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A’s designate Ka’ai Tom for assignment

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The Rule 5 draft pick’s future is still up in the air though

Oakland Athletics v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s made two Rule 5 draft picks last winter, but neither one was able to stick in the majors all year.

The A’s designated outfielder Ka’ai Tom for assignment, the team announced Tuesday. The move makes room to reinstate outfielder Stephen Piscotty from the paternity list. In a separate move, reliever Reymin Guduan was activated from the injured list and added to the active roster as the 27th player for today’s doubleheader.

Rule 5 picks must stay on the drafting team’s MLB roster for the entire season. If they’re removed from the roster then they must be DFA’d and passed through waivers, similar to a player who is out of minor league options. Then if nobody claims the Rule 5 pick on waivers, they are offered back to their original team, who can accept or decline to take them back. However, if the original team does accept, then they can’t outright the player down to the minors without giving the drafting team the chance to reacquire.

Got all that?

The most common result of this process is that the player clears waivers and simply returns to their original team, and that’s what happened in March when the A’s sent reliever Dany Jimenez back to the Blue Jays. However, it doesn’t always go that way, as we saw last summer when outfielder Mark Payton was drafted away by the Reds, returned to the A’s, and then reacquired by the Reds.

That means Tom will either be claimed by another team on waivers; claimed and then traded to the claiming team; simply returned to the Cleveland Indians; rejected by Cleveland and retained in the A’s minors with no more Rule 5 restrictions; or returned to Cleveland but then quickly traded back to Oakland with no more restrictions.

The A’s picked up Tom last winter to help shore up their outfield and add another lefty bat to their depth chart. However, they later added 2B Jed Lowrie and DH Mitch Moreland, who don’t play the same position as Tom but still effectively pushed him out of any serious chance at everyday duty. He made the team with a great spring training performance, but once the season began went just 1-for-16 in sporadic appearances and wasn’t able to get into the kind of groove that would force his way into more at-bats.

Tom, 2021: 1-for-16, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 1 RBI, .152 xwOBA

Unfortunately the problem wasn’t small-sample BABIP luck either, as his contact was mostly on the ground and wasn’t hard, and he didn’t draw a single walk despite that being one of his strengths in the minors. The book is far from closed on the 26-year-old and he’s still as interesting of a prospect as he was a month ago, but it just didn’t work out in his first brief MLB trial. Athletics Nation would surely be thrilled if he were to end up back at Triple-A Las Vegas and get another chance in the A’s organization.

In happier news, Piscotty is back after taking a few days to be with his growing family. He’s one of the hotter bats in the A’s lineup so far, with a 149 wRC+ backed up by a strong .382 xwOBA, so his presence is certainly notable even though Oakland won all three games they played without him.

This is an especially convenient moment for Piscotty to return, since the club is playing a doubleheader today and can use all hands on deck. They’ll even get an extra body thanks to the 27th Player Rule, which they’ll use to add a spare arm to the bullpen in Guduan. However, they’ll need to make a decision tonight, as somebody will have to be removed after the doubleheader is over to reduce the roster back to the normal 26 — that could mean somebody being optioned down to the minors, or the out-of-options Guduan being DFA’d, among other possibilities.

The doubleheader begins at 3:30 p.m. PT, with the second game following half an hour after the first game ends.