Brett Lawrie could be the A’s third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.
The A’s trade of Josh Donaldson Friday may seem to make little sense when looked at as a solo exercise on the part of general manager Billy Beane.
But if it’s taken as part of a package, the deal in which the A’s sent their All-Star third baseman to Toronto in exchange for four players – including third baseman Brett Lawrie –
Oakland management is high on, could well be part of a series of roster maneuvers that might have a chance to keep the A’s competitive in 2015.
The A’s have lost (or will soon lose) starters Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, reliever Luke Gregerson and shortstop Jed Lowrie as free agents. That’s a load and a half to make up during the winter, and it’s possible it can’t be done.
But there are other options out there.
I heard from a source Friday that the A’s are talking with the Braves about outfielder Justin Upton and/or catcher Evan Gattis, two power hitters who would grace any big league lineup. The cost would be astronomical – starter Jeff Samardzija – but the return would be seriously good.
Jon Lester will be pitching elsewhere in 2015 as a free agent, and the A’s won’t be getting any compensation for his departure as a free agent.
While the Tigers have made a qualifying offer to their ace, Max Scherzer, and the Royals have made a qualifying offer to their ace, James Shields, the A’s have done no such thing with their ace, Jon Lester.
They haven’t done it with Jason Hammel, who isn’t an ace but who was very good after getting off to a rocky start with his new club.
The deadline is this evening, 9 p.m., and it won’t happen in either case.
Why? Well, baseball rules don’t allow it. The only players who can get qualifying offers are those who have been with their 2014 team for the entire season. In the case of Lester and Hammel, they came to the A’s in mid-season trades and aren’t eligible for a qualifying offer, which this season is pegged at $15.3 million.
Starter Jon Lester is one of seven potential free agents the A’s could see leave this off-season.
Now that Madison Bumgarner is going to stop grabbing all the headlines, which should happen any day now, the clock is up and running on the 2015 season for the A’s, and for everyone else.
The A’s had visions that starter Jon Lester would have the same kind of impact on Oakland’s October as Bumgarner did for San Francisco’s. Lester, after all, had the second-best World Series ERA, 0.43, in history before Bumgarner’s MVP performance against the Royals lowered his career World Series ERA to 0.25, pushing Lester to third.
Now Lester is all but gone from the A’s. He said he loved his time in Oakland, and the A’s would like to have him back, but the money doesn’t work. Lester is going to get a contract in the range of $150 million from someone – the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Cubs lead the list of the usual suspects – that would all but break the bank in Oakland.
Sonny Gray pitches Game 162 Sunday, the only game that matters any more for A’s
The A’s have been waiting for six weeks for their slump to end.
You know the one. It’s seen Oakland lose 30 of their last 45 games and has seen the A’s go from the next American League power to a team that is perhaps hours away from failing to make the post-season at all.
If that were to happen, it would go do as one of the great collapses of all-time, perhaps the biggest in Major League history. Other teams have fallen about as far about as fast, but none of them had the lifelines of two Wild Card berths awaiting non-Division Champions.
The A’s have to win Sunday, have the Mariners lose Sunday or, failing that, beat Seattle in a one-game playoff Monday to avoid having that added to their resume.
Scott Kazmir may have saved his spot in a possible ALDS rotation with Friday’s win.
It was, by Scott Kazmir’s own admission, a “huge relief’’ for him to go out and pitch the way he had the first four months of the season Friday.
He threw seven innings, allowed just four base runners and two runs, one earned.
No one will admit it, but Kazmir might have been pitching for his post-season life.
The veteran lefty came into the game 0-4 in his last six starts with an 8.58 ERA. And the ERA was mostly worse than that, because one of his losses in that stretch was 1-0.
Upper management was considering its options, which would likely have meant moving Jason Hammel in ahead of Kazmir.
While Kazmir had been slumping, Hammel had been pitching some of his best baseball of the season. In his last nine games, eight of them starts, he had a 2.49 ERA.
