A handful of Minor League signings by the A’s have mostly gone unnoticed this winter. Here’s a list of them:
RHPs Mike Ekstrom, Kyler Newby; LHPs Justin Thomas, Garrett Olson; C Luke Montz; INFs Scott Moore, Darwin Perez
There will likely be plenty more additions before the start of camp, and it’s worth keeping an eye on each of them. After all, it was only last winter the A’s signed Brandon Moss to a Minor League deal.
NASHVILLE, TENN. — According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, A’s officials are slated to meet with the agent for free-agent Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima in Nashville today. It’s an intriguing option for the A’s, who are among several teams scouring a shallow shortstop market — most of which boast bigger payrolls than Oakland, ones that could help land Stephen Drew. The A’s are not out on Drew, but let’s take a look at the lesser known Nakajima:
The 30-year-old shortstop was in negotiations with the Yankees last winter, after New York won posting rights to him. But the Yankees failed to sign Nakajima, who wasn’t so much interested in salary figures as he was playing time, which wasn’t offered to him on an everyday basis — factors that figure to be in play this time around, too. The A’s are likely willing to promise him just that, with utility infielders Adam Rosales and Andy Parrino their only other in-house options at this point.
Nakajima enjoyed a successful 2012 campaign with the Seibu Lions in Japan, where he finished with a line of.311/.382/.451, to go along with 13 home runs. Since 2007, the infielder has averaged 20.5 homers per 162 games, along with a .310 average and .381 on-base percentage. Furthermore, he boasts above-average defensive skills.
Nakajima, who represented Japan at the 2008 Olympics and in the ’09 World Baseball Classic, already met with D-backs officials — also shopping for infield help on the left side — in Arizona in November, though a deal was reportedly never on the table. The D-backs, however, are believed to still be interested in him.
The A’s, meanwhile, figure to be keeping all of their options open, particularly since they’re in no hurry to make a move, and that includes both the free-agent and trade markets.
NASHVILLE — Oakland’s shopping list was of no mystery heading into the Winter Meetings, yet how the club may go about obtaining its contents was.
A’s general manager Billy Beane, speaking from his suite at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort on Day 1 of the four-day event, shed some light on the matter Monday, making it clear his top options at shortstop, which remains the team’s most dire and only true need. Their current in-house options are Adam Rosales and Andy Parrino, and Beane has no intentions of adding prospects Grant Green or Addison Russell to that mix.
Stephen Drew, with whom the A’s familiarized themselves well down the stretch, and Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima are the two free agent shortstops the team is considering at the moment. On the trade front, rumblings of the Marlins nearing a deal involving shortstop Yunel Escobar emerged, and the A’s could very well be in the mix.
MLB.com learned Beane met with Marlins officials on Monday, though it’s unclear whether he did so to discuss Escobar, who is only owed $5 million in 2013. The 30-year-old is equipped with plenty defensive talent and has a likeable .353 career on-base percentage, factors that make him an attractive option despite his checkered past, which includes an incident involving a homophobic slur written on his eye black.
But should the Marlins turn to a trade partner not named the A’s when dealing Escobar, believed to be on his way out of Florida by week’s end, Oakland will feel no added urgency to move on other options.
“I think we’re in a pretty good place to sit back and wait,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I know we’re really not market makers, at least in the free agent market, that we’ll sit back and see where the market’s going and then kind of pick and choose. There are some places we’re looking to upgrade, but we’re not in a rush to make a deal we’re not ready to make.”
Drew, whose $10 million mutual option was declined by the A’s, will surely garner significant interest from multiple clubs, given the weak shortstop crowd filling an uninspiring free agent market. That may leave him out of the A’s price range, but that doesn’t mean Oakland won’t try for him, and Beane was set to meet with his agent, Scott Boras, “sooner than later” this week.
As for the 30-year-old Nakajima, who was posted last year but ultimately didn’t sign with the Yankees, Melvin acknowledged that the club knows “quite a bit about him” and have engaged in talks about the free agent, whom he said “looks like a hitter.”
The free-agent route may very well be the way to go for the A’s, who are not willing to part with any of their starting pitchers — a declaration that could rule out a trade with the Indians that would send shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to Oakland.
The pitching-heavy A’s appear to be more than set with arms, despite the club’s desire to bring back right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who is expected to garner more money elsewhere.
“There’s been contact,” Beane said. “There’s still a lot of the winter left, but I wouldn’t say something’s imminent. I would speculate, given his talents and the lack of starting pitching out there, that he’s going to be attractive to quite a few teams.”
“I think that door is always open until it’s closed,” Melvin added. “We’ll probably sit back and see what kind of offers he gets and whether or not we’re able to afford him, what the guaranteed money is, what the incentives are in his deal, which I’m sure will be somewhat incentive-laden. But that door is not closed.”
