A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell pleaded not guilty in superior court Tuesday to charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct in Arizona.
An initial pretrial conference is scheduled for Dec. 28, with a comprehensive pretrial conference set for Jan. 29. A plea deal presumably could be worked out before the felony case ever makes it to trial.
Maxwell was arrested Oct. 28 in Scottsdale after he allegedly pointed a gun at a delivery driver who was bringing food to his home. According to police reports, Maxwell showed signs of intoxication when officers showed up, used profanity and made anti-police statements during his arrest.
The A’s have not commented on Maxwell’s legal troubles since issuing a press statement the day after his arrest, which said the team was gathering information from authorities and withholding further comment.
In Arizona, an assault-with-a-deadly-weapon charge can carry a sentence of anywhere from five to 15 years in prison, though several factors are considered that could bring a less severe punishment, including whether the defendant has any prior criminal history.
Regardless of how the legal process plays out, Maxwell could be subject to punishment either from the A’s or Major League Baseball. It’s also unknown how, or if, this incident will affect Maxwell’s roster status with Oakland.
In September he became the first and so far only Major League player to kneel for the pregame national anthem, in protest of racial and social injustice. Before his arrest in October, A’s officials said they viewed Maxwell as their primary catcher looking ahead to 2018. With just one year of major league service time, Maxwell is on a year-to-year contract with Oakland right now and would make in the neighborhood of the major league minimum next season. Therefore, there’s no financial downside for the club were it to cut ties with Maxwell. But such a move certainly would spur the A’s to look for outside catching help.
Josh Phegley and Dustin Garneau are the only other catchers on the 40-man roster. Both hit right-handed and would probably best be used as part of a platoon.
There are some quality veteran catchers available in free agency, including Jonathan Lucroy, Alex Avila (who, like Maxwell, bats left-handed) and Welington Castillo.
The A’s could also explore a trade for a catcher. The switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal, who figures to at least be shopped by the Los Angeles Dodgers, would be an attractive target, though he hits free agency after next season.
The A’s have a catching prospect they think highly of in Sean Murphy, but considering Murphy split last season between Single-A and Double-A ball, he probably isn’t a candidate to make the big league club out of spring training.