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Oakland A’s agree to contract with T.J. McFarland, avoid arbitration

The relief pitcher is officially signed for 2020.

Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s agreed to terms on a one-year contract with relief pitcher T.J. McFarland, the team announced on Monday. The left-hander will earn $1.8 million, reports insider Ben Ross.

Monday was the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, but McFarland will avoid that process completely now that he’s signed an actual deal. The A’s entered the day with 11 other arbitration candidates — seven were tendered and remain under club control for 2020 at yet-to-be-determined salaries, three were non-tendered and became free agents, and one was traded before the deadline (Jurickson Profar to the Padres).

Oakland picked up McFarland off of waivers last month, after he was cut loose by the Diamondbacks. He’s a soft-tosser who relies primarily on an 89 mph sinker, and he’s among the best in the business at inducing ground balls. Those grounders only helped him to a mediocre 4.82 ERA last year, but in 2018 it was a sparkling 2.00 in 72 innings. Here’s a snippet from our writeup at the time:

The key stat is his career 63% ground ball rate, which is an enormous mark. It’s the third-highest in the majors since his debut in 2013 (min 250 innings), behind only Zach Britton and Brad Ziegler, and tied with Sam Dyson. That barrage of grounders fits well in Oakland, where he’ll pitch in front of the best corner infield defense in the sport, featuring back-to-back Gold Glove and Fielding Bible winners Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, plus back-to-back Gold Glove finalist shortstop Marcus Semien.

Now that McFarland has officially signed, and considering he’s out of minor league options, he appears to be locked into the bullpen picture for 2020. That gives the A’s a replacement for lefty reliever Ryan Buchter, who was non-tendered on Monday after two seasons with the team — he was estimated to command the same $1.8 million that McFarland received. Back in October, Oakland also declined their contract option on southpaw Jake Diekman, meaning they let go their two main lefty relievers from last summer.

The A’s now have six players under contract for a total of $48 million: DH Khris Davis, OF Stephen Piscotty, RHP Mike Fiers, RHP Joakim Soria, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and LHP McFarland. Add in the projected salaries of the seven arbitration players who were tendered on Monday, and the payroll jumps to $83.3 million for 13 players. Factor in minimum salaries for the rest of the 26-man roster, and the total stands a little over $90 million, before considering any further offseason additions.

Here’s a closer look at Oakland’s payroll, give or take a couple hundred thousand along the way:

Name Pos $M
Khris Davis DH 16.8
Joakim Soria RHP 8.5
Mike Fiers RHP 8.1
Stephen Piscotty OF 7.3
Yusmeiro Petit RHP 5.5
T.J. McFarland LHP 1.8
Arbitration estimates
Marcus Semien SS 13.5
Liam Hendriks RHP 5.5
Mark Canha OF 4.9
Sean Manaea LHP 3.5
Robbie Grossman OF 3.3
Chris Bassitt RHP 2.8
Chad Pinder UT 1.8
Other stuff
13 more players -- 7.6
Diekman buyout -- 0.5
TOTAL -- 91.4

The remaining arbitration-eligible players have another month to settle on new contracts, like McFarland just did. On Jan. 10, any of them who haven’t yet signed will submit salary proposals, with the team submitting their own counter-offers, and if the two sides still can’t agree after that then hearings in front of a third-party arbiter begin in February.