OAKLAND -- He may not have white cleats yet, but he's an Oakland Athletic. George Kottaras has arrived in Oakland after being acquired in a trade on Sunday from the Brewers. He joins an A's team that is unquestionably the hottest in baseball, and will be tasked with catching a pitching staff that is first in the American League with a 3.44 ERA. No pressure. Kottaras' main goal is simply to fit in. Don't move anything, don't alter anything, just go with the flow. "Everyone is pitching great, so I want to kind of roll on from where they are now," Kottaras said. "I'm not going to change a thing. I'm going to see what they are doing and go along with that." The A's new catcher arrived late last night. He got a chance to meet his teammates for the first time on Monday. He likes what he sees."Great attitude in here, I see guys having fun and also getting their work in," he said. "That's the way it should be."Kottaras, 29, is left-handed so he adds another dimension to the A's offense from the catcher position. Kurt Suzuki and Derek Norris both bat from the right side. A's manager Bob Melvin likes to platoon hitters. He believes that has been one of the main reasons the A's offense is performing so well. His plan is to use Kottaras and Suzuki in that fashion.The idea of a platoon has a lot to do with why rookie catcher Derek Norris -- who had been seeing roughly two starts to every one Suzuki was getting -- was sent down. "I don't think we wanted to get in a position with him where we were platooning," Melvin said. "He knows he can play here. For a young catcher he was very well received by the pitching staff. Sometimes that's difficult to do." Norris played in 21 games with the A's since being called up on June 21. He batted .195 with three homers, 11 RBIs and a surprising three stolen bases in his time with Oakland. He gained a lot of valuable information on the A's starting pitchers and learned how to carry himself at the big league level."Norris handled himself very well," Melvin said. "We won a lot of games with him in the lineup. It was valuable experience for him. He is going to be a heck of a player down the road." You can trust Melvin's opinion when it comes to catchers. He spent 10 years in the big leagues donning the tools of ignorance. So what did Melvin think of his new backstop? "He works the count, gets on base, he's got a little power in his bat, and they say he calls a good game," Melvin said. Sounds like Kottaras has everything he needs to succeed here -- except white cleats. He was wearing someone else's white kicks in the clubhouse to fit in. "These were handed over for me," he said proudly while modeling them for us. "It's pretty cool walking around with white cleats." Notes:- Coco Crisp is still nursing a hamstring injury. He won't get in the field on Monday. They A's hope to run him around on Tuesday and re-evaluate him. - Cliff Pennington hit off the tee on Saturday. Monday he took some soft toss, hit off the tee and did some dry swings. Its the first day he feels pretty good and hasn't been sore while swinging. Melvin says that he'll have a better idea how soon they can get Pennington back when he starts taking batting practice. He noted that Pennington would have to go on a rehab assignment before returning. - Brandon McCarthy pitches for the Sacramento River Cats in Reno tonight. Brett Anderson goes Tuesday. Anderson will throw around 75 pitches.
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.’”
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.
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.