January 2013

Non-roster invitees, bobbleheads and gnomes

Oakland’s non-roster invite list for big league camp — beginning just two weeks from today — stands at 18. Here are the names:

RHPs Bruce Billings, Andrew Carignan, Mike Ekstrom, Brian Gordon, Sonny Gray, Kyler Newby

LHPs Garrett Olson, Justin Thomas

Catchers David Freitas, Luke Montz, Max Stassi, Beau Tayor

Infielders Miles Head, Jefry Marte, Scott Moore, Darwin Perez, Addison Russell

Outfielder Michael Choice

The A’s have also released their promotion and events schedule for the 2013 season. There are plenty of giveaways this year, including these:

  • 2012 AL West Division Champion Fleece Blanket (April 13)
  • Reggie Jackson Bobblehead (April 27)
  • Yoenis Cespedes Replica Jersey (June 1)
  • Grant Balfour “Ragin” Gnome (June 16)
  • Coco “Lean” Bobblehead (June 29)
  • Josh Reddick Replica Jersey (July 13 — against his former Red Sox club)
  • Yoenis Cespedes Bobblehead (Aug. 17)

The complete list can be found here.

Figueroa to play for Dominican Republic in WBC

The World Baseball Classic will feature just one A’s player this year, as lefty Pedro Figueroa was revealed as Oakland’s lone participant in the event Thursday.

Figueroa, 27, will represent the Dominican Republic alongside a star-studded cast of peers that includes Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes, among others. He is one of 11 pitchers on the provisional roster.

The hard-throwing Figueroa, expected to be a key component in Oakland’s bullpen over the next few years, made 19 appearances for the A’s in 2012, compiling a 3.32 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings as a rookie.

The Dominican Republic is in the Puerto Rico bracket with Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Spain and opens against Venezuela at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 7.

Figueroa’s teammates, Grant Balfour and Travis Blackley, considered possibilities for Australia’s roster, will not participate in the Classic.

A’s land catcher Jaso in three-team deal

The A’s on Wednesday strengthened their catching staff by acquiring backstop John Jaso from the Mariners in a three-team deal that resulted in them also returning pitching prospect A.J. Cole to the Nationals.

The A’s added in Minor League right-hander Blake Treinen and a player to be named later in the package to Washington, who gave up outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse to Seattle.

To clear room on the 40-man roster for Jaso, the A’s chose to designate George Kottaras for assignment just one day after agreeing to terms with him on a one-year deal worth $1 million to avoid arbitration.

Jaso, who carries with him a productive left-handed bat, is a prime platoon candidate next to new teammate Derek Norris, given his eye-opening splits. He posted a .927 OPS against right-handers last year, compared to .393 vs. lefties.

Overall, the 29-year-old Jaso brings with him a likable offensive profile, having hit .276 with a .394 on-base percentage to go along with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs in 108 games for the Mariners last year.

Cole, just 21, was highly regarded by the A’s, who landed the righty from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez deal last winter. But he struggled greatly at Class-A Stockton in 2012, going 0-7 with a 7.82 ERA, before being demoted to Burlington, where he was 6-3 with a 2.07 ERA in 19 starts.


Three A’s players file for arbitration

A’s players Seth Smith, Jerry Blevins and Brandon Moss were among 133 Major Leaguers who officially filed for salary arbitration on Tuesday.

Each player will exchange figures with the A’s on Friday, and arbitration hearings are scheduled from Feb. 4-20, if necessary. Teams and players can negotiate on a contract all the way up to their hearing date, however, and most often a court session is avoided.

Smith will take home the largest paycheck of the trio, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting his 2013 salary to fall around the $3.3 million mark, after he earned $2,415,000 last year. 

This marks the second year in which Smith is arbitration-eligible. Embarking on his fifth full season in the Majors, Smith hit .240 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 125 games — mainly split between left field and designated hitter — last year for the A’s, who plan to use him mostly at the latter position this season.

Blevins, embarking on his first arbitration experience, made $490,000 in 2012 while enjoying a standout season, going 5-1 with a career-best 2.48 ERA and a .201 opponents’ batting average in 63 relief appearances. These numbers suggest the lefty, entering his seventh season with the A’s, will likely make at least $1 million in 2013.

Moss, meanwhile, is projected to earn around $1.4 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors. The left-handed hitter spent parts of five seasons in the Majors with three different teams before enjoying a breakthrough season in 2012 with Oakland, for whom he hit .291 with 21 home runs and 52 RBIs in just 84 games.

