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To make room for new acquisition Chris Gimenez, the A’s have elected to release left-handed pitcher Pedro Figueroa. Figueroa seemed to be clinging to a roster spot for a while, never materializing the way A’s scouts had envisioned. The 28-year old pitched three innings with Oakland in 2013, impressing no one with his 12.00 ERA in line with a 12.71 FIP, though really with three innings does it mean anything? He saw more time with Oakland in 2012 going 21 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA baseball that were quite shaky as his 5.08 FIP would attest as the peripherals were an ugly 5.8 K/9, 6.2 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. So he ends his Athletics career with a grand total of 24 2/3 innings of 6.2 K/9, 6.6 BB/9 and 1.5 HR/9 baseball for an ERA of 4.38 and FIP of 6.01. Good riddance.
In Sacramento he pitched more admirably with 59 1/3 innings (all in relief save for one start) where he again struggled with control (5.0 BB/9) while having modest strikeout numbers (5.0 K/9) and ERA (4.10) and an ugly HR/9 rate (1.4) and FIP (5.29). It is telling that here is a left-handed pitcher and the A’s didn’t even bother DFA’ing him but instead released him. Clearly they don’t see much to salvage in the Dominican who has been a part of the organization since 2003.
Not sure what to make of this. Catcher is not a position where I felt the A’s were lacking with John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt all in the fold. Despite what one would assume is quite surprising depth, the A’s today claimed catcher Chris Gimenez off of waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. Gimenez has failed to inspire in his time in the Majors hitting a collective .199/.292/.293 in 380 plate appearances across five seasons. He has been worth a total of -0.1 WAR in his career, hitting to a .269 wOBA and 65 wRC+ while proving adept at striking out to a 25.3% K% clip.
Gimenez who spent all but four plate appearances last year with the Durham Bulls (he went 1-for-3 with a walk for Tampa Bay) hit to a .224/.350/.305 slash line in the International League with a .316 wOBA and 93 wRC+. I don’t see any way one could justify him supplanting any of the three existing catchers. I assume that the A’s try to sneak him through waivers and hope he accepts a MiLB assignment, otherwise I don’t make much sense of this especially in light of the fact that with a full 40-man roster, someone else has to go.
I love Dave Cameron as even if I don’t agree with him his posts make you think. Yesterday he had a great post about the underrepresentation of 1960′s born baseball players in the Hall of Fame in Fangraphs. This is my generation of ballplayers so I took particular disdain with it. In the article he highlighted that basically one to two percent of MLB players are elected writing,
“I have no problem with the Hall of Fame being reserved for the top 1-2%, as that makes it an exclusive club and a legitimate honor to be chosen. This seems like the kind of standard that is worth upholding, and gives us a reasonable range of what a “big hall” or “small hall” might look like. At the minimum, we should accept the top 1%, and at the maximum, the top 2%.”
Yesterday, I talked about how I liked what the Brewers were doing to honor their history with their Wall of Fame, which honored players who made significant contributions to the Brew Crew over the years but did so largely by sticking around, not necessarily accumulating amazing numbers. Guys who would be important to a given franchise, but may (or more likely, will) be forgotten by history in the greater scheme of the game of baseball. What if instead of a Wall of Fame, we look at a Hall of Fame. Who are Oakland’s best players of all time? Who would be enshrined, in this franchise, one of the more successful in the American League? Here is who and I divide it into “small Hall” and “big Hall”, with of course the former all being members of the latter. For the purposes of determining who is best, I used Fangraphs’ WAR calculation.
Interesting group of guys. On the outside looking in is Dennis Eckersley who gets burned likely because WAR is so derived from counting stats, his WAR of 18.6 being accumulated in just 525 appearances, while Dave Henderson had 695 games to get up to 18.8. Surprising really just how few pitchers there are for a team known so much for developing starting pitching.
Billy Beane has again made a deal with Mike Rizzo. While it may seem like the eleven-thousandth trade between the two clubs in recent weeks/years, it is in fact the seventh trade between the two. And like A.J. Cole and Kurt Suzuki before him, Corey Brown again marks another guy who has gone from team to team and back again as today the A’s acquired Brown for cash considerations.
Brown originally dealt to Washington with Henry Rodriguez in exchange for Josh Willingham, returns to Oakland having recently been DFA’d by the Nats. Brown was originally a first round pick (59th overall) for the A’s out of Oklahoma State, a pick they had back in the Type A free-agent days as compensation for losing one probable Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Brown has done little at the MLB level with Washington, with whom it he made his MLB debut in 2011, since participating in a total of 36 games with 45 plate appearances of .175/.250/.400 hitting with a .283 wOBA and 77 wRC+. He has been amazingly somehow worth 0.2 WAR in his career, during which Davey Johnson used him in all three outfield positions. He has suffered through a .217 BABIP at the MLB level which can be attributed to poor luck though his 33.3% K% can be fully attributed to a lack of understanding as to how to hit major league pitching.
