Examining A's selling points as they pursue Japanese star Shohei Ohtani


Examining A's selling points as they pursue Japanese star Shohei Ohtani

After completing perhaps the most unique recruiting pitch in franchise history, the A’s are in the same boat as every other club pursuing Shohei Ohtani.

They can only wait and hope that their presentation stirs the interest of Japan’s 23-year-old two-way baseball sensation, who is making the jump to the majors this season.

Ohtani will be posted by his current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, as soon as Friday, at which point he’ll have a 21-day negotiating window to hammer out a deal with a major league team.

Whoever lands him gets a player with the extraordinary skill set to pitch near the top of a rotation and contribute potential 20-homer power as a hitter on days he doesn’t take the mound. And because he is considered an amateur under MLB’s international signing rules, Ohtani is subject to bonus pool limits, making him not only the most unique talent to enter the majors in decades but an incredibly affordable one for any of the 30 major league clubs.

That’s why the A’s are taking their shot.

Ohtani’s representatives requested that all teams interested in him submit a presentation, in both English and Japanese, outlining how they would use him and what the benefits would be for him playing in their market.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday that Oakland not only sent off its presentation but also offered to let Ohtani play the outfield on his non-pitching days, an effort to distinguish them from clubs who might have him pegged for designated hitter duty.

Now, understand the A’s are — and should be — considered a long shot to win the Ohtani jackpot. Teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees play in major markets that offer lucrative endorsement opportunities that would help offset the minimal salary Ohtani will make to begin his career. Those teams are ready to win now.

The A’s also are hindered by financial penalties that stem from them exceeding previous international spending limits. The most Oakland can offer Ohtani is a $300,000 bonus on top of the major league minimum he likely would begin with. Contrast that with the Texas Rangers, who have the biggest bonus to offer at $3.535 million. Whoever lands Ohtani also has to pay a $20 million posting fee to his former club in Japan, but that’s small potatoes considering the $200 million contract that many believe he would command as a full-fledged free agent.

So what do the A’s have going in their favor?

They can sell Ohtani on the idea that he perfectly fits their immediate needs. With a fastball that touches 100 miles per hour, Ohtani can be a front-of-the-rotation presence for a team that has questions regarding its starting five. The A’s outfield hardly is settled, and they surely could find a way to use his bat (Ohtani throws right-handed but bats left-handed).

They can emphasize the cultural diversity of the Bay Area, and point out how another newcomer to the United States — Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes — found a comfortable home with the A’s and flourished in his first season of 2012.

By coming to the majors at a young age, and giving up tens of millions of dollars in doing so, Ohtani sends the message that baseball factors override financial ones, at least for now. There’s plenty to like about the A’s from a baseball standpoint, notably the young core of talent that Ohtani could join in helping lead the team back to prominence.

It’s going to be tough, perhaps impossible, for the A’s to nudge their way to the front of the pack for Ohtani’s services. But landing such a player could do wonders for the A’s in terms of boosting attendance and generating momentum for a franchise still trying to convince residents of its own city that building a ballpark is a good idea for all.

Ohtani is a once-in-a-generation talent, and given the unique factors surrounding his arrival, the A’s rightly are dreaming big.

Bigger than baseball: Piscotty reflects on homecoming in trade to A's


Bigger than baseball: Piscotty reflects on homecoming in trade to A's

He’ll be playing in front of his family and hometown fans, in the ballpark he grew up going to as a kid.

Stephen Piscotty is fully aware that not many major leaguers get to do this, but his trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the A’s means so much more on a deeper level.

The Pleasanton native will get to play in front of his mother, Gretchen, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, in May.

It was a difficult and emotional 2017 season for Piscotty, a 26-year-old outfielder who left the Cardinals for a period to be with his family and also dealt with two stints on the disabled list. He struggled to a .235 batting average after a 22-homer, 85-RBI season in 2016.

He admits how difficult it was to concentrate on baseball, with his thoughts drifting back to the Bay Area and his Mom. Piscotty expressed gratitude to the Cardinals for their treatment of him during his tough time and for their efforts in orchestrating a trade that brought him home.

The A’s sent minor league infielders Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock to St. Louis in a deal that was finalized Thursday.

“We’re pretty emotionally tied to that organization,” Piscotty said of the Cardinals. “It chokes me up a little bit. But family obviously comes first, and sometimes some things are more important than baseball. With this opportunity here, it’s just a great combination of family and baseball. … A lot of good is going to come out of it.”

