The Oakland A’s activated closer Blake Treinen from the injured list, the team announced Wednesday. To make room, right-handed pitcher Aaron Brooks was designated for assignment.
Treinen was placed on the 10-day IL on June 23 with a right rotator cuff strain. He missed just 11 days (eight games). The 31-year-old made one rehab appearance with Triple-A Las Vegas, allowing three earned runs on four hits in one inning of relief on Monday night.
The right-hander was one of baseball’s best relievers in 2018, and in October he was awarded Baseball Digest’s Relief Pitcher of the Year Award, but 2019 has not been so kind to him. He has struggled to get into any sort of rhythm this season, largely due to a massive spike in his walk rate. His ERA has ballooned over four, while his two losses already match his total from all of last season.
Treinen, 2019: 2-2, 16 SV, 2 BS, 4.08 ERA, 35⅓ IP, 36 K, 21 BB, 4.14 FIP
Treinen was reportedly pitching through his shoulder injury for at least a few weeks, and he also missed a few games in early May with an elbow issue. With his IL stint behind him, the 2018 All-Star now has a chance to get back on track and turn his season around.
The bullpen was fantastic during Treinen’s absence. Oakland’s relief corps allowed just four earned runs in 30⅓ innings pitched, with three of those runs coming in low leverage against Brooks and Brian Schlitter. Interim closer Liam Hendriks was lights-out, tossing 4⅓ scoreless innings and converting both his save chances.
In a corresponding move, the A’s cut Brooks, designating him for assignment. This ends a strange saga that began in early spring, when it seemed the 29-year-old had an upper hand on a rotation spot out of nowhere. Despite having barely any major league success on his short track record, the out-of-options righty cracked the Opening Day roster as the team’s fifth starter.
Brooks made just six starts before he was demoted to the bullpen and became the team’s long reliever. He provided some value, eating a handful of low leverage innings over the last few weeks, but ultimately the A’s decided to move on.
Brooks, 2019: 2-3, 15 G, 6 GS, 5.01 ERA, 50⅓ IP, 43 K, 14 BB, 5.67 FIP
Having been DFA’d, over the next week Brooks will now be either traded or placed on waivers, where the other 29 MLB teams will have a chance to place a claim on him. If a team does claim Brooks, he will immediately join their organization. If he is not claimed, the A’s can either release him or send him outright to the minors, though he may reject that assignment and choose free agency since he’s been outrighted before.
The A’s bullpen has been incredibly effective as of late. While former setup man Lou Trivino still isn’t quite right, veteran Joakim Soria looks like he’s turning his season around and Hendriks has been a godsend. If Treinen is truly healthy and can return to his 2018 form, or at least something close to it, the unit could become a true strength.
After Frankie Montas’ PED suspension and the reported setback to top prospect Jesus Luzardo, Oakland’s starting pitching depth is looking very thin. But at this point, we know what Brooks is. He was never going to be part of that solution.
The A’s haven’t used a long reliever very often in recent years, and at times it was nice to have Brooks on the roster in that role. But he only pitched nine times since the beginning of May, and with only five games remaining between now and the All-Star break, it certainly wasn’t a pressing need.
I think Brooks is likely to clear waivers and serve as minor league depth down in Las Vegas. Maybe a team like the Baltimore Orioles — who started literally Asher Wojciechowski on Tuesday night — will see some upside and place a claim, but I won’t be losing any sleep over the result.
Perhaps most telling is the decision to DFA Brooks over Schlitter. The latter wasn’t great in Triple-A and hasn’t impressed in his two big league appearances this year. Maybe the team sees something in the sinkerballer that the publicly available data doesn’t show, but he seems likely to be the next one to go when space is needed for Luzardo, righty J.B. Wendelken, or a trade acquisition.