Given that Brown has to stick on Oakland’s roster or be DFA’d and thrown to the waiver wire for all to pluck from, given that the A’s are no longer afraid of letting such guys go, he’ll get a fair shot in Phoenix this spring and should he fail to capitalize on that opportunity, he will again meet a fate of being DFA’d.
This move does nothing to move the A’s towards winning a third straight AL West crown as Brown doesn’t even offer the promise of “well he crushed MiLB pitching!” with a total mark of .267/.351/.484 with 123 home runs in 3,090 plate appearances, and a less than amazing total .254/.333/.461 batting line in Triple-A where he has hit 16 home runs in 1,602 trips to the plate.
I just liked a nonsensical title like that but today the Milwaukee Brewers announced that they are creating a Brewers Wall of Honor which is meant to recognize players who made contributions to the Brewers by being mainstays not necessarily the prime attraction. As a baseball guy, I love this. How many times do you with your friends shout out the names of somewhat obscure players to “Hall of the Very Good” types, and reminisce? Now Brewers fans can do that for the guys who were outsized players in their memories if not in their accomplishments.
As reported by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the requirements for entrance are quite simple:
Individuals will qualify for the Wall of Honor by meeting any of the following criteria:
*2,000 or more plate appearances
*1,000 or more innings pitched
*250 appearances as a pitcher
*Winner of a major award (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, or Fireman of the Year)
*Manager of a pennant-winning team
*Individuals memorialized with statues on the Miller Park Plaza
*Members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame who played for or managed the Brewers
I wonder what this would look like for the Oakland A’s? I imagine quite a few cool names. So let’s change a few things. As much as I want to honor Oakland A’s HOFers who played for the Brewers (Rollie Fingers we are looking at you!) we’ll change any Brewer specific mention to an Oakland A’s one. Here goes the 76 A’s who make it to the Oakland “Brewers Wall of Honor”:
Pitchers: Andrew Bailey, Jerry Blevins, Vida Blue, Chad Bradford, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Keith Foulke, Buddy Groom, Ken Holtzman, Rick Honeycutt, Tim Hudson, Catfish Hunter, Matt Keough, Billy Koch, Rick Langford, Paul Lindblad, Steve McCatty, Mike Mohler, Mark Mulder, Gene Nelson, Mike Norris, Blue Moon Odom, Dave Stewart, Huston Street, Don Sutton, Billy Taylor, Bob Welch, Curt Young, Barry Zito.
Here are two pitchers and their performance the past two years:
There isn’t a lot of daylight between them in most categories. Relief pitcher A, has more games and slightly more innings pitched. Pitcher B, has more strikeouts by a wide margin, though he has more control issues and problems with the home run. One pitcher is an extreme groundball guy, the other extreme flyball. Results though are what ultimately matter and both pitchers have sub-3.00 ERAs. Their FIPs think both are worse than that but are in the same neighborhood with one another. When it comes to the task of being a reliever and shutting down opponents both pitchers do an incredible job. How much they are being paid to do that job is the real big difference here.
The $3.3M difference between the two (RP B’s is a projected arbitration figure) is the big stark difference. $3.3M gets you on today’s free agent market a little north of half a win, far less than the one-tenth of a win separation between these two.
Why did the A’s not re-sign relief pitcher B (Grant Balfour)? Why did they opt to spend $3.3M more (an amount that could have been spent in the bullpen to acquire Joba Chamberlain ($2.5M) or LaTroy Hawkins ($2.5M)) for relief pitcher A (Jim Johnson)? Balfour who has proven success in Oakland, is a fan favorite, a guy who generates revenue while also thankfully doing his job? A guy who said,
“It’s been great, the fans here have been great to me. We’ll see what happens. You always want to come back where you enjoy playing, but it’s not up to me. I’ve had three solid years here, and I feel I’ve given them everything I have right up to the last pitch.”
And a guy with teammates who say things like this,
“He’s been phenomenal. One of the best closers in the game. It’s been fun watching him. It would be different seeing him do his deal for the other side if he leaves, but he’s got to do whatever is best for him and his family.” (Brett Anderson)
“Balf is the leader of the bullpen.” (Stephen Vogt)
Why do you let that guy walk, for the pleasure of paying someone else more? I just don’t understand. In the myriad of trades the only one that made no sense was acquiring Johnson. With Balfour signing a two-year $15M deal with the Orioles today it makes even less sense. I think Johnson will be fine, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – especially with a team whose fans are exasperated with seeing their heroes leave town.