Beane has often left the Winter Meetings having not pulled the trigger on a single move, instead laying the foundation for deals in the weeks ahead. That could very well be the case this year, too, with an additional two months still to be had in the offseason.
“I don’t think these meetings create any sense of urgency from our standpoint, because we still think there are quite a few potential options out there, whether it be trade or free agent or in-house,” he said. “[Shortstop] is a critical position, and for us we have a chance to significantly improve your club if you get the right guy. We had a few guys in and out of the position last year, so if you get the right guy, it’s an area you can make a big jump on your club.”
A’s players, who together form one of baseball’s lowest payrolls, have voted to donate one playoff share — a total of $34,325.16 – to various charities. The donation will be split between the MLB Players Trust, UMPS CARE, Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, Oakland A’s Community Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area, United Way of the Bay Area, Donnie Moore Ministries and Craig Breslow’s Strike 3 Foundation.
In a release, A’s player rep Jerry Blevins said, “During the playoff share meetings, we decided as a team that we wanted to give back to the community by donating one full share to various charities that are near and dear to our hearts.”
On the final day for clubs to set their 40-man roster, the A’s on Tuesday added four players and subtracted three in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft.
By selecting infielder Grant Green, outfielder Shane Peterson and right-hander Arnold Leon from Triple-A Sacramento and right-hander Michael Ynoa from Class-A Vermont, the A’s have protected them from the Rule 5 Draft, to be held Dec. 6 at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.
To make room on the roster for these four prospects, Oakland elected to outright righty reliever Andrew Carignan to Sacramento and designate right-hander Jim Miller and infielder Brandon Hicks for assignment.
Those who signed after age 18 and have been in the Minors for four years, or those who signed at 18 or younger and have been in the Minors for five years, are eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Among notable players in the A’s organization left unprotected are third baseman Stephen Parker and right-hander James Simmons.
The 25-year-old Green, the A’s top Draft pick in 2009, could finally be in position to grab hold of an Opening Day roster spot, either as a shortstop — his natural position — or as a utility player, given his versatility in the infield and outfield.
Green hit .296 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs at Triple-A this year and followed up that performance with a .273 average in 17 games for Phoenix in the Arizona Fall League, collecting two homers, 11 RBIs and 10 walks along the way. In three Minor League seasons, Green has compiled a career .302 average.
Ynoa, though only at the Class-A level, is one of the highest regarded prospects in the A’s organization, having signed with them out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 via a then-record $4.25 million bonus at age 16 — an investment the A’s likely couldn’t afford to lose, despite his slow progression.
Since signing, the 6-foot-7 Ynoa, now 21, has missed significant time because of elbow injuries, which led to Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2011 but rebounded in 2012 to tally 30 2/3 innings, posting a 6.46 ERA.
Leon, meanwhile, combined for a 4-1 record and 2.70 ERA in 44 relief appearances with Class-A Stockton, Double-A Midland and Sacramento, fanning 74 in 66 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old righty, who has also undergone Tommy John surgery, is currently pitching for his hometown Culiacan in the Mexican Winter League and is 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA in 12 relief appearances.
Peterson was limited to 86 games this year because of an early-season ankle injury, but he managed to bat .326 with a .480 on-base percentage and .510 slugging mark when healthy. Originally a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2008, the 24-year-old Peterson was traded to the A’s with Clayton Mortensen and Brett Wallace for Matt Holliday in July 2009.
Their roster at 39 at day’s start, the A’s had a difficult decision to make in designating Miller, who enjoyed four impressive stints with Oakland in 2012, gathering a 2.59 ERA and .217 opponents’ average in 33 appearances.
Then there’s Hicks, who was clutch in a handful of key moments for the A’s but struggled to produce consistently. Overall, he hit .172 with three home runs and seven RBIs in 22 games spanning two stints with the A’s, after being claimed off waivers by the Braves in March.
Release sent out by the A’s regarding spring schedule changes:
The Oakland A’s today announced several changes to their 2013 Spring Training schedule, which were necessitated to accommodate the World Baseball Classic and other Cactus League teams. Despite the changes, the Athletics will still play 17 home games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. In related news, the team announced that one of those 17 games will feature Italy as the lone World Baseball Classic opponent on the 2013 spring slate on Tuesday, March 5 in Phoenix.
On five of the original home dates, the Cactus League opponents have now changed:
- San Diego replaces Seattle, Feb. 27.
- Colorado replaces San Diego, March 2.
- Seattle replaces Colorado, March 7.
- Los Angeles (AL) replaces Seattle, March 16
- Seattle replaces Cincinnati, March 18
In addition, Oakland and the Milwaukee Brewers have swapped home dates, with the A’s now opening the Cactus League season at Maryvale against the Brewers Saturday, Feb. 23 and then hosting Milwaukee in Phoenix Monday, March 25.
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.”
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.
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.