Athletics

Tigers notes: Gomes, Carter affecting series from bench, etc.

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Tigers notes: Gomes, Carter affecting series from bench, etc.

OAKLAND -- A's righties Jonny Gomes and Chris Carter are yet to enter the playing field in this year's ALDS, but they're affecting how the series is playing out by worming their way into the conscious of Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

"They've got a couple of big bats sitting there," Leyland said. "You have to watch how you play it."

When Seth Smith came to the plate with a runner on and one away in the seventh inning of Game 3 having homered in his previous at-bat against Anibal Sanchez, Leyland was going to the 'pen. But who to call? Call on a lefty and invite A's manager Bob Melvin to employ the services of Gomes or Carter for the first time this series. Call on a righty and keep Smith in the game as the DH.

"If you noticed last night," Leyland explained. "I chose to go to (Octavio) Dotel to Smith rather than (Drew) Smyly to possibly Gomes or Carter.You never know what Bob might do.But that certainly would have been an option for him.And I just felt that Dotel against Smith was a better option for me than Smyly against maybe Carter or Gomes."

Leyland won that game-within-the-game as Dotel induced a popout to the vast foul ground outside third base, but you can be sure he and his staff have discussed how to handle a similar situation in Game 4.

"We've got Smyly to go if something happens to Scherzer," Leyland said.

Look for Gomes or Carter to get a pinch-hitting appearance if Leyland does go to a lefty. Phil Coke is the only other left-hander in the Tigers' bullpen. He is reserved for late-inning situations, but it appears as if Leyland is more comfortable with him facing the A's strong righties.

While most of the Tigers clubhouse had their equilibrium sidekicked by the thunderous A's crowd on Tuesday, one outfielder claims to like it better than the alternative.

"I think I enjoy it more," left fielder Andy Dirks said. "You don't have to sit and get ragged on."

The Oakland Coliseum is known for its right- and left-field bleachers, and the boisterous fans they hold. Over the regular season, it is common for an opposing corner outfielder to hear -- quite clearly depending on the attendance -- grief in each of his nine defensive innings.

But the loud playoff vibe is hiding Oakland's prime ribbers.

"In this atmosphere, you don't deal with that because there's so much noise from the entire crowd," Dirks said. "You can't pinpoint those few people, like traditionally here you've got five guys behind you talking to you the whole game. But not in this situation."

Dirks claims to enjoy it, but he went 0-for-3 in front of A's fans Tuesday.

Not sure how to interpret his message? Get louder.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland does not believe that experience has any bearing on this series' outcome. He said as much five different times in his press conference Wednesday.

"I believe in talent," Leyland insisted.

With the most home runs and runs scored since the All-Star break, the A's have made it plenty clear that talent is one thing they have.

The Tigers, too, have talent, with last year's AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP anchoring their staff and the first triple crown winner since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski) holding down the lineup. So the question remains: Who will win -- the less experienced talent or the more experienced talent? Don't ask Leyland.

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.