Athletics

From Venezuela to Oakland: Nunez's first homer as amazing as he dreamed

From Venezuela to Oakland: Nunez's first homer as amazing as he dreamed

ARLINGTON, Texas — Whenever Renato Nunez gets a major league call-up, he brings a pretty impressive minor league portfolio with him.

On Friday night, his A’s teammates got an up-close look at his raw power. He launched a tough fastball from Martin Perez for an opposite field three-run homer to right-center, a highlight in Oakland’s 5-3 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park.

It was a special moment for Nunez, a 23-year-old whose 32 homers with Triple-A Nashville this season tied for the second-highest total in all of the minor leagues. He proudly displayed his home run ball that the A’s were able to fetch from the crowd.

“That moment, I imagined, dreamed all my life,” said Nunez, who signed with the A’s out of Venezuela at age 16. “It’s very exciting that happened today.”

His wasn’t the only big individual moment for the A’s. Jed Lowrie set a new Oakland single-season record with his 48th double, which he collected in the fourth off Perez. That pushed him past Jason Giambi, who hit 47 in 2001, a year after Giambi was the American League MVP.

“That’s pretty impressive. There’e some pretty good hitters to run through Oakland,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s a real testament to what kind of hitter he is.”

Lowrie had the ball and bat in his possession that he used for the double. He also was given the lineup card from the game and he put in a request to take home the second base bag that was used Friday as well.

“It’s almost 50 years (the A’s have been in Oakland),” Lowrie said. “That’s some really good players, so to be on top of any offensive category is pretty cool.”

Nunez, his young teammate, is at a much different point in his career. This is his second stint in the bigs — he made his debut last September — and he’s trying to open eyes and show that he’s a future piece for the A’s, alongside other young building blocks like Ryon Healy, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson.

The right-handed hitting Nunez has some of the best natural power in the minors. And considering he’s worked hard this season on using the whole field, he delighted in drilling his first big league homer to right-center.

The trick is finding him a spot defensively. He’s come up through the farm system as a third baseman, but with Chapman seemingly growing roots at third in the bigs, the A’s have experimented with Nunez in left field. Melvin also says Nunez might get time at first base next spring too. On Friday, he served as designated hitter against the lefty Perez.

“We try to get some good spots for him, some good matchups for him,” Melvin said. “You look at his numbers throughout the minor leagues every year, he’s a real power hitter. But we see enough of him in spring and know enough about him to know he can really hit.”

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.