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Luzardo Provides A Fascinating Spring Conundrum

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Jesus doesn’t save...he wins.
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Honestly, I can talk myself into either side when it comes to Jesus Luzardo breaking camp with the A’s. And given the A’s insistence — matched by their actions throughout the Beane/Forst era — that service time will not be a determining factor, it is nigh impossible to figure out what Oakland will ultimately decide to do.

Without question there are some obstacles in front of Luzardo’s quest to break camp with the big league club, beyond the fact that by staying at AAA just a short time the A’s would control him for the 2025 season when Luzardo is all of 27.

The cons...?

First off, although this is a relatively minor point, Luzardo is not on the 40-man roster so his addition to the 25-man roster would necessitate a corresponding move. But he is certainly the only player in camp who is not on the 40-man roster but has a shot at making the team out of spring training.

A more salient issue has to do with options and a roster crunch from now until the first player breaks. The revelation that Chris Bassitt gets a 4th option year helps, but even without Bassitt in the mix Oakland’s 13 man pitching staff currently looks like it will include:

Fiers-Estrada-Anderson-Mengden-Montas
Treinen-Trivino-Soria-Rodney-Petit-Hendriks-Buchter-Blevins

The 5 presumed starting pitchers are all out of options, as is almost every reliever — and it is doubtful the A’s will option Lou Trivino just because they can. And while the chances of an injury to one of 13 pitchers is pretty high, really for Luzardo to make the team you would need an injury to one of those 5 SPs (though an injury to a reliever could conceivably drop Mengden or Montas to the bullpen and Luzardo to the rotation).

You can also argue that while he appears to be “big league ready and then some,” with just a handful of AAA starts under his belt, and mixed results in those starts, Luzardo would only benefit from a little more AAA time — time that conveniently would solve the service time issue as a happy coincidence.

Finally, there is the issue of innings and while the A’s have repeatedly insisted that Luzardo will not be on an innings limit, coming off of a 109 IP season that ended with him running out of gas you have to think Oakland will make sure not to push him beyond 150-160 IP, mayyyyybe 170 IP, because he’s just too valuable to risk a bigger jump when no one knows the true ramifications. At AAA he could ease into the workload with 3-4 IP stints as need be.

But now let’s turn to the “pros” as they are just as many...

ZIPS came out with its projections and good news: the A’s were projected to win 84 games, good for 5th best in the American League. In other words, they project to be the 2nd wild card...barely. The Tampa Bay Rays were projected at 83 wins, the Los Angeles Angels (yes, of Anaheim) at 82 wins.

What does this have to do with Luzardo? If Luzardo is indeed one of the A’s 5 best SPs out of camp — and some feel he is one of the best one — the difference between breaking camp with him and calling him up in May could be the difference between just making the post-season and just missing. If ZIPS is anything close to right, the A’s may not be in position to sacrifice “a win or two early in the season”. In a year they hope and expect to contend, they need to put their best foot forward from day 1 to day 162.

At the moment, it’s hard to envision the team putting its best foot forward from day 1 and not including Luzardo. According to the eyeballs on hand, Luzardo is throwing upwards of 97 MPH, unleashing a plus changeup, opening eyes with his breaking ball, breaking down hitters’ swings, and doing it with the poise of a veteran.

Then you put Luzardo up against his competition for “best 5” and realize he just has to be better than Fiers or Estrada or Anderson or Mengden or Montas — let’s be real here, that’s not the highest bar ever set for a potential “top of the rotation” SP. Luzardo could be the best of the 6 right now and he only needs to be in the top 5 in order to warrant a spot if you are looking to put your best foot forward from day 1.

Basically, Luzardo is doing exactly what you want a talented young player to do: he is in the process of forcing the A’s to put him on the 25 man roster even against their ‘better judgment’.

So two questions end this article and begin the discussion: what do you think the A’s should do, and what do you think the A’s will do. I will confess I’m still a bit stumped on both.

Poll

When do you think Jesus Luzardo WILL first join the A’s rotation?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    To begin the season
    (230 votes)
  • 41%
    As soon as the A’s get an extra year of contract control
    (558 votes)
  • 29%
    Whenever the first SP injury hits
    (403 votes)
  • 11%
    Not until after 10 AAA starts (after June 1st)
    (162 votes)
1353 votes total Vote Now