October 2012

Braden, Devine elect free agency

Lefty Dallas Braden and right-hander Joey Devine, both of whom have undergone two surgeries in the past three years, cleared outright waivers on Tuesday and elected to become free agents rather than accept a Triple-A assignment from the A’s.

The news isn’t much of a surprise, considering the pitchers’ injury-prone pasts, yet it doesn’t prevent them from resigning with Oakland, which could work out a one-year deal with either, or even a Minor League deal.

Braden, drafted by the A’s in 2004, missed the entire 2012 season, as he continued rehab from a 2011 surgery that repaired a torn capsule in his left shoulder, before also succumbing to yet another procedure in August to repair a rotator cuff. The 29-year-old isn’t expected to be able to pitch again until the second half of the 2013 season.

With that timetable in mind, Braden isn’t likely to receive much interest from other clubs, making the A’s the favorite to sign him, should they choose to bring him back. The southpaw has long expressed his desire to stay in Oakland, especially given the close proximity to his home in Stockton, Calif.

Braden could seemingly take his time rehabbing in the Minors, if given a Minor League deal by the A’s, and then give them experienced depth down the stretch once healthy. In 94 career appearances in Oakland, including 79 starts, he is 26-36 with a 4.16 ERA. Braden enjoyed his best season in 2010, when he authored baseball’s 19th perfect game and logged 192 2/3 innings spanning 30 starts — all career highs — with a 3.50 ERA.

Like Braden, Devine also missed the entirety of the 2012 season, after undergoing Tommy John surgery for a second time April 10 — 11 days short of the second anniversary of his first procedure, which forced him to miss the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Not only was there a tear in Devine’s ulnar collateral ligament the second time around, but surgeon James Andrews also had to monitor the debridement of the flexor tendon and repair damage to the ulnar nerve, which was covered in scar tissue.

Devine, a former first-round Draft pick by the Braves in 2005, has made just 26 big league appearances since his first surgery. Overall, the 29-year-old reliever owns a 2.75 ERA in 93 career appearances, including a 1.57 mark in 68 games in two seasons with the A’s, who aren’t likely to make a strong attempt at resigning him.

“I’m just going to let everything unfold as it may,” Devine told MLB.com. “I do, however,  think a fresh start would be best for me and my family.”

A’s ink Ekstrom to Minor League deal

The A’s have added to their relief depth by signing right-hander Mike Ekstrom to a Minor League deal that includes an invite to big league camp, according to a source. Ekstrom, 29, has made a handful of appearances in the Majors in each of the last five seasons, spanning stints with the Padres, Rays and Rockies. He spent most of 2012 at Triple-A Colorado Springs, posting a 2.53 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 57 innings.

A’s decline Drew’s option, exercise Balfour’s

The A’s made a pair of significant decisions on Monday, choosing to decline shortstop Stephen Drew’s option, while electing to pick up closer Grant Balfour’s, as expected.

Drew, 29, held a mutual option worth $10 million, a hefty price tag for the small-budget A’s, who can still resign the free-agent shortstop should the two sides work out a new deal. 

According to sources, Oakland is very much interested in continuing conversations with Drew to bring him back, but should Scott Boras’ client go elsewhere, the A’s — who traded shortstop Cliff Pennington to the D-backs just last week — would be left to explore other options in a lackluster shortstop market that doesn’t feature many impact infielders.

Drew, an above-average defender, hit .250 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 39 games with the A’s, following his trade from Arizona on Aug. 20.

Balfour, meanwhile, will collect $4.5 million from the A’s in 2013, following an exceptional 2012 campaign that resulted in a team-high 75 appearances. The 34-year-old collected 24 saves while posting a 2.53 ERA.

Moving forward, the A’s top priority is presumably still Drew, and they must also decide whether to resign free agents Jonny Gomes and Brandon McCarthy.

A’s acquire Young; deal Pennington, Cabrera

(Updated)

Though Billy Beane forecasted an unusually quiet winter just last week, the A’s general manager was back to his old ways on Saturday, swinging an early offseason deal with the D-backs that brought him veteran center fielder Chris Young.

In exchange for Young and cash considerations totaling $500,000 to offset the All-Star’s salary, the A’s traded away infielder Cliff Pennington to the D-backs. Arizona also landed infield prospect Yordy Cabrera from Oakland, before flipping him to the Marlins in a deal for reliever Heath Bell.

