Athletics

A's 2020 roster begins to take shape with three players non-tendered

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USATSI

A's 2020 roster begins to take shape with three players non-tendered

The A's have decided to move on from a trio of veterans, non-tendering Blake Treinen, Ryan Buchter, and Josh Phegley on Monday, making them free agents.

Oakland did tender contracts to Chris Bassitt, Mark Canha, Robbie Grossman, Liam Hendriks, Sean Manaea, Chad Pinder and Marcus Semien, all eligible for arbitration this offseason. The A's also agreed to a one-year contract with left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland, worth $1.8 million, a source told NBC Sports California.

None of the moves are particularly surprising, though Treinen figures to garner a great deal of interest on the free agent market. The 31-year-old is just a year removed from recording 38 saves and a 0.78 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings.

However, Treinen struggled in 2019, posting a 4.91 ERA and 1.62 WHIP, ultimately losing his closer job. The right-hander was projected to get close to $8 million in arbitration, so it was never realistic that he would return. Oakland reportedly tried to find a trade partner for Treinen but couldn't get a deal done before Monday's non-tender deadline.

Buchter was made expendable by McFarland's deal, particularly with MLB's rule changes for next season, which require a pitcher to face at least three batters before departing. The A's primarily used Buchter as a left-handed specialist over the past two seasons, which won't be an option next year.

Buchter, 32, went 1-1 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 45 1/3 innings last season. He was projected to get $1.8 million in arbitration.

As for Phegley, the writing was probably on the wall earlier Monday when Oakland acquired 25-year-old catcher Austin Allen from the Padres for second baseman Jurickson Profar. A left-handed hitter, Allen figures to back up Sean Murphy behind the plate, leaving no room for Phegley, who was projected to get $2.2 million in arbitration.

Phegley, 31, slashed .239/.282/.411 last season with a career-high 12 home runs and 62 RBI. He hit .233 in five years with the A's.

With the departures of Treinen, Buchter, Phegley, and Profar, the A's roster is beginning to take form for 2020. Youngsters Sheldon Neuse, Franklin Barreto, and Jorge Mateo will likely battle for the starting second baseman job, though Oakland could still bring in a veteran in free agency or via trade.

[RELATED: Profar trade gives A's infield situation clarity]

As expected, the bullpen is the area that needs the most work. The A's will bring back Hendriks, Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria, Lou Trivino, J.B. Wendelken, as well as McFarland and Bassitt. That leaves room for another couple of relievers in free agency.

Of course, the moves should really start to pick up next week when the baseball world converges on San Diego for the annual Winter Meetings.

Why versatile Chad Pinder is most respected player in A's clubhouse

Why versatile Chad Pinder is most respected player in A's clubhouse

MESA, Ariz. -- Chad Pinder played every defensive position for the A's in 2019, minus catcher and pitcher.

“I have so many gloves that I own,” Pinder told NBC Sports California during spring training. “I have an outfielder's glove, a third baseman glove, a middle infielder glove, a first baseman’s mitt … and I just got a catcher’s mitt.”

The 27-year old is the definition of a “super-utility" player. That makes him super valuable, but it doesn’t make his job super easy.

“To put up the numbers he’s put up, with the inconsistent at-bats he’s had, not only that — he’s had to worry about playing every position on the field,” relief pitcher Lou Trivino said. “I think it shows what a talented player he is.”

Stephen Piscotty can easily sum up how teammates view Pinder: “With the utmost respect.”

“Baseball is a lot about rhythm,” Piscotty continued. “And when you’re not playing every day, it’s hard to find that rhythm. He just brings it.”

Pinder also routinely brings “it” as one of the prominent leaders inside Oakland’s clubhouse, even though you might not find him regularly in the starting lineup, or drawing extra personal attention.

“I think it’s just through relationships and building trust,” Pinder shared. “And being friends with everyone in the clubhouse. I’ve always been told since being little to just put my head down and go about my business. Let your actions on the field do the talking. That’s something that I’ve tried to live by.”

Manager Bob Melvin recognizes Pinder’s leadership as so strong, that he can already make this bold prediction: “He’ll be a manager someday.”

“There are times that I call him in my office and say, ‘You know that Chapman guy? Go handle him,' " Melvin shared. “He’s got a great idea how to handle guys, he’s probably as well-liked a guy as we have.”

[RELATED: Where key A's position battles stand before opening day]

Pinder has become an A's fan-favorite for all of his on-field hustle since his 2016 arrival, and a players’ favorite for much of the effort you don’t see.

“What we see too, on the bench is that he’s up in the tunnel in the fifth inning getting ready for that pinch-hit at-bat that may or may not come,” Piscotty shared. “He’s very active and I know how draining that can be, getting all psyched up.”

