Athletics

2019 A's projections: Joakim Soria showing no signs of slowing down

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2019 A's projections: Joakim Soria showing no signs of slowing down

Editor's note: For the past few weeks, NBC Sports California has been analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Believe it or not, the A's most expensive free agent signing this offseason was a relief pitcher.

34-year-old Joakim Soria agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with Oakland last month and figures to be a setup man for Blake Treinen.

Last year, Soria went 3-4 with 16 saves, a 3.12 ERA, and a 1.14 WHIP in 66 games between the White Sox and Brewers. He notched 75 strikeouts against 16 walks in 60 2/3 innings.

Soria has a career ERA of 2.88 in 11 seasons, averaging better than a strikeout per inning. His best years came in Kansas City from 2007-10 when he made two All-Star Games and maintained a sub-three ERA for four straight seasons.

Soria throws a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup, and he still produces a high swing-and-miss rate. One baseball evaluator told NBC Sports California that he had Soria ranked right behind Craig Kimbrel and David Robertson among free agent relievers and considered the deal a bargain for Oakland.

Baseball Reference predicts Soria to go 3-4 with six saves, a 3.84 ERA, and 1.28 WHIP next season. They project 65 strikeouts and 21 walks in 61 innings.

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We think Soria will greatly benefit from playing in Oakland, both due to the Coliseum's dimensions and the A's terrific infield defense. At 34 years old, he should still have something left in the tank and we expect him to put together a phenomenal season.

Projection: 5-2, 2.81 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 73 K, 18 BB, 63 IP

A's Burch Smith shows off 'nasty' stuff in another 'fantastic' outing

A's Burch Smith shows off 'nasty' stuff in another 'fantastic' outing

Burch Smith has bounced around six teams thus far through his MLB career, but it appears he has found a home with the A's.

The 30-year-old right-handed reliever has been has been practically unhittable coming out of Oakland's bullpen this season, and he had his most impressive performance yet in Wednesday's 6-4 win over the Texas Rangers.

Smith came on in relief of starter Sean Manaea, who ran into trouble in the fourth and departed with runners on first and third after allowing three runs in the inning. Smith got Scott Heineman to pop out to second and Shin-Soo Choo to flyout to left to get back in the dugout without further damage.

He was just getting started, though. Smith would go on to retire all 10 batters he faced -- on 33 pitches -- stifling the Rangers' offense and allowing the A's to get back into the game. 

"Burch Smith did a fantastic job for us today," A's manager Bob Melvin said following the win. "At times, you gotta pick somebody up and Birch picked Sean up tonight."

"I don't know what it looked like before, but since we saw him in summer camp to this point, it has been the same stuff," Melvin added. "Gives you multiple innings, got up four times today, had to come in and rescue an inning -- that's a lot for a reliever. But didn't lose his velocity, didn't lose his effectiveness. I wasn't sure we were gonna get that far with him but we did, so his confidence just has to keep growing. For a guy that has missed some time, obviously, because of injuries, he has done a terrific job for us."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Including Wednesday's performance, opposing hitters are just 3-for-25 against Smith this season with one walk and six strikeouts. Afterwards, multiple teammates used the same word to describe his pitch arsenal.

"Nasty," Manaea said of Smith. "He has come in each time and shut the door. I didn't really get to see him during spring training, so the first time I saw him, I thought it was just absolutely disgusting stuff."

"Burch is nasty," catcher Austin Allen explained. "He has got that fastball that -- it just spins. It has got that spin rate, what everybody talks about now, and he can throw his curveball and changeup at any point, too. He's definitely one of those guys that's coming out of the bullpen and he's going to attack hitters, and like you saw tonight, he has got the stuff to succeed."

[RELATED: Kaval explains reasoning behind A's lawsuit against DTSC]

Smith is off to the best start of his career, but it's not like he's the only reliever dominating right now. After Wednesday's win, the A's bullpen has posted a 1.90 ERA across 52 innings this season.

"It's pretty easy," Allen said of catching the various relievers. "Whoever comes in, we're just attacking hitters and they're going after them with their one-two punch. Shoutout to those guys, and every pitcher that we have. They've been keeping us in games when the offense hasn't really been clicking and stuff, so they've been doing a great job."

The A's got Smith in a trade with the San Francisco Giants back in February in exchange for cash considerations. Safe to say, that has been money well spent.

A's president Dave Kaval explains reasoning for environmental lawsuit

A's president Dave Kaval explains reasoning for environmental lawsuit

The A's announced Wednesday the filing of a lawsuit against the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, citing a "failure to impose and enforce environmental law" in West Oakland against Schnitzer Steel.

A's president Dave Kaval joined the television broadcast of Oakland's game against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night and discussed the lawsuit.

"It's a big deal for environmental justice in West Oakland," Kaval said. "We filed a lawsuit against the Department of Toxic Substances Control and it's really for their enforcement of environmental laws against Schnitzer Steel, a company down there on the waterfront that isn't really following the laws. So this is an important step. It shows our commitment to Oakland and to environmental justice, and we're really happy to take that step today."

"We found this when we were doing the research for the ballpark, and we met with the regulators about 18 months ago and they didn't really take any action," Kaval continued. "And I think what we've seen here is a situation where this part of the city and even Oakland in general has been kind of disregarded, and we are an important organization in business and we want to do what we can to advance these efforts and really make a difference. So that's why we took the action today. We're hopeful that DTSC is going to enforce the law and Schnitzer is going to comply with the law, and we're going to end up with better air quality and a better situation for Oakland residents.

"That's our primary purpose. We're a half-mile downwind of the location with our office -- 300 employees -- so it matters for our employees, too."

Schnitzer Steel's operations are located along the waterfront next to Howard Terminal, and the company has opposed the A's plans to build a new ballpark at that site. The company was part of a group that filed a lawsuit against the project back in March, in which the plaintiffs argued the A's were "trying to cut corners in the environmental review process in order to align with their wildly unrealistic goal of completing construction in 2023."

[RELATED: Kaval trolls reporter's take with A's new ballpark picture]

Colin Kelly, the director of public affairs at Schnitzer Steel, issued a response to the A's lawsuit Wednesday, arguing it is "nothing more than an acceleration of the A’s efforts to dismantle the Port of Oakland to make room for their waterfront stadium and luxury housing development."

"The men and women that work at the Port have been clear that the A’s plan is incompatible with their work and will put at risk many of the last high-paying, blue collar jobs held by local Black residents in Oakland,” Kelly said in a statement. “Suing the state agency that regulates industrial businesses is an attempt by the A’s to distract from the lack of information and accountability they have demonstrated in their planning for a commercial real estate development at the working waterfront."

Kaval denied the lawsuit was filed out of retaliation, and in a series of tweets earlier Wednesday said "[The A's will] fight this fight regardless of what happens with the ballpark. This is bigger than baseball."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]