Freddy Tarnok was a big piece for the Oakland Athletics in the Sean Murphy trade last offseason. However, injuries limited him to just 11 total appearances across three levels including a brief five-game stint in the majors.
Tarnok was acquired from the Atlanta Braves on December 12, 2022 in a three-team trade that also involved the Milwaukee Brewers. Oakland also received Royber Salinas, Kyle Muller and Manny Piña from the Braves and Esteury Ruiz from the Brewers.
What were the expectations?
The hope was that Tarnok and Muller would be two rotation options for the A’s going forward. Tarnok is ranked as Oakland’s 13th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline and was a third round pick of the Braves back in 2017.
A right shoulder strain sidelined Tarnok for nearly all of the spring. He began the season on the 15-day injured list and was later transferred to the 60-day IL on April 13. He began a rehab assignment in early June and was reinstated from the injured list and optioned to Las Vegas on July 8. He made five starts for the Aviators where he allowed four runs in 19 2⁄3 innings. However, he struggled with his command and finished his Triple A stint with 11 walks and 11 strikeouts.
He was promoted to the majors on July 14 and made his Oakland debut the next day in a relief appearance against the Twins where he allowed two runs in 2 2⁄3 innings. Tarnok would end up appearing in five games while allowing eight runs in 14 2⁄3 innings overall. His command struggles persisted after the promotion as he walked 11 more hitters while striking out 14. He was again placed on the 15-day injured list on August 14, this time due to a calf strain and was transferred to the 60-day IL on September 17 which effectively ended his season.
What went right? What went wrong?
Not a lot went right for Tarnok in his first season with the Athletics. The shoulder injury during the spring was the most significant event in that it cost him all of his normal build up and forced him to play catch up throughout the season. His five-game stint at Triple A yielded a 1.83 ERA, but his 5.83 FIP and 7.50 xFIP told different stories. In all, Tarnok walked 23 hitters in 36 1⁄3 innings which simply won’t play. Still, it is hard to base too much on such a small sample size given the early injury.
For Tarnok, 2024 is all about health and getting through a full spring training. Mark Kotsay used him primarily out of the bullpen during his brief stint in the majors, but the injury situation most likely played into that decision. He should be among the large group of players who will compete for a spot in the rotation.