The addition of Young immediately, albeit presumably, brought into question the fate of speedy table setter Coco Crisp, set to make $7 million with the A’s in the final year of a two-year deal. But Beane, speaking on a conference call Saturday night, quickly denounced the idea that Crisp is suddenly on the trade block.

“There’s no need to go down that road,” Beane said. “Everybody knows how important this guy is to our team. He also has the benefit of being a personal favorite of mine.”

Those around him, notably left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and right fielder Josh Reddick, along with outfielder and designated hitter Seth Smith, also seem safe. The same cannot be said of 2012 clubhouse ringleader Jonny Gomes, who appears to be the odd man out and, in turn, targeted for free agency, after Beane said Young’s presence “will have an impact” on the possibility of his return.

Having five proven outfielders on hand is a good problem to have, Beane noted, as surpluses are often diminished because of injuries. This team understands that just as much as any other, given Crisp and Cespedes combined to miss 75 games as a result of injuries this year. So added depth, particularly in the form of Young, is always welcomed.

“We had a very productive outfield last year and were able to get a lot of playing time for everyone involved,” he said. “We had, in my opinion, one of the deeper outfields in the game, and I think this is another way of duplicating that.

“This is a really good player and someone whose talent we’ve admired for a long time.”

Beane entered into conversations about Young with longtime friend and Arizona general manager Kevin Towers the day after Oakland lost Game 5 of the AL Division Series to the Tigers. The pair has made plenty trade headlines in recent years, including an August deal that brought shortstop Stephen Drew to the A’s. Pennington’s absence bodes well for the return of Drew, who holds a $10 million mutual option.

If either side declines, Drew will become a free agent. But Beane sounds intent on preventing that scenario, saying he plans to contact Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, very soon.

Young, who turned 29 last month, is a career .239 hitter with a likable combination of power and speed. In seven Major League seasons, each with Arizona, he’s averaged 24 home runs and 21 stolen bases, all while showcasing excellent defense — a common trait among Oakland’s outfield.

Young finished the 2012 campaign with a battling line that read .231/.311.434, getting off to a hot start by hitting .410 with a 1.397 OPS through mid-April, before injuring his right shoulder while crashing into the outfield wall and posting a dismal .206 mark the rest of the way. A quadriceps muscle injury ended his season in September, but Young said Saturday he’s fully healthy. Moreover, though strictly a center fielder since high school, he said playing the corner positions “is not a challenge I wouldn’t be willing to take or figure out.”

“I’m excited about a new opportunity,” he said. “Just watching Oakland on TV and having a few friends who ended up getting traded over there and playing there, I’ve just heard amazing things. I’m excited to help.”

Young, who played under Bob Melvin during the manager’s reign at the helm in Arizona, will make $8.5 million next season. He is also carrying around an $11 million club option for 2014 that includes a $1.5 million buyout created when he signed a five-year deal worth $28 million before 2009.

With that in mind, toppled with the prospect of Drew’s $10 million option, Beane confirmed the team’s payroll will definitely increase from the $55 million budget it held this year.

For Pennington, who was Oakland’s longest tenured position player, he departs the only team he’s ever known, having enjoyed parts of five seasons with the A’s, who selected him with their first pick in the 2005 Draft.

Pennington hit .215 with a .278 on-base percentage and .311 slugging mark for Oakland this season, all career lows. Such production led the A’s to bring in Drew in late August, and Pennington was subsequently moved to second base. His departure frees up the everyday spot for Scott Sizemore, whom Beane revealed Saturday will indeed move from third base back to his natural second base position. Jemile Weeks and Adam Rosales, meanwhile, act as depth there, and Josh Donaldson will resume everyday duties at the hot corner.

It’s a group Young watched with close attention down the stretch.

“Honestly, I was pulling for them,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of the teams that have been able to beat the odds.”

McCarthy writes back page column for SI

If you haven’t made your way to the back page of this week’s issue (Oct. 15) of “Sports Illustrated,” I’m suggesting you do so immediately. And if it’s not accessible to you, I hope you have great vision, because the online version can only be viewed by slightly zooming in on THIS picture.

You’ll see that A’s hurler Brandon McCarthy is a guest writer for the column, in which he shares his thoughts about his surgery and the support the A’s lent him and and his family during and after it all, among other things.

