Can A's find diamond in the rough among free agent starters?

Can A's find diamond in the rough among free agent starters?

Last winter the A’s acted early and struck gold in their search for a veteran starting pitcher.

Rich Hill developed into one of the American League’s best starters (when healthy) despite a limited track record in that role. The A’s fell out of contention but Hill still proved valuable as he was packaged, along with outfielder Josh Reddick, in a trade that landed three highly touted pitching prospects from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A year later, Oakland once again could use a veteran addition for a rotation that will be short on experience outside of Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman. But netting the 2017 version of Rich Hill — who took a one-year $6 million deal from the A’s — will prove challenging.

This year’s free agent crop of starters is notably weak, lacking in both quality depth and top-shelf stars. That means lots of pitching-hungry teams will have to delve deeper into the available options. Even the hidden gems might get bid on aggressively.

“I don’t know if that combination is out there and affordable,” A’s general manager David Forst said, in reference to last year’s Hill signing.

But keeping in mind a very accurate baseball cliche — teams simply can’t have too much pitching — here’s a look at the A’s current crop of starters and what options are available on the open market.


RHP Sonny Gray : age 27

2016 stats:5-11, 5.69 ERA, 117.0 IP, 1.496 WHIP

RHP Kendall Graveman : age 25

Stats:10-11, 4.11, 186.0 IP, 1.306 WHIP

LHP Sean Manaea : age 24

Stats: 7-9, 3.86, 144.2 IP, 1.189 WHIP

RHP Raul Alcantara : age 23

Stats:1-3, 7.25, 22.1 IP, 1.567 WHIP

RHP Jharel Cotton : age 24

Stats:2-0, 2.15, 29.1 IP, 0.818 WHIP

RHP Jesse Hahn: age 27

Stats:2-4, 6.02, 46.1 IP, 1.640 WHIP

RHP Daniel Mengden: age 23

Stats:2-9, 6.50, 72.0 IP, 1.611 WHIP

RHP Andrew Triggs: age 27

Stats:1-1, 4.31, 56.1 IP, 1.225 WHIP

Thoughts: The above group may very well produce five worthy starting candidates coming out of spring. But with the exception of Gray and Graveman, it’s an inexperienced bunch with plenty of question marks. And even Gray has something to prove after a bumpy and injury-plagued 2016.


RHP Jason Hammel: age 34

Stats:15-10, 3.83, 166.2 IP, 1.206 WHIP

LHP Rich Hill: age 36

Stats:12-5, 2.12, 110.1 IP, 0.997 WHIP

RHP Ivan Nova: age 29

Stats:12-8, 4.17, 162.0, 1.253 WHIP

Thoughts: This already thin class of “elite” free agents took a hit Monday when Jeremy Hellickson accepted his one-year $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Figure all three starters will score multi-year deals that exceed what the A’s are willing to spend.


RHP Andrew Cashner: age 30

Stats: 5-11, 5.25, 132.0 IP, 1.530 WHIP

A good fit?:The stock has dropped big-time over the last two years, as Cashner's walk rate and hits allowed have shot upward. Perhaps that makes him a buy-low candidate for the A’s, but they’d have to look past a very shaky second half of ’16, when he posted a 5.98 ERA after his trade from the Padres to the Marlins.

LHP Derek Holland: age 30

Stats: 7-9, 4.95, 107.1 IP, 1.407 WHIP

A good fit?: The lefty once looked like a foundation piece in Texas’ rotation, but knee and shoulder injuries took their toll in recent seasons. The A’s at least are familiar with him as his entire eight-year career has been spent in the AL West. There are question marks for sure, but an experienced left-handed starter has nine lives no matter how shaky his history.

RHP Edinson Volquez: age 33

Stats: 10-11, 5.37, 189.1 IP, 1.548 WHIP

A good fit?: A workhorse for the Royals during their World Series campaign of 2015, Volquez’s numbers dipped significantly last season. But he’s made at least 31 starts each of the last three years. In this pitching market, it wouldn’t be a shock if Volquez lands a multi-year deal. But something tells us it won’t come from Oakland.

Others: Joe Blanton, Jhoulys Chacin


LHP Brett Anderson:: age 28

Stats: 1-2, 11.91, 11.1 IP, 2.559 WHIP

A good fit?: Perhaps he’s not a perfect fit as a ‘value pick’, because if Anderson proves he’s healthy after back surgery limited him to four appearances in 2016, he may still get some aggressive offers. Considering his multitude of past ailments, and the injuries that decimated Oakland’s staff in ’16, the A’s may not be willing to roll the dice on a reunion with the lefty.

LHP Tommy Milone:: age 29

Stats: 3-5, 5.71, 69.1 IP, 1.529 WHIP

A good fit?: This seems like a possible match. Milone could likely be signed on a modest deal, and he was a steady contributor and clubhouse favorite during his prior stint with the A’s (2012-14). Things turned sour after he was demoted to Triple-A midseason in ’14 — following Oakland’s trade to acquire Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel — but the A’s did grant Milone’s request for a trade by sending him to Minnesota for Sam Fuld. A reunion wouldn’t be a shock.

RHP Charlie Morton:: age 33

Stats: 1-1, 4.15, 17.1 IP, 1.327 WHIP

A good fit?: His 2016 season ended in April with a torn left hamstring, but if he proves he’s recovered, the A’s could do worse than considering Morton as a back-of-the-rotation option.

Others: Doug Fister, Colby Lewis, Mat Latos, Jake Peavy

A's announce 2018 Opening Day starter


A's announce 2018 Opening Day starter

For the second straight season, Kendall Graveman will get the ball on Opening Day for the A's. And for the second straight year, he'll face Mike Trout and the Angels.

The team made the news official on Tuesday morning.

Last year, in a win over the Angels, Graveman went six innings, allowed two earned runs and struck out seven.

"It's something I don't take for granted. It's an honor and a privilege and [I just want to] try to get the season off to a good start and hopefully be a leader of this staff," Graveman told reporters Tuesday in Arizona.

In four seasons with the A's and Blue Jays, Graveman has a 4.11 ERA in 76 appearances.

A's agree to deal with familiar veteran pitcher


A's agree to deal with familiar veteran pitcher

UPDATE (Mar. 19, 7:45 p.m. PT): The A's officially announced the Cahill signing on Monday. This story has been updated to reflect that.

On the same day the Oakland A's learned they'd be without Jharel Cotton all season, they signed a familiar face to bolster their pitching depth. 

Oakland agreed to a one-year deal with Trevor Cahill, nearly 12 years after the A's drafted him in the second round. 

Cahill pitched for Oakland from 2009-11. He started 96 games in three seasons with the A's, going 40-35 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Since Oakland traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Dec. 2011, Cahill's pitched for six teams. 

The 30-year-old won a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs in 2016, and pitched for the San Diego Padres and Kansas City Royals last season. In 2017, he went 4-3 in 21 appearances (14 starts) with a 4.93 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.