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Samardzija targeted by pitching-hungry clubs

Jeff Samardzija is still a member of the A's rotation. How long that will last, it's hard to say.

Jeff Samardzija is still a member of the A’s rotation. How long that will last, it’s hard to say.

It may be a while before Jeff Samardzija knows where he’s going to be pitching this season.

He’s currently a member of the A’s starting rotation, and there is a chance he will remain there. But there is at least as big a chance that he will wind up elsewhere.

The White Sox and the Red Sox are front-and-center in their pursuit of the right-hander. And while the Braves have made their interest in Samardzija known, the pieces don’t seem to fit for the A’s, sources close to the club said.

And there may yet be another suitor or two yet to make themselves an upgrade heading into 2015.

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A’s could use Lawrie at second if Headley is in their future

Brett Lawrie could be the A's third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

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.

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MLB’s `qualifying offer’ system qualifies as a mess for the A’s

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.

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.

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A’s could see all seven of their free agents gone in 2015

Starter Jon Lester is one of seven potential free agents the A's could see leave this off-season.

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.

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A’s behind some of Royals’ success heading to World Series

Royals celebrate their AL wild card win over the A's on Sept. 30.

Royals celebrate their AL wild card win over the A’s on Sept. 30.

Why is Kansas City the team that’s waiting for the San Francisco Giants in the World Series?

You can blame it on (or thank, depending on how you feel about it) the Oakland A’s. So says Don Wakamatsu, the former Seattle manager who is now the bench coach for the Royals, working under manager Ned Yost.

After ending a four-game losing streak on July 22, the Royals had steamrolled everyone through Sept. 7. Kansas City used a blistering 31-13 run to go from eight games out in the American League Central to 1½ games up on the Detroit Tigers

The Royals ran out of juice at that point, falling out of the Central lead while limping home with a 10-10 record in the final 20 games. If the Mariners (9-11) and the A’s (8-12) had done even a little better over the same stretch, Kansas City’s stretch of missing the post-season would have made it to an even 30 years and Oakland and Seattle would have been the American League’s wild card combatants.

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Playing in the post-season never gets old for A’s Punto

Nick Punto has made it to the post-season five times since 2006 and relishes one more shot at it.

Nick Punto has made it to the post-season five times since 2006 and relishes one more shot at it.

The A’s as a group have a little bit of experience playing post-season baseball.

Oakland played in the American League Division Series the last two seasons and some of the players brought in recently like Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes were in the World Series as recently as last year.

And then there is Nick Punto. The utility infielder made it to the post-season in 2006 with the Twins, playing (and losing to) the A’s in the ALDS.

He was back in the ALDS with Minnesota in 2009, again getting knocked out early, this time by the Yankees.

Then it was time to get serious about this whole post-season thing.

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Time for A’s to stop waiting, start winning, or else

Sonny Gray pitches Game 162 Sunday, the only game that matters any more for A's

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.

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A’s need to loosen up at the plate and work pitchers over

Jon Lester's arrival has seen him pitch well while the A's have struggled.

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.’’

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Athletics limitless foibles at the plate ruining their season

Jeff Samardzija threw eight shutout innings Wednesday, but it wasn't good enough for a win.

Jeff Samardzija threw eight shutout innings Wednesday, but it wasn’t good enough for a win.

If there isn’t a theoretical limit to the number of times the A’s can tell themselves they’re in good shape just because the American League Wild Card standings say they are, there should be.

By imploding in the ninth inning Wednesday, Oakland fell into a tie with the Kansas City Royals in the AL Wild Card derby, both teams at 83-68, two games up in the race over the 81-70 Seattle Mariners.

It’s technically true that the A’s can make their way in to the playoff by following the old Al Davis dictum, “Just Win, Baby.’’

The trouble is, they seem to have no remembrance of how to win, or even how to hit. Time and again in the last couple of weeks they’ve gotten brilliant starting pitching and have lost because the offense hasn’t made an appearance or because the defense had regressed to high school levels.

Already this month:

–Jon Lester gives up two runs (seven hits, no walks) in eight innings and loses 2-1 (Sept. 3)

–Jeff Samardzija throws scoreless ball for seven innings, turns a 1-0 lead over to the bullpen and Luke Gregerson gives up two runs in the eighth (Sept. 10).

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Norris gives up four steals; says he’s not in pain throwing

Dan Otero said A's pitchers need to give catcher Derek Norris more help with defending stolen base game.

Dan Otero said A’s pitchers need to give catcher Derek Norris more help with defending stolen base game.

The A’s had many good things going their way Sunday, but defensing the running game wasn’t one of them.

The Mariners stole four bases, the most against the A’s this year. All of them came with starter Jon Lester and catcher Derek Norris the Oakland battery.

Norris’s throws were all over the place, prompting speculation that the back problems he had earlier in the year might have returned.

Norris said that wasn’t the case, that he was fine.

“Am I in pain? No,’’ he said.

Would he say so if he were?

“No,’’ he said.

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