“I have so many things I like about him. He works hard every single day, he wants to be great,” center fielder Ramon Laureano said. “On the field, and inside the clubhouse, he’s just outstanding. I love the guy. I get happy every time I see him. He’s one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had.”

How A's can benefit from rare season without major roster turnover

How A's can benefit from rare season without major roster turnover

The A’s are used to significant roster turnover. It’s normal on a team trying to compete with a lower payroll, solid player development and a penchant for trading stars over extending them.

The front office generally has managed to field quality teams under those circumstances, but even successful execution of the A’s strategy has its drawbacks.

Team chemistry starts from darn close to scratch this time every year.

The spring training, however, was not your typical meet and greet.

It was a reunion.

“This is one of the first years where you show up in the spring and you basically know everyone,” right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt said. “That in itself has been so great. We obviously added some pieces, but everyone on the pitching staff knows each other well. The hitters do, too.

“We usually have a significant amount of turnover here. We didn’t have to revamp the starting rotation or the bullpen or the infield. It has been awesome because there’s so much talent and we know exactly what to expect from each guy. We show up as good friends confident in what each other can do.”

The Athletics feel they’re starting this spring a step ahead due to rare continuity in the clubhouse even over recent seasons. Only 10 members of 2018’s Opening Day roster remain from a club that won 97 games. There were 13 returners – we’ve included a few who started the year hurt – who opened 2019 with the club.

This year? The A’s could bring 18 back, using NBC Sports California A's reporter Jessica Kleinschmidt’s recent 26-man roster projection as a guide. There’s an extra roster spot available over previous years, but 18 of the 26 is a strong total. Fortifying it even further, only four of Jess’ projected group are brand new to the organization. The other four spent time with the A’s down the stretch.

“Pretty much since I’ve been here, it has been a new team every year,” first baseman Matt Olson said. “This year we have the same dudes coming back. There are some new faces here and there and that’s part of the business, but it’s awesome knowing the guys you’re playing next to. You don’t have to meet a ton of new guys and build chemistry from scratch. Hopefully, it translates to us hitting the ground running.”

A pair of 97-win clubs weren’t able to do that. The 2018 team was 14-14 in March and April. The 2019 team was 14-18 in that same span. Those are the only two monthlong stretches --  “monthlong,” in this instance, adds the few March games to April totals -- where the A’s finished at or below .500 in the last two years.

“We’re way ahead of where we are in the past,” Bassitt said. “People may look at our struggles to start the year, but it’s hard when you’re trying to learn about the guys you’re playing with. That’s just the reality of it. I don’t think we’ll stumble out of the gates. It’s an exciting time from that standpoint.”

Continuity isn’t the only reason why the A’s expect to improve on 97-win seasons. Returners are established, feature MVP-caliber players in Marcus Semien, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, and six projected starters with more than 20 home runs last year.

The rotation’s full of frontline starters, including Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers and Frankie Montas. Phenom pitchers A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo and catcher Sean Murphy are seen as significant upgrades.

All that’s why optimism is so high. The clubhouse culture is well established, and this spring’s focus is on refining quality performance and, above all else, staying healthy.

That’s clear to Tony Kemp, a veteran newcomer who has played with the Houston Astros and  Chicago Cubs.

“You can see how the positive mentality just flows throughout the clubhouse,” he said. "I feel right at home with these guys. Everyone is working toward the same goal. Everyone is focused on getting better each day. You can see that.

“Building bonds and quality relationships is so important over a long season. It’s cool to see the transformation of this organization over the past couple years. Now being here, so can see exactly why this team is on the right track.”

[RELATED: How Sean Manaea is taking on leadership role with A's, in rotation]

A tight clubhouse has its benefits. So does continuity between players and the coaching staff.

“I’ve had some of these guys for a while now and, when you get to this point, you can take things to the next level,” hitting coach Darren Bush said. “Every year you’re trying to grow as a hitter and expand what you’re learning. Each guy is working on something individually, and with all the continuity on the team, I feel like I know where everybody is and what their goals are. There’s a level of trust here that takes time to build, and it puts us in a great position to make progress.”

Whether the A’s can maintain continuity over a longer haul is a story for another day. Meeting sky-high market values for Semien, Chapman and others soon owed new deals will be tough on a franchise historically unwilling to break the bank. Those problems come down the road.

The A’s enjoying this moment right now, as they try to best previous seasons with a stacked and familiar roster.

“I think we handled [expectations] well last year, and now we’re looking to do more,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We welcome the expectations placed upon us. That just means that we’re in a really good place right now.”