The A’s made yet another trade, this time sending left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins to Washington in exchange for outfield prospect Billy Burns (who it turns out was the Nationals MiLB Player of the Year). This deal sort of accomplished the goal that yesterday’s Brett Anderson trade didn’t, of getting good prospects to replenish the largely devoid of talent upper levels of the A’s system. Burns, who was ranked the Nats’ 26th best prospect by Baseball America in their 2013 Prospect Handbook filled that need. The handbook described him by saying he had,
“limited offensive upside, but his speed and tablesetting skills give him a chance to be an extra outfielder in the majors”.
Blevins had a productive 2013 with Oakland, throwing 60 innings of 7.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9 baseball for a 3.15 ERA and 3.88 FIP. I don’t find WAR to be entirely instructive regarding relievers (it was 0.3), but shutdowns and meltdowns I do and his nine shutdowns to ten meltdowns reflect mostly on how Bob Melvin used Blevins, which was seldom when games were truly in the clutch and more often than not when the A’s were losing (the A’s record in games Blevins pitched in was 26-41 a far cry from their .593 winning percentage as a club). Blevins is a curious choice for Washington given he has a reverse platoon split with righties hitting just .190/.267/.314 against him in 2013 to lefties who managed a .253/.299/.442 clip, so their desire to get a left-handed pitcher and settle on someone like Blevins is akin to their having a desire to have a pitcher with brown hair, purely superficial. In his career he does have a favorable split against left-handed batters (.224/.278/.358) but again not so dramatic as to really consider him a lefty-specialist (righties in his career manage a .240/.326/.385 slash line). But that is Washington’s concern. In his career, spent entirely at the big league level with Oakland, he has thrown 267 innings of relief across 281 games managing 8.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 for a 3.30 ERA and 3.88 FIP. He was a good pitcher for his limited role and he will be missed though with the plethora of options the A’s have – including from the left-side alone – in the bullpen he was replaceable, and my guess is his role is potentially eaten up by new acquisition Drew Pomeranz who the A’s apparently were impressed by in his limited time in the relief role (a 0.00 ERA and 1.25 FIP in just five innings of 10.8 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 0.0 HR/9 baseball).
In this deal the A’s acquired the aforementioned Burns who spent 2013 mostly with the Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League but also with the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League. He is an on-base machine with a combined .425 OBP in 540 plate appearances in 2013, where he hit a combined .315/.425/.383 with zero home runs and 74 stolen bases (to just seven caught stealing) in his 121 game combined performance. For his MiLB career, he has appeared at the plate 1,155 times accumulating a .312/.421/.379 slash line, and just one home run (way back in 2011 with the Auburn Doubledays of the NY-Penn League) and an impressive 125 stolen bases with just 17 times being nabbed. Should he reach the majors it is pretty obvious how he would be employed by a franchise such as Oakland.
But as I wrote, in this deal the A’s acquired Burns but in many ways this deal can be looked at as one combination of two trades the Washington Nationals and Oakland A’s have engaged in this off-season. Their acquisition of Fernando Abad in exchange for John Wooten back on November 25th essentially had Oakland send over a MiLB guy to acquire a lefty-reliever in Abad. If you did straight up Blevins for Abad, the A’s in Abad get a pitcher with a little less experience and with overall worse career numbers. If you look solely at Abad’s 2013 campaign in Davey Johnson‘s bullpen, he appeared in 39 games and 37 2/3 innings of 7.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 baseball for a 3.35 ERA and 3.26 FIP being worth an equal 0.3 WAR to Blevins while posting three shutdowns to five meltdowns. Like Blevins, Johnson used Abad in losing games with the Nats record in games in which he appeared by a dismal 9-30 well off the pace of their .531 winning percentage. Despite being nominally cheaper than Blevins, I’d like Blevins’ track record far more for what amounts to be two very similar pitchers (Abad too had a reverse platoon in 2013, despite a career normal platoon split).
If you talk Wooten straight up for Burns (the two prospects sent back and forth in these two deals), I think Oakland comes out ahead with Burns having an unconventional set of skills, versus Wooten’s standard and unimpressive MiLB totals (his 2013 spent at Beloit featured an impressive 20 home runs but part of a less impressive .257/.333/.430, .351 wOBA and 115 wRC+ package). All in all, I question the necessity of this trade, the one to acquire Abad seemed to portend a team looking to deal other arms, but if this was all the A’s had hoped to achieve, it seems sort of underwhelming. However, the A’s did do a good job of inserting some talent into Midland and/or Sacramento’s lineups so that counts as a win in my books. Best of luck to Blevins in Washington, he is if not an outstanding pitcher a certain grade-A good guy.