Athletics

A's digital mailbag: Smiling Cespedes, roster expansion

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A's digital mailbag: Smiling Cespedes, roster expansion

Programming note: Red Sox-A's coverage begins tonight with A's Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!

OAKLAND -- Time for another edition of the A's digital mailbag. Remember, you can E-mail me any time CPratt@ComcastSportsNet.com or Tweet me @CaseyPrattCSN to get your questions answered.@caseyprattcsn Which player's success do you think is most important down the stretch for the A's to make the playoffs? Kevin Urquhart (@UrqMyHeart) August 31, 2012CP: The easy answer would be Yoenis Cespedes. The A's are 61-35 with him in the starting lineup and 12-22 when he doesn't play. We all know how important he is to the team, so I am going to go with a different player. I think Jemile Weeks could be the most important player for the A's during the stretch run. Here is a guy that sparked the A's offense last year. If he can find a way to return to the A's and do anything near what he did in his rookie season when he hit .303 with 22 stolen bases 26 doubles and eight triples in just 97 games -- the offense could be very good. In the seven games he has played with Sacramento since getting sent down he is hitting .419 with a .500 OBP and nine RBI.For the pitchers my pick is Brandon McCarthy. Without Bartolo Colon, the A's need a veteran they can look to in big games and that guy is McCarthy. @caseyprattcsn Do you think the A's are sold on Norris as the answer for the next couple years at catcher or is he a stop gap? Oakfan (@oakfan1108) August 31, 2012CP: The A's were so sold on Derek Norris that they traded Kurt Suzuki. He is the catcher of the immediate future for the A's. He has done a good job handling the pitching staff, and really benefitted from his time working with Suzuki. Now he has to turn the corner. He does have some things to work on -- as he should, he is a rookie after all -- but he has shown the team enough that they have faith in him. The bad: Opponents have been successful in 80.8 of the stolen base attempts against him, and he is only hitting .200 since being recalled on August 3. The good: A's starting pitchers have a 2.99 ERA with him behind the plate. He has seven doubles, five homers, and 23 RBI with the A's, so he is hitting for more power than Suzuki was. He also has five stolen bases which is the most by a rookie catcher in Oakland history. @caseyprattcsn Pennington and Rosales bring better defense to 2B but offense still isn't stellar.Does Weeks just step back in or platoon? Stephen Rosenthal (@srosenthal13) August 31, 2012CP: IF Jemile Weeks returns anytime soon he'd have to be put in the lineup daily. That's my take. Once he is ready to return the A's need to get him consistent playing time. Cliff Pennington and Adam Rosales have done a good job defensively as you noted -- Rosales has 0 errors in nine games at second, Pennington has one error, but has looked very good there. Offensively they are still struggling a bit even with the platoon. Pennington is hitting .200 as the A's second baseman. Rosales is hitting .208. So, if the A's feel Weeks is ready to return he could be an upgrade over the current platoon. Weeks is the future at second base. It is his job if they feel he has done enough in Triple-A. Don't forget Grant Green has also been told to focus on second base, so Weeks is under pressure to earn that spot again. @caseyprattcsn noticed Cespedes smiling a lot more now than a few months ago. Is it cause he fits in more or language barrier is diminishing Claudiu Toma (@cmtoma) August 30, 2012CP: Imagine escaping your homeland of Cuba for the Dominican Republic, getting signed to an American club, getting to Spring Training in Arizona late, getting sent to Japan to open the biggest series of your life, then heading to Oakland to start a career you have dreamed of since you were a child. A bit much, right? That's what Yoenis Cespedes has gone through. He can't see his family, is under intense pressure to perform and live up to his contract, doesn't speak much English, and has to face the best pitchers on the planet. He is smiling a bit more because he is definitely succeeding in the face of all those challenges. The team is succeeding as well. This guy eats, breathes, sleeps, and dreams baseball. He is having fun realizing his dream, and is emerging as a star in the game on a team in a pennant race. He has a lot to smile about. With everything he's gone through, can you believe this guy is playing as well as he is? Scary to think what will happen when he is comfortable. He is also getting a better grasp on the English language. Ariel Prieto has done a great job helping him get through all the unique challenges.@caseyprattcsn Any word on which WWE Superstar theme Reddick will be using tonight? Ramon Silver (@whatandwhy09) August 31, 2012CP: He has been using Daniel Bryan's theme which is a solid choice. With the recent news that his favorite Wrestler Triple-H is calling it a career, I'd expect a tribute to The Game. If it were up to me I'd come out to Shawn Michael's entrance theme as sung by Michaels himself. Why? Because I think it is the funniest song ever made. @caseyprattcsn who gets called up tomorrow? They can add up to 15 right ? Chris (@ChrisSpeer2001) August 31, 2012CP: With the rosters expanding the A's can add some depth. I wouldn't expect them to add 15 more players though. The A's are in contention unlike previous years. They don't have the opportunity in a playoff chase to see what they have in some of their prospects. The River Cats are also in a playoff run. While it won't stop the A's from taking players, it is good to let some of the younger guys get that experience. I'd expect the additions of relievers like Pedro Figueroa, Tyson Ross, and maybe Jesse Chavez first. The position players might not come up right away, but instead later down the stretch run. Guys like Collin Cowgill, Michael Taylor, Jemile Weeks, Brandon Hicks, possibly even Grant Green -- maybe even Daric Barton or Kila Ka'aihue -- to name a few. Really only the A's organization knows the true plan. You can definitely expect a return of A.J. Griffin soon. They will probably keep Dan Straily down to get regular work.

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

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USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.