Now the question will be what to do with Hammel, because Kazmir seems to have locked up the final spot in a post-season American League Division Series rotation, should Oakland get that far.
Jon Lester’s arrival has seen him pitch well while the A’s have struggled.
There are no simple answers for the Oakland A’s.
There are some simple truths, however.
One is that they need to loosen up at the plate.
Oakland hitters spent four months working the count, forcing pitchers into untenable situations, then waiting for the pitcher to wilt under pressure.
Now, it’s not like that.
“What’s going on with their hitters?’’ one Major League scout asked me Thursday. “I saw them a couple of months ago and they knew what they needed to do. Now they’re up there hacking at everything.’’
Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A’s lately
The A’s could get Coco Crisp and John Jaso back this weekend and Sean Doolittle back early next week.
When they do, the A’s will start looking a little more like themselves.
This team is not the team it was at the end of June.
Back then they were trotting out a three-catcher platoon, with Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt all major contributors. Yoenis Cespedes was in left field. Brandon Moss was at first base.
Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz and Brad Mills were all in the starting rotation.
With such a drastic makeover, it’s small wonder that the A’s aren’t playing like they did in April, May and June.
Jason Hammel had his best start yet with the A’s Tuesday, but wound up without enough support.
There’s no doubt Jason Hammel hasn’t done as much for the A’s he, or they, would have hoped.
The other side of the coin is that the A’s haven’t done all that much for Hammel, either, including Tuesday when they scored two runs in a 4-2 loss, Hammel allowing just one run in seven innings.
It was the eighth start for the right-hander, acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 4, and in those eight games the A’s have scored 17 runs. That’s barely two runs per game.
If the A’s were somewhere closer to their season average of 4.8 runs per game when he pitches, Hammel’s record might look a little better that 1-5.
Alberto Callaspo no longer the old man on A’s roster. (He’s even changed his number and wears 7 now.)
The idea that the A’s are a young, generally unknown team has lost some of its credence.
Starting with the trade of Addison Russell and Billy McKinney to the Cubs for starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, the A’s have added older, more accomplished players and they don’t strut that young vibe as much anymore.
At the start of the season, 30-year-old infielder Alberto Callaspo was the oldest man on the team (he’s 31 now). Now he’s fourth, with 33-year-old outfielder Jonny Gomes leading the pack.
The A’s haven’t traded for a bunch of codgers – Jon Lester is 30, Samardzija is 29 and Hammel is 31, a week away from turning 32. But they aren’t kids any more.
As manager Bob Melvin said before Tuesday’s game, “we’ve quickly gone from a young team to a veteran team.’’
Change has been the order of the day with the A’s. Six of the 10 starters Melvin fielded for Tuesday’s game with the Astros weren’t on the roster to start the season.
More than that, 11 of the 25 men on the roster weren’t around and active in April. Three of the current five-man starting rotation – Lester, Samardzija and Hammel – came from other organizations.
And maybe that has something to do with the A’s uneven play in August. This is a group just getting to know each other.
The popular belief is that anybody can fit in in the Oakland clubhouse, and while that’s generally true, it’s unlikely everybody can do it overnight.
A’s lefty Fernando Abad has been perfect this year when it comes to stranding inherited base runners.
There may be no unsung hero on the A’s whose praises have been sung less than Fernando Abad.
The left-handed reliever has toiled mostly in anonymity while being just a part of one of the best bullpens in baseball.
The numbers he’s putting up this year are anything but the performance of just an anonymous reliever, however.
He came into Sunday’s game with one out in the seventh inning for starter Jason Hammel, who was in a jam with men at first at third and one out. It wasn’t an easy situation to face, but Abad has faced worse.
He threw an unhittable slider that foiled the Twins’ plan for a squeeze bunt in what was at the time a tie game, 1-1. Once the runner, Eduardo Nunez, was trapped for the inning’s second out, Abad then struck out Jordan Schafer for the final out.