If you haven’t seen this Baseball Tonight clip of Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow and Rajai Davis playing “Name That A,” check it out. Not sure I’m buying Bailey’s modesty on the last question. And I like the long, skinny microphone Karl Ravech is using. Doesn’t get more “game show” than that …
I was rummaging through my notes from last week’s A’s media event, and wanted to share some thoughts from Bob Geren about his possible batting order. Geren was asked how he would handle the 1-2 spots, with Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis being the prime candidates at the top of the lineup. His take:
“You can do that a couple different ways. You can go Raj-Coco or Coco-Raj. It might depend on who I bat third and fourth. If you have Suzuki batting third, a right-handed hitter, maybe you go Raj first and Coco second. And then Cust could bat fourth, a lefty. I kind of like to (alternate lefties and righties) if it makes sense, so it’s more difficult for the opposition to match up in the bullpen.”
I know … You were hoping that by now, the A’s might have obtained a better fit for the No. 3 hole than Suzuki, right? Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing the Johnny Damon reports. Anyway, Rajai-Coco (or vice versa) is a natural combo in the 1-2 spots. But I could also see a scenario where Suzuki or Ryan Sweeney could bat second and Davis or Crisp could drop down to the ninth spot. Nothing wrong with lighting a fuse at the bottom of the order.
Here’s my stab at a full lineup if the A’s took their current roster into Opening Night. This is assuming that Eric Chavez is coming off the bench, as the A’s plan, and Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are starting the season at Triple-A:
1. Davis LF
2. Crisp CF
3. Suzuki C
4. Cust DH
5. Kouzmanoff 3B
6. Sweeney RF
7. Ellis 2B
8. Barton 1B
9. Pennington SS
**I didn’t purposely try to go right-left all the way down, just worked out that way …
Let’s hear some thoughts on the A’s options …
LATEST INFO: Reliever Michael Wuertz is the lone arb-eligible Athletic to remain unsigned. Wuertz, who made $1.1 million last season, is asking for $2.9 million and the A’s are offering $1.9 million. This info comes courtesy of Ed Price at AOL Fanhouse.
A’s assistant GM David Forst told me he’s optimistic the A’s can work out a contract with Wuertz and avoid a formal hearing, which would come sometime in February.
The A’s just sent out a release announcing that newly acquired third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff also agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. The AP is reporting he gets $3.1 million.
Just got it confirmed that the A’s and outfielder Rajai Davis avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $1.35 million contract w/incentives. It’s a well-earned bump from the $410,000 that Davis made last season, and it avoids the possibility of the A’s going to an arbitration hearing with him in February. Now the team will focus on signing its lone remaining arb-eligible player: reliever Michael Wuertz. Check back here later for updates.
To recap the arbitration process: A player is eligible for arbitration after three years of major league service time (and in some scenarios, two-plus years, which was Davis’ case). If a team doesn’t reach a contract agreement with an arb-eligible player, a hearing is held before an independent panel, where the team submits a proposed salary figure, and the player’s agent submits a proposed salary. The panel hears each side’s case and decides on one salary or the other — there’s no middle-ground compromise. These hearings can get nasty because a team is forced to criticize its own player to justify why the lower salary should be given.
The A’s have had great success in recent years finding some middle ground and reaching agreements w/players to avoid hearings. Teams and players were due to exchange salary figures at 9 a.m. this morning if they hadn’t reached an agreement, and I assume that’s turning out to be the case w/Wuertz. Teams can continue negotiating a deal with a player anytime leading up to their scheduled hearing, and I’d expect the A’s to hammer something out w/Wuertz before it comes to a hearing …
Can we expect the A’s to make as big an offseason splash as they did last winter? That might be hard to top. But with the World Series wrapped up, the Hot Stove speculation can officially begin. The MLB Network’s Jon Heyman discussed this winter’s crop of free agents, and he mentioned the A’s as potential suitors for third baseman Chone Figgins and outfielder/DH Vladimir Guerrero.
Juicy names, indeed. But I don’t see the A’s making a push for Figgins. Clearly, they need to sign someone at third. The odds are stacked against Eric Chavez remaining healthy, and it’s asking a lot of prospect Brett Wallace to be ready Opening Day. That’s why making the call on whether to re-sign Adam Kennedy is the A’s first crucial decision of the winter.
Figgins would cost a bundle, with some speculating he could command $10 million per season on a multi-year deal. Look at the A’s offensive strength right now – it’s tied to their speed and athleticism with guys like Rajai Davis and Cliff Pennington. They don’t need another burner such as Figgins. They need someone who can drive in those speedy guys once they get on base.
Guerrero is intriguing, if only because his injury struggles in 2009 should drive his price down. But he’s a huge gamble even at a bargain cost. I’m more intrigued by the A’s pursuing someone like Jermaine Dye. His 2010 option was declined by the White Sox on Friday, making him a free agent. He’ll turn 36 in January (making him a year older than Vlad), but he’s coming off a far more healthy and productive season. Dye plays right field, where the A’s have a terrific defender and still-developing hitter in Ryan Sweeney. But remember, Billy Beane acknowledged that the A’s need more offense from the corner outfield spots, and that they could look to upgrade in left or right.