Piscotty and his brothers, Austin and Nick, grew up going to the Coliseum, as his father, Mike, has been an A’s season ticket holder for more than two decades. In May, their tight-knit family was rocked by news of Gretchen’s diagnosis.

“I remember kind of thinking ‘OK, they diagnosed it a certain way but it’s gonna turn out to be something else,” Piscotty said. “I didn’t want to believe it. I kept playing for a couple days, but I was so distracted, I couldn’t focus. I really didn’t care about what was happening on the field.”

Piscotty talked with manager Mike Matheny, hitting coach John Mabry and others.

“They were like, ‘You need to go home,’ and it was the right decision,” Piscotty said. “… It was a roller coaster year. I got sent down (to the minors), but I learned a lot. I’m gonna tap into some of those experiences.”

The A’s feel they’re getting an athletic corner outfielder about to reach his prime. Piscotty inked a six-year $33.5 million before the 2017 season, so he’s locked up at an affordable rate moving forward.

Piscotty has played mostly right field, but he and new teammate Matt Joyce can handle either corner spot.

Though the A’s made the trade primarily for baseball purposes, general manager David Forst added that “it’s wonderful for his family, and hopefully it will have given him and his family some peace of mind.”

Piscotty got news of the trade while in Pebble Beach with friends for a golf trip that had been a long time in the planning. Team orthopedist Dr. Will Workman actually made the drive to Pebble to administer Piscotty’s physical — at a local Airbnb property — so the A’s and Cardinals could finalize the trade.

Piscotty lives in Pleasanton in the offseason, but the family recently made a trip to St. Louis and saw the Budweiser Clydesdales. Gretchen loves horses.

Piscotty is optimistic his mother will be able to get out to the Coliseum to see him play. He credits his father, who has “worked his tail off” to take care of insurance needs and medications for Gretchen.

“We’re in a good place,” Stephen said. “We’re at a point where we’ve got things pretty dialed in and we can move around and go places.”

The support has poured in from St. Louis and the Bay Area. A’s president Dave Kaval, responding to a fan on Twitter, said the team will donate some of the proceeds from Piscotty jersey sales to ALS research.

“I wish I didn’t need all of their support, but it’s nice to have it,” Gretchen Piscotty told the Bay Area News Group.

Stephen, who grew up idolizing Tim Hudson and Mark McGwire, is excited to wear green and gold. Getting to spend more time with his mother provides a different kind of lift.

“That will give me a lot of comfort and peace of mind knowing I’m close.”

A's land Piscotty without giving up any of their top prospects


A's land Piscotty without giving up any of their top prospects

The A’s finalized their trade for St. Louis outfielder Stephen Piscotty, sending two minor league infield prospects to the Cardinals in return.

Shortstop Yairo Munoz and second baseman Max Schrock were ranked 13th and 17th, respectively, on the A’s current list of prospects by

Both have upside but it’s fair to say Oakland pulled off this deal for a starting outfielder without giving up any of the premium guys in their farm system. A quick rundown on each prospect:

Munoz, 22, hit .300 with 13 homers, 68 RBI and 22 stolen bases last year split time between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. His raw talent and all-around tools made him an intriguing prospect. Munoz primarily is a shortstop but bounced all around the infield last season. The A’s even experimented with him in center field, and it would have been interesting to see if Munoz could have emerged as a possibility in center at the major league level eventually.

But with prospects climbing through the system such as shortstop Jorge Mateo, third baseman Sheldon Neuse and, over at second base, top prospect Franklin Barreto — not to mention shortstop Richie Martin, a former first-round pick whose hitting has held him back thus far — the A’s appear to have dealt from depth in trading Munoz.

Schrock, 23, was acquired in August 2016 from the Washington Nationals for reliever Marc Rzepczynski. He hit .321 for Midland last season and made the Texas League Midseason and Postseason All-Star teams. He’s an offense-first second baseman who impressed with his all-around approach and knowledge of the strike zone. A’s manager Bob Melvin praised Schrock in his first look at him last spring in major league camp. At 5-foot-8, he’s the type of player that naturally will get overlooked when compared to other more highly touted guys in a farm system.

The A’s just dealt another second baseman from their system in Joey Wendle earlier in the week. But with Barreto considered the A’s second baseman of the future, and Chad Pinder available to handle second as well being starter Jed Lowrie, Oakland was in good enough shape depth-wise to deal Schrock.

Interesting to note: Thursday’s trade was the first between the A’s and Cardinals since 2009, the season Oakland shipped Matt Holliday to St. Louis after a disappointing first half of the season. Since the 2014 trade deadline, the A’s have swung trades with 24 of the other 29 teams in the majors.