More than 20 players set to attend FanFest

Remember when A’s FanFest took a three-year haitus? That wasn’t too long ago, but surely times have changed with Tuesday’s news that the A’s have already sold out all 10,000 tickets they put on sale for the Jan. 27 event just last Friday. Pretty impressive.

For fans attending, here’s a complete list of those expected to be on hand:

Manager Bob Melvin and his coaching staff, Yoenis Céspedes, Ryan Cook, Coco Crisp, Sean Doolittle, Josh Donaldson, Grant Green, A.J. Griffin, George Kottaras, Tommy Milone, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Pat Neshek, Derek Norris, Jarrod Parker, Josh Reddick, Adam Rosales, Evan Scribner, Scott Sizemore, Seth Smith, Eric Sogard, Dan Straily, Chris Young

Furthermore, with 2013 representing the 40-year anniversary of the 1973 World Series championship, the A’s have announced an in-season celebration of this historic accomplishment April 27 vs. Baltimore, when 10,000 fans will receive a Reggie Jackson bobblehead. FanFest will initiate those festivities by featuring some of the icons from 1973, including appearances by 1973 team members Sal BandoBill North and Ray Fosse.

Melvin on board through 2016

Embarking on his 16th season in his current role as A’s general manager, Billy Beane has tackled countless decisions in his time at the helm, some more difficult than others. This one was a no-brainer.

Beane showcased a hefty nod of support in his manager on Monday, awarding Bob Melvin a two-year contract extension through the 2016 season — even though Melvin was already locked up through 2014.

“This was probably the simplest negotiation I’ve ever had in my career here,” Beane said. “This is something I initiated. I approached Bob with it, and Bob was interested. It really is a reflection on our commitment to Bob and Bob’s commitment to us as much as anything. If you know you have the right guy, there’s no sense in waiting until he has one year left.”

The 51-year-old Melvin, regarded with much respect from his players, led them to a 94-68 showing — marking a 20-game improvement from 2011 — and AL West title, claimed on the final day of the season against the Rangers to erase a deficit of five games with nine to play. The playoff berth was the A’s first since 2006, despite expectations of a 100-loss season going into the year.

Melvin’s role in a stunning season that featured 14 walk-off victories, which ultimately concluded with a Game 5 loss to the Tigers in the AL Division Series, did not go unnoticed, as he was named AL Manager of the Year, just five years after taking home the award in the National League.

It was Melvin’s first full year at the helm in Oakland, as he was named interim manager following the dismissal of Bob Geren on June 9, 2011 — a label he shed when he signed a three-year contract on Sept. 21 of that year.

“We knew we had the right guy from the get-go,” Beane said. “I think the continuity is important, and just as important is it’s what was deserved.”

It’s no coincidence, then, that Melvin’s new contract aligns with Beane’s. The A’s general manager is signed through 2015, with options that could extend his services to 2019. His assistant general manager, David Forst, is under contract through 2016.

“We all see ourselves in sync together,” Beane said, “and it seemed fitting that we should parallel the same tracks we have.”

Melvin, a Bay Area native who’s compiled a career 634-628 managerial record, couldn’t be more appreciative of the gesture.

“From the minute that I got here, I’ve not only felt welcomed by Billy and the front office staff but by the players and the clubhouse personnel and the training staff and the fans,” Melvin said. “Everything has been so fluid here. You get an extension from the people that you respect and admire and show so much support in you, it really makes you feel good and better about doing your job.”

Melvin’s wasn’t an easy one last year, not after an offseason that led to the trades of three All-Star pitchers and brought about an influx of young players and castoffs. Yet he managed them all with ease, seemingly pulling all the right triggers in a roller coaster of a season that included a nine-game losing streak and subsequent 72-38 record after June 1, tops in the Majors.

All the while, Melvin supported an all-rookie starting rotation at points — rookies started 101 games — and crafted more than 130 different lineups that featured as many as five platoons at a time, with several players playing out of their usual position to accommodate the team’s needs. By season’s end, a catcher (Josh Donaldson) was playing third base, an outfielder (Brandon Moss) was manning first and a shortstop (Cliff Pennington) had taken over second-base duties.

“Bob’s an outstanding leader,” Beane said. “He has the unique ability to be both a great leader and someone who’s well likes, which is a fine line that guys in his position have to walk. I really think Bob is a great representation of a modern-day manager.

“Sometimes you have to make tough decisions in that chair and people aren’t always going to like them. But, at the end of the day, when they walk out of your office and still respect you and like you, that says a lot.”