Team owner Lew Wolff wants the A’s to abandon the philosophy of signing aging sluggers. But let’s face it – the A’s aren’t going to outspend the big-budget teams to sign any superstars. And trading for an impact hitter in his prime will cost the A’s some of their elite pitching prospects. I don’t see them easily parting with those players (then again, I didn’t see them trading for Matt Holliday last winter, either).
Just a few thoughts for you to ponder as the Hot Stove season starts heating up. Let’s here what some of you think …
With Triple-A Sacramento having been knocked from the playoffs last night, the A’s promoted outfielder Travis Buck and relievers Henry Rodriguez and John Meloan.
This is Rodriguez’s major league debut. Meloan, 25, was claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh on Sept. 2, and Bob Geren said he’ll fill a middle relief role similar to what Jeff Gray is doing right now. He’s made seven career appearances in the majors, split between the Dodgers and Indians. “He’s a control guy, not a flame thrower, but good command,” Geren said of Meloan.
One player we probably won’t see in Oakland is first baseman Chris Carter. Geren said it’s “highly doubtful” Carter or anyone else will be added to the big league roster before season’s end. Carter enjoyed as fine an offensive season as anyone in the minors, but the A’s obviously want to keep evaluating Daric Barton at first base. So Carter probably wouldn’t have gotten regular at-bats. “He’s had a great season and he’s going to be forcing his way into the picture, just not at this moment,” Geren said.
Buck, who seemingly has slipped down the totem pole in the A’s outfield picture, said he was pleasantly surprised to get word of his call-up. With Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney playing so well, his innings might be limited. And when he does play, I’d expect it to be in left field to spell Scott Hairston.
Rodriguez is the most intriguing newcomer. You’ll remember he impressed in 2008 spring training with his 100 mph fastball, but his big-time strikeout totals in the minors have been countered by a high number of walks too. Rodriguez, 22, was hindered in spring training with his recovery from offseason hernia surgery, and his back also has bothered him. Geren said he’ll look for low-pressure situations to ease Rodriguez into.
It’s another right-handed dominated lineup for the A’s, with Davis again in the leadoff spot. Adam Kennedy gets another day off, but Geren said he’s inclined to keep Kennedy in the top spot when he plays. Ryan Sweeney’s knees are doing better, but Matt Carson gets another start in his place.
Gio Gonzalez LHP
It’s not your typical A’s lineup tonight, with eight right-handed hitters starting against Cleveland lefty David Huff. Nomar Garciaparra (DH) and Bobby Crosby (3B) each get a rare start, and Daric Barton is the lone left-handed bat.
The most intriguing name in the A’s order? Right fielder Matt Carson, called up from Triple-A to make his major league debut at age 28. Ryan Sweeney is battling soreness in his knees, according to Bob Geren. Nothing serious, but enough for the A’s to call up another outfielder, even with Sacramento still in the Triple-A playoffs (the River Cats will be eliminated if they lose tonight, so there’s a chance we could see more call-ups soon).
I remember walking into the A’s clubhouse in spring training, seeing Carson and asking, “Who is this guy?” His signing in November hardly caused a ripple, and he was just one of many anonymous faces around Papago Park when camp opened. But he really caught the A’s attention during Cactus League play, and has only helped his cause this season. Who knows if he’s got a chance to make the team next year? But if Sweeney remains banged up, Carson could see more starts.
With Adam Kennedy getting a day off, Rajai Davis moves into the leadoff spot. Geren said he could easily interchange Kennedy and Davis at the 1-2 slots, but he’s stuck w/Kennedy at leadoff because the offense has been clicking. It’ll be interesting to see if Davis gets a few more looks in the top spot. After all, he’s a pretty realistic leadoff option going into next season.
–Geren on the odds of right-hander Brett Tomko returning to the mound this season: “Probably less than 50-50, but there’s a chance.”
–Dallas Braden, out for the season with nerve damage in his left foot, is with the team today. He’s not doing much in the way of activity, and acknowledged some frustration w/an injury that ended what was a pretty encouraging season for him. He had this to say about his recovery: “There’s about a 90 percent chance of (a full recovery). It could be a month, it could be six months. I could never be the same, or I could bounce back like nothing ever happened.”
Braden and Kurt Suzuki are being honored tonight w/the Dave Stewart Community Service Award.
Didn’t the A’s roster activity seem unusually quiet in recent days? That ended today, as first baseman Tommy Everidge was optioned to Triple-A and outfielder/second baseman Eric Patterson was recalled.
It’s a bit of a surprise considering indications were that Everidge and Daric Barton would split time as the A’s evaluated both first base prospects. But Bob Geren pointed out that Patterson provides a versatile option off the bench, especially w/left fielder Scott Hairston nursing a sore quad and center fielder Rajai Davis playing with a fractured thumb.