McCarthy writes, “After day two or three I was able to start watching A’s games on TV. During that time I heard from a lot of my teammates, and that was huge for my psyche. It helped me not feel so distant from the team. It was nice of them to hang my jersey up in the dugout, but after the third day I wanted them to take it down. I didn’t die, and I wasn’t suffering. All I was doing was lying in bed, eating grilled cheese sandwich and soup, with a cup of tea.

And, “My teammate Yoenis Cespedes — I call him our Jim Brown because he’s just way more gifted than everybody else — defected from Cuba and had never played in the U.S. before. I kept trying to tell him that a team like this might happen once in a career.”

Beane: “We’re in great shape”

OAKLAND — Jonny Gomes was in no rush to leave the Coliseum on Friday morning, and it seems the A’s are in no rush to make him.

Less than 24 hours after the team’s season-ending loss to the Tigers in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, Gomes was one of only a handful of players back in the A’s clubhouse, the scene of this club’s ringleader playing out to the background of team officials stating their desire for his return.

The veteran Gomes provided the surprising AL West champion A’s more than a $1 million impact right-handed bat, and it’s the addition of his unmatched leadership and clubhouse presence that could easily tempt them to resign him.

“I think it’s probably a work in progress right now to do that,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Billy [Beane] understands that as well as anybody. Nothing’s for sure, but my guess is there are probably some talks going on either now or very quickly.”

Beane made it no secret on Friday that he likes his team and would enjoy seeing much of it back next year, noting that, “by and large, if any moves are made, it would be additions” this winter. Keeping the 31-year-old Gomes falls within those plans.

“He would be part of that macro statement, I think under that umbrella of the idea to have this team back,” Beane said. “As it relates to each individual, we’ll discuss it, but we’d like to see these guys back.”

Said Gomes: “I was grateful to play for Tampa, the Reds, Washington. I don’t go into the offseason looking to sign with a contender, because I don’t buy into that. Whatever clubhouse I’m in is a contender. At the end of the day, of the offseason, all I really want is to be wanted, and hopefully it all works out right here.”

Along with Gomes, right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy, also eligible for free agency, is a strong possibility to return. Then there’s Stephen Drew, who holds a steep $10 million mutual option. Drew has voiced that the decision to turn to free agency or remain with Oakland would involve several discussions with his family, and should he choose to seek other options, the A’s could move Cliff Pennington back to shortstop and allow Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore to battle for the second-base job.

“We loved having Stephen here when he was here,” Beane said. “Given that he was a little bit behind the curve given he was coming back from that injury in Arizona, I think it would be intriguing to see what he could do when he comes in fully healthy.”

Outside of McCarthy, a youthful and talented pitching staff figures to remain intact. Moreover, don’t expect to see the drug-suspended Bartolo Colon rejoin the A’s. Beane said he has not been in contact with Colon’s camp and deemed his availability for the postseason, had Oakland advanced to the next round, “unrealistic.”

Elsewhere, the A’s have a 2013 club option to pick up on closer Grant Balfour, and doing so expects to be one of the team’s easier decisions of the offseason.

“He was a critical factor in us winning the division,” Beane said. “I’m not going to officially say anything, but there are some things that are common sense.”

Free agent-to-be Brandon Inge has likely seen his final days in Oakland, despite the leadership he provided with Gomes. There simply won’t be room for the popular veteran, considering the A’s have plenty options at third base in Sizemore and Josh Donaldson.

Everyone else is under club control for 2013, leading Beane to believe “we’re in great shape.”

“The satisfying thing about the crowd’s response to this team last night was that they’re going to get to see this team, by and large, next year,” he said. “I’ve had situations where we’ve had great seasons and I knew the team wouldn’t be back, because of things like guys hitting free agency, but we’d like to try to continue this momentum we have in the winter, and we should be able to build on this next year.”

A’s players thank fans via Twitter

The A’s compiled these tweets that were sent out last night from their players, following the team’s eliminating loss to the Tigers and an absolutely incredible standing ovation from their fans.

Anderson: “I’m ready to go”

DETROIT — A’s lefty Brett Anderson doesn’t need an official announcement to declare his status for Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Tuesday.

