The trade of Derek Norris brings two good arms into the A’s camp and leaves open more possible moves.
You have to wonder what’s next for the A’s.
Billy Beane & Co. have spent the last six weeks stocking up on young talent, most of it pitching, including right-handed starter Jesse Hahn and right-handed reliever J.R. Alvarez who are the newest additions with Derek Norris having been traded to the Padres Thursday night.
Already five of the seven players the A’s had at the All-Star Game this season are off the roster, and as Norris told me Thursday night, it seems like the A’s “are looking to rebuild’’ heading into 2015.
Norris may be right about that, but it seems more than a little possible that Beane is loading up for one big swing between now and the start of spring training. With Matt Kemp off the block now, the biggest bats known to be available are outfielder Justin Upton of the Braves and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies.
John Jaso wants to be back with the A’s, but doesn’t know if a trade is in his future.
It’s possible that the A’s have done their damage at the 113th Winter Meetings and will cool their heels the rest of the week, but it’s not a solid bet.
Oakland still has at least one other player the A’s might consider moving, catcher John Jaso. To be sure, general manager Billy Beane is a huge fan of Jaso, who works the count, has a habit of coming up with timely hits and who is an on-base machine.
On the down side, he’s had concussions the last two years that have taken him out of back-to-back stretch drives with Oakland. Doctors have given him the go-ahead to resume catching.
“I think that’s ancient history now,’’ Jaso told me Tuesday morning. “I’m moving on, starting my workouts and I’m ready to go. As of right now, I’m still planning on taking up catching again, whatever team I’m on.’’
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.
Sean Doolittle’s intercostal strain, putting him out for 18 games in August and September, rattled the A’s bullpen.
Had they advanced to the American League Division Series against the Angels, the A’s likely would have been heavy underdogs.
That has nothing to do with how the A’s played the Angels this season, but because of the personnel Oakland would be able to put on the field.
Center fielder Coco Crisp suffered a hamstring injury not long before the A’s suffered a 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Royals in Kansas City. Catcher Geovany Soto jammed his thumb in the first inning and had to come out of the game in the third.
Manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday the injuries were not short-term.
“We would have had to go without Coco and without Soto in the next round if we’d gotten that far,’’ Melvin said.
Geovany Soto’s big swing in the first inning Monday was A’s biggest hit of the night in 8-4 win over Angels.
Some deals get more notoriety than others.
But for the final 10 days of the season, the trade that brought Geovany Soto to the A’s could rank there with any of them. Oakland picked him up from the Rangers in a little-noticed Aug. 24 transaction. Since then the A’s have been down two starting catchers, Soto and Derek Norris.
And for Sunday and Monday at least, it was just Soto. Norris is dealing with a shoulder problem and has taken a wild pitch off his jaw, so he could use the break.
All Soto has done has been to deliver three RBIs for the A’s in Sunday’s 10-inning win over the Phillies, then get the key hit of the game Monday, a bases-loaded single that drove in the middle two runs of a six-run first.
Derek Norris is the only healthy experienced catcher the A’s have left for the moment.
Bob Melvin faced a decision Friday that hadn’t cropped up all year.
Catcher Geovany Soto felt his back go when he dug a strike thrown by starter Jason Hammel out of the dirt and fired to first base.
Soto had to come out of the game. In better days, Melvin could have thrown one of his multitudes of other catchers out there. But John Jaso and Stephen Vogt are both injured and not even with the team.
So his choice was between moving Derek Norris from DH to catcher and giving up the designated hitter for the rest of the night or inserting catcher Bryan Anderson in.
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 is confident he’s back pitching the way he wants to with A’s.
It’s not like Jason Hammel has been born again in his last two starts.
But the veteran starting has come back home, metaphorically at least.
Home is where his slider crosses the plate at the knees or a little lower. Home is where his sinking two-seam fastball clips the corners instead of crossing the fat part of the plate.
And Hammel is now pitching like he did when the A’s traded with the Cubs five weeks ago. When Hammel and Jeff Samardzija came over in the deal that sent Addison Russell and Billy McKinney to Chicago, Hammel had a 2.98 ERA and an 8-5 record for a bad team.
John Jaso wants to credit Eric Sogard for much of his RBI production of late.
In his last 15 games John Jaso has driven in 13 runs, not bad for someone not generally considered an RBI threat.
Jaso knows just who to blame.
“A lot of it’s about Eric Sogard,’’ Jaso said after driving in three runs in the A’s 9-3 win over Texas Sunday night. “A lot of what I’ve been doing started when he began to get hot again.’’
Jaso isn’t kidding. Of his last nine RBIs since July 20, he’s driven in Sogard four times. Sogard was 4-for-35 before turning it around beginning on the 20th. He’s 7-for-20 (.350) since then and has scored eight runs, half of the time Jaso being the man to bring him home.
John Jaso has been on a month-long tear, hitting.326 to get his overall average to .284.
It can be easy to overlook John Jaso or Josh Reddick in the A’s offense since Oakland has three players with more individual homers than the 13 combined that Jaso and Reddick have.
It can be easy. It just wouldn’t be wise.
Jaso is in the middle of a nice tear, going 17-for-45 (.378) with four doubles, two triples, a homer and 10 RBIs in his last 13 games. Over a longer stretch, he’s hitting .326 in his last 27 games.
Reddick, the man of 32 homers who has been injured much of the last year and half, is healthy now with the help of a knee brace, and with his solo homer Saturday he is 5-for-16 (313) since coming off the disabled list with three doubles, the homer and five runs scored.