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A’s claim Sheldon Neuse off waivers

He’s back, just in the nick of time!

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
C’mon, feel the Neuse!
Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The one-time heir apparent to the Oakland A’s hot corner is back, just as the third base position opens up again for the first time since he left town.

The A’s claimed infielder Sheldon Neuse off waivers from the Dodgers, the team announced Wednesday. He joins Oakland’s 40-man roster.

This is a reunion between the two sides, as Neuse was once an A’s prospect and a pretty good one. Oakland acquired him from the Nationals in mid-2017 as part of the Doolittle/Madson trade, and he thundered up the minor league ranks over the next couple years until he made his MLB debut in 2019. However, stuck behind a crowded depth chart and idle for the entire 2020 pandemic season while the minors were canceled, he was traded away before the 2021 season in a package for reliever Adam Kolarek.

With Los Angeles last year, Neuse got his next chance in the majors, playing 33 games for the Dodgers early in the summer. He didn’t hit much, in what amounted to his first live action in 18 months, but upon a return to Triple-A he rediscovered some of his stroke in 78 games.

  • Neuse, 2021 AAA: .293/.352/.478, 104 wRC+, 13 HR, 8.3% BB, 24.1% Ks
  • Neuse, 2021 MLB: 11-for-65 (.169), 33 wRC+, 3 HR, 1 BB, 26 Ks

That represented a disappointing performance relative to his loftier track record, which is one reason he’s available on waivers entering his age-27 season. But A’s fans might remember the potent right-handed bat that tore through the minors not long ago, earning him repeated Top 10 nods on our Community Prospect List, and the optimistic among us might cut him some slack for having his development interrupted by a canceled summer.

On the defensive side of the ball, Neuse was mostly a third baseman during his first tour in Oakland’s organization, but by the time he was traded he’d also expanded to second base as a way to find extra paths to playing time. With the Dodgers he increased his versatility further by taking some reps in the outfield. He was considered a potential plus defender with a great arm at his native 3B, and was looking promising as an adequate or better option at 2B when the A’s tried him out there.

Of course, this time around Neuse will find much more opportunity in Oakland. Over the last three days, the A’s traded All-Star first baseman Matt Olson to the Braves, and All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman to the Blue Jays, so the Matts are gone and the infield is wide open for business.

Neuse’s return is especially appropriate at this specific moment. While he was a top prospect here, he seemed like an obvious candidate to take over third base whenever Chapman’s inevitable departure came, but the timing didn’t quite work out. He was ready to go before the job opened up and was eventually squeezed out entirely, but now he’s back right as the hot corner does finally go up for grabs. Only a few hours after Chapman was dealt, Neuse is here to compete for his spot just like we’d once expected he would be.

Other candidates for third base could include newcomer Kevin Smith, acquired in the Chapman trade, along with incumbent utilitymen Chad Pinder and Vimael Machin. Neuse has a minor league option remaining, so he can be sent down to Triple-A if needed.

Whether Neuse can pan out as a contributor remains to be seen, but it wasn’t long ago that Athletics Nation saw him as a potential everyday player with value on both sides of the ball. Now we’ll finally get a chance to find out. Welcome back to Oakland!