“I’m ready to go,” said Anderson, his right oblique injury no longer a concern. “You don’t know how many times you’re going to make it to the postseason, so I’m going to cherish this moment. Everyone’s got nicks and knacks at this point in the season, so just put Icy Hot on it and get after it.”

The A’s, however, will wait to proclaim their starter for the third game of the best-of-five series until Monday, shortly before the club’s afternoon workouts in Oakland. By then, the A’s will either be carrying around a two-game deficit or 1-1 tie, making the experienced Anderson’s presence in Game 3 all the more significant.

That puts rookie righty A.J. Griffin in line to start a potential Game 4 on Wednesday.

“I think the better he feels day to day, hour to hour, we’d like t be able to pitch him in [Game] 3,” manager Bob Melvin said. “So we still hold that out to potentially be the case. But I think we’re probably more prudent to announce that tomorrow.

“It’s mostly how he feels. We want to try to get him in a game as soon as we can. And that’s regardless. So if he feels good enough to go, whether we win, lose, we’d like to pitch him sooner than later.”

Anderson, 24, played catch on Sunday morning and claimed his oblique “definitely good enough to pitch,” noting that, come Tuesday, “I also think the adrenaline and the magnitude of the game will help get me through.”

There will seemingly also be an extra dose of motivation on Anderson’s side, given the fact he may feel he has a job to finish, having suffered his injury in the third inning of a start against the Tigers, having already given up three runs in an eventual loss.

“That would be just another awesome ending to an adverse chapter this team’s had,” Jonny Gomes said.

ALDS Game 1 lineups

Athletics

Crisp CF

Drew SS

Cespedes LF

Moss 1B

Reddick RF

Donaldson 3B

Smith DH

Norris C

Pennington 2B

(Parker SP)

 

Tigers

Jackson CF

Berry LF

Cabrera 3B

Fielder 1B

Young DH

Dirks RF

Peralta SS

Avila C

Infante 2B

(Verlander SP)

A’s announce ALDS roster

DETROIT — The A’s on Saturday morning released their American League Division Series roster, which notably includes starter Brett Anderson, a decision that reflects confidence in the team’s belief that the lefty will indeed pitch in the series.

Anderson, the most veteraned member of the starting staff at age 24, suffered a right oblique strain less than three weeks ago but said just Friday that he felt good enough to take the mound for Tuesday’s Game 3 in Oakland should the A’s ask him to, which seems like a strong possibility.

Joining Anderson on the roster were Game 1 and 2 starters Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone, along with the pitcher who is likely to start a potential Game 4, A.J. Griffin.

In the bullpen, righty Jim Miller proved to be the odd man out, as the A’s went with Grant Balfour, Travis Blackley, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Pedro Figueroa, Evan Scribner and, in an inspiring move, Pat Neshek.

The right-handed Neshek, a key cog in the bullpen down the stretch, rejoined the team Friday in Detroit just two days after the sudden passing of his 1-day-old son, Gehrig John, at the urging of his wife, Stephanee, who also made the trip.

As of Friday afternoon, it was unclear whether an emotional Neshek would pitch in the ALDS, but manager Bob Melvin very much left open the possibility.

“We’re proud of the fact that he did get here and wants to be with us, wants to be on the roster, wants to pitch,” Melvin said. “So we will support that as completely as we possibly can.”

Outside of the 12 pitchers, the A’s are fielding a roster of position players that boasts no surprises. First baseman Daric Barton, second baseman Jemile Weeks and outfielder Collin Cowgill, all of whom were not seen in Detroit on Friday, were left off the roster, as expected, as the A’s opted for more relief pitching over added speed in Weeks and Cowgill or a first-base defensive replacement in Barton.

Chris Carter and Brandon Moss will continue to split duties at first base, as will Cliff Pennington and Adam Rosales at second base, next to Stephen Drew at shortstop and Josh Donaldson at third. It’s Derek Norris and George Kottaras behind the plate, with Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick in the outfield. Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes will share time at designated hitter.

THE ROSTER

Pitchers: Anderson, Balfour, Blackley, Blevins, Cook, Doolittle, Figueroa, Griffin, Milone, Neshek, Parker, Scribner

Catchers: Kottaras, Norris

Infielders: Carter, Donaldson, Drew, Moss, Pennngton, Rosales

Outfielders: Cespedes, Crisp, Gomes, Reddick, Smith

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