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Gio Trade Fallout: Roster Crunch

December 23, 2011

First things first, one late addition to the Gio Gonzalez trade with Washington (from a our knowing of it, not necessarily negotiations-wise) was the inclusion by the A’s of RHP Rob Gilliam. Gilliam who is an eighth round draft pick by the A’s in 2009 out of UNC-Greensboro spent last year in Stockon where he put up a sloppy 5.04 ERA across 28 starts and 164 1/3 innings, with a 4.30 FIP. His peripherals are mixed, with a nice K/9 of 8.5 and strong 2.6 BB/9 but messy 1.3 HR/9. Not a significant loss for a team that now certainly has plentiful high end pitching options.

I am still a huge fan of the trade, but the deal – still not official pending physicals that are not expected to contain any surprises – does create a roster issue for the 40-man full Oakland A’s. Of the players coming back three are on the 40-man roster of the Nationals necessitating their inclusion on Oakland’s 40-man squad: Tommy Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock. The A’s by shipping Gio over there go down to 39, meaning the three coming back leave 42 men with 40 roster spots vacant.

There are some peculiar ramifications too. With Norris’ addition the A’s assuming they do not DFA any of their catchers will have five catchers on their forty-man roster – for the sake of comparison they have five outfielders on their 40-man roster. Is it safe to assume one of these five will be a casualty? I wonder if any might squeak through waivers? Landon Powell‘s re-upping – which I disagreed with at the time and still do disagree with – has aided in creating this mess. Josh Donaldson, listed as a catcher, has been playing third base in winter ball – a noted position with a lack of depth for Oakland, so he seems safe. Anthony Recker could be  casualty as well as he will be a 28 year old with a mere 21 MLB plate appearances to his name – however given his strong MiLB numbers (.273/.350/.461 slash line in 2,673 MiLB plate appearances) and every team’s desire for catching depth it seems unlikely he’d manage to slip through waivers and land with the River Cats. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some sort of small deal involving one of these guys in the next few days – namely Powell or Recker.

The next DFA candidate seems to me would be either Sean Doolittle, Pedro Figueroa or Neil Wagner. I’ve seen some discussion online of Jordan Norberto being a candidate for the DFA, but despite his serious control woes (9.8 BB/9 in 26 2/3 MLB innings, and still messy 4.8 BB/9 in 434 1/3 MiLB innings) the left-hander has some promise with a high K/9 rate (perhaps hitters simply are scared out of their minds with him on the hill) and as a lefty I think he’d be a tough one to pass through waivers unclaimed – I could be wrong there mind you, but others seem better candidates.

Doolittle, an infielder who through a series of never-ending injuries has yet to show any of his potential (he last played in 28 games in Sacramento in 2009) seems a fine candidate after all he hasn’t played in two years and one has to think that’d help him slip through waivers unnoticed by the 29 other teams. Can’t say much about him again because he has not been on a baseball field, in a uniform, during a game for any team in the A’s organization since 2009.

Figueroa seems slightly less likely to go than Doolittle though he too through a series of injuries has remained sidelined for most of his tenure in the organization. Figueroa did however take the hill for two innings of work in 2011 and as a hard-throwing lefty the A’s might want to see some of his promise instead of letting another team possibly reap all those rewards free-of-charge.

Wagner seems another apt candidate for the DFA. Wagner, who on New Year’s Day will turn 28, made his MLB debut this season with Oakland and ultimately appeared in five innings of work in the green and gold posting a 7.20 ERA, still ugly 6.43 FIP. He featured a remarkable 34.9% strand rate which only added to his woes. Given he is 28 and features lackluster MiLB numbers, (3.47 ERA over 362 2/3 innings with 10.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9) it seems he could potentially pass through waivers and even if he didn’t wouldn’t be a significant blow to a club poised to finish in the American League West cellar in 2012.

Another possibility of course, given that this rebuild attempt is serious by Billy Beane, David Forst and company, is the real possibility that Kurt Suzuki could be traded before Opening Day and that Andrew Bailey could potentially be dealt as well for players not on the 40-man roster spot giving more roster flexibility to the A’s. For now though, if I were a betting man, I’d say get ready to say your goodbyes to Sean Doolittle and Neil Wagner A’s fans.

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