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A’s decline option on reliever Jake Diekman

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Lefty becomes a free agent

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ben Green/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s offseason has officially begun, with the first piece of player news.

The A’s declined their contract option on reliever Jake Diekman, making him a free agent. The option would have come with a $4 million price tag for 2022, and rejecting it requires a $750,000 buyout.

Oakland first acquired the left-hander at the 2019 trade deadline, and he’s pitched for the A’s ever since. He was phenomenal during the shortened 2020 campaign, posting an 0.42 ERA with the help of a revamped slider and earning a finalist nod for the All-MLB Team. However, he didn’t repeat that lofty success this summer, with a mediocre ERA, a career-high homer rate, and too many blown saves.

  • Diekman, 2021: 3.86 ERA, 60⅔ ip, 83 Ks, 34 BB, 10 HR, 4.46 FIP, .321 xwOBA

Those aren’t bad numbers, but they weren’t enough for reliable setup duty, where he notched seven saves and 14 holds but blew seven more chances.

Of course, having an option declined doesn’t necessarily mean a player is definitely gone, and Diekman himself is a prime example of that. After the 2019 season he had a contract option and the A’s turned it down, making him a free agent, at which point they re-signed him at a lower salary. The maneuver meant that instead of paying him $5.75 million in 2020, he got a two-year, $7.5 million deal to cover 2020-21.

For now, though, Diekman is off the books and into free agency, where he can sign with any club. He’ll pitch at age 35 next year.

Oakland’s bullpen proved to be a weakness this season. After losing expected closer Trevor Rosenthal to injury during spring training, the rest of the crew held firm for the first half of the season but fell apart in the second half. Over the final 46 games they blew 13 saves, or around twice per week from mid-August onward.

Regardless of whether the A’s choose to rebuild or compete in 2022, they’ll need to do some work on their bullpen this winter. Yusmeiro Petit and Sergio Romo are also free agents after their contracts expired, and so is Andrew Chafin after he declined his own mutual option.