The big-picture impact is that the A’s want Barton to get the majority of at-bats at first. Asked if Barton is the primary guy at first base for the rest of the season, Geren responded, “Yeah.” He left the door open to Everidge returning when rosters expand, but it’s clear the A’s want to give Barton a hard look. … I wouldn’t read too much into this as far as the A’s plans for next season, because you figure Chris Carter, Sean Doolittle and possibly Brett Wallace will all be in the first base mix in spring training. But Barton gets his chance to leave a strong imprint heading into the offseason, much like Cliff Pennington at shortstop.
Patterson split his latest stint in Sacramento between center field, left field and second base. I see center being his best chance for playing time up here, as Davis could probably use a little rest for his thumb.
–Other newsie bits: Bobby Crosby said his calf feels good after running sprints yesterday. He’s taking today off from running but looks like he could be ready Wednesday, when he’s eligible to come off the DL. … Geren reiterated that Edgar Gonzalez is his preference to start Tuesday at Kansas City, which would set into motion a six-man rotation.
–I’ve mentioned this before about Brett Tomko, who starts tonight: It’s unusual to see a starter, on the day he’s pitching, hang out on the field w/the rest of the team when it comes out to stretch. Starting pitchers typically hole up in the clubhouse until they’re ready to start their pregame throwing. But Tomko seems to enjoy being w/the team. I’ll have to ask him about it …
Another pretty pleasant night at Safeco Field leading up to Game 2 of this series …
The A’s are likely to have a special guest in the dugout for the second straight night — third baseman Eric Chavez, who’s on the mend from June 23 back surgery that he hopes will have him ready for the start of the 2010 season. Chavez’s wife, Alex, is from the Seattle area. He wasn’t in the clubhouse during the media access period earlier this afternoon, and though he was in the dugout for last night’s game, he wasn’t around the clubhouse afterward. I haven’t talked to him personally, but manager Bob Geren said Chavez looked good, was in good spirits and is eyeing a return to baseball activity in January, if not sooner. Next season will be the last of his six-year, $66 million deal.
No news was good news for the A’s on the Rajai Davis front. He’s back in center field tonight and hitting second, so apparently he’ll be able to play despite a fracture in the tip of his right thumb. Davis was able to swing the bat yesterday — the issue was throwing. But his thumb passed the throwing test this afternoon. “I was able to throw effectively and pretty accurate, compared to yesterday,” Davis said. He’s never hurt his thumb before, but in Triple-A he did have an injury to his right middle finger that kept him out a couple of weeks. I’d expect him to get an occasional day off to make sure he completely heals.
The upshot of it all: No transaction made by the A’s, and no extra position player brought up. So Geren still has just three non-pitchers on his bench.
Dallas Braden isn’t with the team in Seattle as he stayed back in Stockton to get physical therapy on his infected left ankle. But Geren said there’s a chance he might join the team in Anaheim for the upcoming four-game series there.
Without further delay, your lineups. With lefty Brett Anderson pitching, Ken Griffey Jr. is not in Seattle’s lineup tonight, but Mike Sweeney is …
A little late with tonight’s post, my apologies on that …
–Landon Powell gets a second straight start tonight for the A’s. He’s at DH after jacking a three-run homer yesterday. Jack Cust is in right field and Rajai Davis gets a night off to rest a sore right thumb.
It’s too bad for Powell he isn’t getting more playing time. He’s really produced when he’s been in there. But other than at catcher or DH, it’s tough finding at-bats for him.
–There was lots of get-reacquainted time on the field during batting practice, as so many former A’s players and coaches are with Seattle. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and bench coach Ty Van Burkleo chatted w/Bob Geren. M’s first baseman/DH Mike Sweeney was catching up w/Mark Ellis … And the newest ex-Athletic/current Mariner, Jack Hannahan, is in the lineup at third base against his former team …
The full lineups
Griffey Jr. DH
Not much in the way of pregame updates today. But I’ll be interested to see how Chad Gaudin looks tonight going against his old Oakland teammates. Big night for the right-hander, as this is his first start for the Yankees since they acquired him in a trade from San Diego. I talked to him during the A’s trip to San Diego in June, when he was still a Padre, and he was disappointed he wasn’t on turn to face the A’s down there. Surely he’ll have some extra adrenaline flowing tonight, just as Brett Tomko did facing the Yankees on Monday night.
Check out the first four hitters in the A’s batting order tonight: Adam Kennedy, Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis, Kurt Suzuki. That’s not exactly a 1-4 sequence you expected back in spring training, eh? Things are a little funky tonight because Scott Hairston isn’t starting (his quad still isn’t 100 percent). And there isn’t a hotter hitter on the A’s than Ellis, so might as well plug him into the “3″ hole for a night. Suzuki, the DH, gets his first career start at cleanup.
–Joey Devine is backing up to 45 feet to play catch tonight. He said a couple days ago that there wasn’t a set date for him to get on the mound. It’ll be baby steps for him as he continues strengthening his elbow after Tommy John surgery.
–Bob Geren said the team has begun discussions about possible September roster call-ups, and that “obviously pitching will be at a premium.” Triple-A infielders Adrian Cardenas and Brett Wallace are swinging hot bats, as is Double-A first baseman Chris Carter. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them gets a ticket to Oakland. I’d be surprised if Carter didn’t at least get a promotion to Sacramento.
Anyway, here’s tonight’s lineups: