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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
The A’s must finalize their 25-man ALDS roster by 10 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, and expect them to use nearly every second of the time that exists between now and then to turn it in. That doesn’t mean the decisions that come with it haven’t been made, though. Notably missing from the clubhouse today was Jemile Weeks, Daric Barton and Collin Cowgill, along with Dan Straily, who tweeted yesterday, “Just got to Phoenix. I’ll be staying ready in case my right arm is needed.” There are 13 pitchers here, not including injured hurlers Brandon McCarthy and Jordan Norberto, who made the trip, and 12 are expected to make the roster. I’d suspect Pedro Figueroa and Pat Neshek are on the bubble right now, and that the A’s may choose to keep Neshek off the list, as he continues to grieve from his baby son’s passing.
Should that be the case, and at this point it’s simply pure speculation, the A’s would carry these 12 pitchers through the series: (Starters) Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Brett Anderson, A.J. Griffin; and (Relievers) Grant Balfour, Travis Blackley, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Pedro Figueroa, Jim Miller, Evan Scribner
The position players: Chris Carter, Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, George Kottaras, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, Cliff Pennington, Josh Reddick, Adam Rosales, Seth Smith
A’s righty reliever Pat Neshek is here in Detroit, just two days after the sudden passing of his 1-day-old son, Gehrig. Neshek was kind enough and very brave to speak to a small handful of reporters on Friday and said he and his wife, Stephanee, are overcome by the support they’ve received.
Neshek says his son’s birthday “was probably the best day I ever had, the one day. I’d go through it all again just for that one day. It was pretty awesome.”
Just heartbreaking. Here’s more from Neshek:
On his decision to be here:
It was tough. We were locked up in the house and you can sit there all day. It was kind of what I imagine hell is like. But seeing a lot of support from the guys and other players around baseball and guys I’ve played with and fans of baseball was really helping us. If nothing else, we kind of wanted to do it in my son’s honor, to come here and do this.
On his wife, Stephanee, also coming to Detroit:
She loves baseball, and that was the tough this with this year, was she made a lot of sacrifices to stay back in Florida. When you’re pregnant you can’t fly and all, so that was the first thing she said was, ‘I need to get out of here and go watch some baseball.’ I was fine with whatever she wanted. I just wanted to be by her to get through this.
On the feeling of being here:
Really good. I’m sure she feels good too. When I got on the bus I saw a lot of the guys and I texted her saying, ‘It feels really good, actually.’ I kind of questioned it at first, but I know it’s the right decision.
On how he’s holding up:
I’m good, ya know, I got out there and started playing catch and it all comes back to you right away. It really takes your mind off all of the bad stuff. I think it’s a very good way of healing up a little bit and trying to get past it.
On the support streaming in:
It was hard, because we had the baby and put a lot of pictures up, and I went home and was watching the game and she stayed back [at the hospital] and I got a call about the fifth inning, and she said, ‘The baby stopped breathing.’ That was really hard. We sat all night. We didn’t know what to do, because people were sending us texts of congratulations and stuff and that really hurt. I put that up on Twitter and Facebook, and it was pretty amazing, just what talking with friends and talking with complete strangers, how much of that helps the grieving process. I don’t think we’ll ever get over it. This really helps. It’s a good way to start putting the pieces back together.
On the cause of his son’s death:
We’re going to have an autopsy. … We never found out and an hour later they were saying, ‘Do you want to bury your son?’ It’s hard to process any of it. We’ll get through it. And, like I said, this really helps. We’re a big baseball family, and my parents thought this was a great decision, my wife recommended it, and I just feel so much myself here.
DETROIT — The hearty A’s will start their improbable playoff run away from home, in front of what’s sure to be a raucous crowd in chilly temperatures at Comerica Park, against a stacked Tigers lineup they’ve decided to entrust a pair of rookies to handle.
Manager Bob Melvin likes their chances.
The A’s skipper has decided to start right-handed rookie Jarrod Parker in Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Saturday, with another rookie, lefty Tommy Milone, getting the nod in Game 2 opposite Doug Fister. No announcement has been made for the ensuing games, though a healthy Brett Anderson seems the likely choice for Tuesday’s start, with young righty A.J. Griffin a strong bet for Wednesday’s potential Game 4.
“We were comfortable with either,” Melvin said of Parker and Milone from Comerica Park on Friday. “We’ll keep Parker on turn. He’s been pitching well here recently. Both of them have been given a little bit of rest over the course of the season. But I think the way Jarrod’s been pitching here recently, coupled with the fact that we’ll keep him on his regular routine, was the final decision.”
Parker is the first A’s rookie to start the first game of a postseason series and, at 23 years and 317 days come Saturday, will be the second youngest pitcher to start Game 1 for the A’s. At 22 years and 67 days, Vida Blue did so during the 1971 AL Championship Series.
This after he compiled a 13-8 record and 3.47 ERA, numbers that proved similar to partner in crime Milone, who posted a 13-10 ledger and 3.74 ERA. In doing so, both set the Oakland record for most wins by a rookie pitcher, surpassing the previous mark of 12 held by Chris Codirolo (1983) and Joe Blanton (2005).
“I’m excited,” said Parker, who will be opposed by Detroit ace Justin Verlander. “Obviously this team’s gone through a lot this year. And you know we’re happy to be here. And it’s kind of a tribute to the work we’ve done as a team. And it’s an honor, and obviously I’m going to be as prepared as I can to get ready.”
It will mark Parker’s first career start in Detroit and second overall against the Tigers, to whom he surrendered two runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts spanning 5 2/3 innings in a May 13 outing this year.
Two days prior it was the 25-year-old Milone facing the Tigers for the first time in his young career, a task that proved rather easy for the lefty, who gave up just one run on five hits while fanning six and walking just one that day. Milone again pitched against them on Sept. 20, this time at Comerica Park, where he was rung up for 94 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs and nine hits along the way.
Milone’s home and road splits are telling, what with a 2.74 ERA and six home runs allowed in 15 starts made at the pitcher-friendly confines of the Coliseum, compared to the 4.83 mark he posted on the road, where he surrendered 18 homers in six starts.
Yet the postseason allows for a clean slate, and the A’s are confident in getting the job done with Parker and Milone, their chances of a series victory that much greater if they can depart Detroit with at least one win in tow.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way, given these are the two guys that have consistently been here for the most part and have done a tremendous job,” Anderson said. “These are two guys, their mentality is not going to make a difference. They’re two of the most even-keeled guys you’ll ever meet, so I don’t expect the atmosphere or the enormity of the game to get to them. They’re going to go out there and throw strikes like they’ve done all year. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
As for Anderson, the most veteraned arm of the starting staff at age 25, he’ll throw a bullpen on Saturday and, if all goes well, expects to take the ball for Tuesday’s Game 3 start, less than a month after he suffered a right oblique strain.
“I’ve been feeling good lately,” he said. “It was obviously a big win to win the division on Wednesday for multiple reasons but also to help me get a couple extra days of rest and, if I do start Tuesday, almost a weeks’ worth. That’s truly beneficial, for the oblique and for the team.”