Athletics

Help is on the way for A's offense

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Help is on the way for A's offense

The A's suffered their eighth shutout loss of the season Sunday as they were swept by the Yankees. They are currently suffering through a season-high five-game losing streak. When will the suffering end? Perhaps soon. It is no secret the A's biggest problem is their offense. They have scored an American League-worst 158 runs. After Sunday's 2-0 defeat, their ninth-straight loss to the Yankees, a welcomed face appeared in the clubhouse -- former All-Star third baseman Brandon Inge.
RECAP: Pratt's Instant Replay -- Yankees 2, A's 0
Inge will be activated by the A's on Monday. He is fresh off a two-game rehab stint with the Sacramento River Cats in which he went 6 for 7, with two homers, and eight RBIs. Hopefully for Oakland he packed his bats. "It's not like I'm a savior or anything like that," Inge said while laughing. "I'm about a career .220 hitter, I'm not giving anyone tips, they need to have fun and relax. Hitting is hard enough as it is." Inge will be the first of three A's hitters to return on their upcoming road trip. He will be followed by Manny Ramirez, who is eligible to return from his 50-game drug suspension on May 30 -- which is coincidentally his 40th birthday. And according to Manager Bob Melvin, Yoenis Cespedes could return June 1."It's always a plus when you get guys of their caliber to come back and join your ballclub," Coco Crisp said. "I believe everybody from inside the clubhouse, to the fans are looking forward to Manny being Manny, Cespedes coming back, and definitely Inge. He did a fantastic job when he was here."Previously Melvin said he would take a wait-and-see approach on Manny Ramirez's return. But based on the A's recent struggles, he is likely licking his chops at the thought of how Ramirez -- who has 555 career home runs -- might impact the lineup. "We'd like to see the at-bats get better, we'd like to see him drive some balls," Melvin said. "We had targeted that date for a reason, but based on the fact we aren't swinging the bats in the fashion that we would like, maybe that expedites a little bit." On Monday in Sacramento, A's fans will get a sneak peak at what the heart of the lineup could soon look like. Yoenis Cespedes, who took batting batting practice with the team on Saturday and Sunday, is going to be in the River Cats lineup. Batting beside him will likely be Manny Ramirez. According to Melvin, Cespedes will play three games for the River Cats. If all goes according to plan, the team will use their off-day on May 31 to give Cespedes time to travel from Sacramento to Kansas City.
The big question is if the team will give Ramirez some extra at-bats in Sacramento, and have he and Cespedes travel together. It all depends on how desperate they feel offensively. Even a rusty Ramirez should help."His veteran presence in the lineup is going to make us more intimidating," Coco Crisp said. "He is one of the hardest workers I have ever played with." Aside from the injured players that are soon to return, the A's hitters are pressing at the plate. How else do you explain Sunday's eight-inning, four-hit shutout at the hands of Hiroki Kuroda?"I think we are beyond pressing at this point," Melvin said. "We've got to relax. We are trying too hard we've got to try easier.""Each guy is trying to hit a five-run home run, which is impossible," Inge said. "The more you press the worse you get, they got to go out there and have fun."What could be more fun than adding a guy with first-ballot Hall of Fame numbers, a guy that was on pace to win the Rookie of the Year award when he got hurt, and an all-star third baseman that had four homers and 16 RBIs in his first 11 games with the team? Yeah, the A's likely don't have to look too far for solutions. Help is on the way.

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.