors, Treinen was set to command around $7.8 million, Phegley around $2.2 million, and Buchter around $1.8 million. Of course, while they now hit the open market and are available to any team, it’s still possible for Oakland to re-sign them as free agents — they did just that with Mike Fiers last winter, non-tendering him at a $9.7 million arbitration estimate and then bringing him back on a two-year, $14.1 million deal.
Here’s the full list of results from Monday. McFarland’s salary was reported by insider Ben Ross.
- LHP T.J. McFarland ($1.8 million)
Including salary estimates from MLBTR
- SS Marcus Semien ($13.5 million)
- RHP Liam Hendriks ($5.5 million)
- OF Mark Canha ($4.9 million)
- LHP Sean Manaea ($3.5 million)
- OF Robbie Grossman ($3.3 million)
- RHP Chris Bassitt ($2.8 million)
- UT Chad Pinder ($1.8 million)
Including salary estimates from MLBTR
- RHP Blake Treinen ($7.8m)
- C Josh Phegley ($2.2m)
- LHP Ryan Buchter ($1.8m)
- 2B Jurickson Profar, to SD ($5.8 million)
As for the three non-tenders, Treinen is by far the biggest name. He enjoyed a historically great season in 2018, earning him a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young voting that year, but he wasn’t able to repeat his success this past summer. Whether because of multiple injuries (shoulder, elbow, back), or the new juiced ball, or just simply small-sample fluctuation that is common among relievers, he struggled throughout 2019 and eventually lost the closer job in June.
Treinen, 2019: 4.91 ERA, 58⅔ ip, 59 Ks, 37 BB, 9 HR, 5.14 FIP
Compared with the previous season, his ERA rose more than four runs, his walk rate more than doubled, and his homer total skyrocketed from two up to nine. He also converted just 19-of-24 save/hold chances (16 saves, 3 holds, 5 blown), and lost several more games that were tied when he entered.
The 31-year-old is an immense talent and is just one year removed from being an All-Star, but between his extreme off-year and some inconsistencies in his track record, the A’s decided not to make the expensive gamble on him.
Meanwhile, Buchter finished with a shiny 2.98 ERA, but some of his underlying stats were less impressive. He allowed 15-of-36 inherited runners to score and be charged on other pitchers’ records, which is a poor 42% rate. He converted just 7-of-12 hold chances when asked to protect a close lead. And, while it was his fourth straight year with an ERA under 3.00, the more predictive FIP saw him at his career-worst of nearly 5.00.
Buchter, 2019: 2.98 ERA, 45⅓ ip, 50 Ks, 23 BB, 8 HR, 4.96 FIP
On top of all that, the lefty could be affected by the new rule requiring pitchers to face at least three batters if they don’t finish the current inning. While Buchter isn’t a strict LOOGY, he was sometimes used as such by the A’s and generally makes most sense as a matchup guy, as righties have hit him notably better during his career. His spot in the bullpen is effectively replaced by McFarland, who was claimed off waivers last month, though McFarland also has notable platoon splits.
As for Phegley, he was tied for the longest-tenured player on the team, having been around since 2015. He enjoyed one of his best years this summer, setting career-highs in games played (106), plate appearances (342), homers (12), and RBI (62, including one game with eight). However, in September the A’s debuted top prospect Sean Murphy, who is expected to be the catcher of the future and, at the very least, get the bulk of the time behind the plate next season.
Phegley, 2019: .239/.282/.411, 82 wRC+, 12 HR, 4.4% BB, 18.4% Ks
In addition to Murphy, Oakland also has switch-hitting Triple-A prospect Jonah Heim on the 40-man roster, and they just acquired lefty backstop Austin Allen on Monday. There was no room for a fourth man, and a lefty hitter is preferable alongside Murphy, so the team decided not to spend a couple mill on Phegley, who even at his best is merely decent.
Among the players who did get tendered, perhaps the biggest surprise is Grossman. He had a disappointing year at the plate in 2019, and there could be a logjam in the corner outfield that includes several cheaper options. But to his credit, the switch-hitter offers a sorely needed left-handed bat in a righty-heavy lineup, he still has a solid career .351 OBP, and he provided some defensive value that led to a top-three finalist nod for the Gold Glove in LF.
Here’s the updated 40-man roster. Players in italics haven’t yet debuted in MLB. There are now three open spots.
Frankie Montas (R)
Mike Fiers (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Daniel Gossett (R)
--Grant Holmes (R)
--Daulton Jefferies (R)
--James Kaprielian (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
T.J. McFarland (L)
A.J. Puk (L)
Sean Murphy (R)
Austin Allen (L)
--Jonah Heim (S)
Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Sheldon Neuse (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
--Jorge Mateo (R)
Khris Davis (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)
Chad Pinder (R)
Seth Brown (L)
Skye Bolt (S)
Dustin Fowler (L)
--Luis Barrera (L)