Athletics

A's: first-half awards, highs, lows, etc.

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A's: first-half awards, highs, lows, etc.

FIRST HALF SURPRISESJosh Reddick
This guy has become the A's most consistent force. Like the song he often walks up to the plate to, Reddick is a stone cold stunner. What more can be said about what he has done this year? He has 20 homers, relative health, and a disarming clubhouse presence. He is the total package.

Sean Doolittle
This time last year Doolittle was a first baseman struggling to find his way in the A's organization. Then A's director of player development Keith Lippman had an idea that created something so electric that Benjamin Franklin might be jealous. He turned Doolittle into a pitcher. In just 16 minor league appearances Doolittle had done so much that he was promoted from Single-A, to Double-A, to Triple-A, to the Oakland A's. Doolittle hasn't slowed down either, he has a 14.73 K9 average, hasn't allowed a home run, and routinely hits 95-mph on the radar gun from the left side.

Ryan Cook
The A's lone All-Star representative has eight saves in 10 chances since being named the A's closer. He began the season with a 23 inning scoreless streak, which is the longest such streak by an A's pitcher on the opening day roster since at least 1918. Not bad for a guy that was a throw in piece from the Diamondbacks when the A's sent them Trevor Cahill.

SLIDESHOW: Pratt's five keys to second half

FIRST HALF DISAPPOINTMENTSKurt Suzuki
Once one of the A's most promising players, Suzuki's stock is plummeting so fast that a parachute might not slow him down. Once considered a "hitting catcher" the A's backstop has ceased doing so. He is stuck in a career-worst 75-game homerless streak. He is still extremely valuable defensively and with the pitching staff, but rookie catcher Derek Norris is effectively shoving him out the door.

Jemile Weeks
After a remarkable rookie season Weeks was the face of the franchise. The speedy second baseman wasnt fast enough to outrun the dreaded sophomore slump though. Weeks is one of the most talented players on the team, which is why he is one of the biggest disappointments of the first-half. Weeks is hitting just .222, but is showing some signs of life. He leads the AL with five triples, and his 38 walks tie him with Reddick for the most on the A's.

Brian Fuentes
Fuentes was the highest paid pitcher on the A's roster before they designated him for assignment. Still owed the remainder of his 5M contract in 2012 and a 500K buyout for next season, Fuentes fell off the map and then the roster. The left-handed veteran got off to a good start, but over his last eight appearances he allowed 13 earned runs, four home runs, and walked seven batters, in just six innings pitched.
THE HIGH POINT
You could capture the essence of the A's first half by reminiscing about any of their eight walk-off wins. Three in particular stand out: Norris' walk-off homer to avoid a sweep at the hand of the Giants. Cespedes' laser beam blast to left field to sweep the Dodgers. Chris Carter's tape measure walk-off shot to beat the Mariners. You could picture the pitching at its finest: Tommy Milone's three-hit complete game against the Dodgers. Jarrod Parker's eight-inning one-hit shutout of the Rangers. Or just envision the incredible 462-foot home run that Cespedes hit against Jason Vargas. A home run the likes of which hasn't been seen since larger than life monsters like Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire roamed the field at the Oakland Coliseum. Combined they equal a .500 record at the All-Star break. The A's will need to build off of their first half and achieve greater heights.

THE LOW POINT
Riddled with injuries the team hit their lowest point in late May. They endured a nine-game losing skid that appeared to be the end of any hopes of contention. The players called it embarrassing. Grant Balfour even ranted in the clubhouse about how much he hated losing. The offense went through a stretch in which they had been shut out six times over a stretch of 16 games. This was the darkest time for the A's. Since the skid they are 21-13, and have put the struggles of May in the rear-view mirror.

FIRST HALF MVP
Reddick Reddick Reddick Reddick That's what it looks like if you check the list of A's team leaders. Reddick leads the A's in batting average (.268), home runs (20), RBI (43), runs (53), hits (84), doubles (15), and outfield assists (8). He has played in all but three of the team's 86 games, and has batted third in 78 of them. The A's right fielder has been Reddick-ulously consistent.

FIRST HALF LVP
Statistically speaking, if you look at wins above replacement (WAR), Suzuki is the least valuable player on the A's. That's not to say he doesn't have intangible qualities -- he most certainly does. He helps the A's young pitching staff, prevents runs with his defense, and has been instrumental in helping Derek Norris make the transition to the Major Leagues. His slash line of .211.248.259 is abysmal though. He has zero home runs in 246 plate appearances, and 16 RBI. A hand injury he suffered earlier in the season could be to blame, but at this point, he has to be considered the least valuable player.

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.