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Arbitration Cases Preview

September 13, 2011 had a summary of all of Oakland’s arbitration eligible players this morning. They started their piece with this very interesting comment,

“This entire group could reasonably be tendered contracts.”

This group is compromised of (in brackets will be which trip to arbitration this represents for the player), Andrew Bailey (first), Daric Barton (first), Dallas Braden (second), Craig Breslow (second), Joey Devine (third), Gio Gonzalez (first), Brandon McCarthy (fourth), Landon Powell (first), Adam Rosales (first), and Ryan Sweeney (second). I agree with the perception that all of these players could be tendered contracts, but the better question is should they.

There are first off some no-brainer, no-doubters, guys who you might not just be tendered a contract for but might also be considering for extensions and those guys are Bailey and Gonzalez. Though I am a big advocate of dealing Bailey to add some punch to the lineup, that doesn’t preclude signing him to an extension that stabilizes his salary through his remaining arbitration season, along with potentially buying out a year of his free agency. Gonzalez on the other hand should be in line for the type of extension the A’s have offered to both Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill – in fact one could argue he is more deserving of it than the other two.

The next tier of players is still no-brainer but not necessarily ones you offer extensions to just yet. Barton had a miserable 2011 campaign but it seems it may have been the result of a shoulder injury. Regardless, in the $1.6M-1.8M price range it is well worth the risk even if he ends up as a backup first baseman. It may also be an opportunity to try out his versatility at other spots around the diamond. Brandon McCarthy at 4.3 WAR has been Oakland’s most valuable player in 2011 and has certainly earned himself a contract (perhaps even an extension with some options to guard against injury concerns). Owning a 3.39 ERA which understates his great numbers unlike his 2.74 FIP, McCarthy has remade himself into a control pitcher (1.4 BB/9) while limiting home runs (0.5 HR/9) and keeping his strikeouts respectable (6.5 K/9). While his HR/FB (5.4%) if normalized results in a 3.28 xFIP, that is not a number I’d complain about at all and still leads the 2011 A’s. Ryan Sweeney is the other guy who fits into this tier of player not necessarily so much for his performance – which has been solid (0.3 WAR with a .270/.349/.347 slash line and .310 wOBA) if not impressive – it is because the A’s look to have several vacancies in the outfield next year and Sweeney is a cheap ($1.6M-1.8M range) and flexible option to fill them.

Following that there are the guys who likely will be retained though it isn’t necessarily a game changer and it isn’t necessarily a fait accompli. Dallas Braden normally would be a no-brainer, a clubhouse leader and “veteran” on a young club, he is a solid fourth starter type. He isn’t intimidated by anyone and players with a lot of heart and passion. However will finish the 2011 campaign with only eighteen innings on the books over three starts (all at the beginning of April). His future is very uncertain, in some circles there’s been talk of this being a career threatening injury, yet Braden likely will be a little above his 2011 salary of $3.35M is that a risk worth taking? Perhaps. Breslow has had a down year, yet he has a left hand that can pitch. Finally, Joey Devine after a great start fell into a world of control problems and should be retained. He will be out of options but if on track he is one of the better bullpen arms.

That leaves two super-two guys in Powell and Rosales and I believe neither should be retained. Powell hasn’t proven he can hit, while solid defensively and though pitchers appear to like pitching to him, he simply is not a valuable commodity and sucks up roster space for the A’s. Josh Donaldson, or perhaps finding a dedicated backup on the free-agent market would be a better solution (Anthony Recker does not look like a solution though despite his 0.1 WAR exceeding Powell’s 0.0 WAR despite playing in five games to Powell’s 33). If the market doesn’t turn out as planned, we can always re-sign Powell after non-tendering him. Rosales on the other hand has had a career with far more production overall and his 2011 where he has been the A’s least valuable player at -1.0 WAR has been miserable. He is not a .074/.148/.185 player with .155 wOBA and -11 wRC+ and though he could be retained cheaply and could be lost to another team if non-tendered, Eric Sogard looks ready to take over the backup infield duties and otherwise finding a middle infielder cheaply on the free-agent market who is passable as a backup should not be particularly cumbersome.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2011 6:29 pm

    I agree with you on Powell and Rosales — decent backup catchers and ok utility infielders are exactly the players that a team like Oakland has to develop within (or acquire in the first three years of their career), keep around until they hit arbitration, and cut bait, replacing them with the next guy. Recker and Sogard are perfectly positioned to be that next guy.

    Sweeney probably should’ve been the starting RF this season, rather than grabbing David DeJesus. Let’s hope Beane doesn’t make a similar mistake next year.

    Craig Breslow, by the way: 3.81, 3.88, 3.62 go his FIPs the last three years, and .216, .226, .369 go his BABIPs. I’m not worried about him.

    • September 13, 2011 6:59 pm

      I didn’t mind the move to get DeJesus, certainly didn’t expect this sort of a year from him, but Sweeney should be playing regularly next year no question. While I liked the DeJesus move, I did not like the fact that it was just a one-year deal, would’ve been far better if it were getting him for two. Steep price to pay in Mazzaro who looks like he could be a solid #3 one day.

      I too am not worried about Breslow, but as I noted in this piece what is concerning is when he runs into trouble. Overall, you keep the lefty no matter what. Can’t ever have enough left-handed pitchers.

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