Athletics

A's acquire local outfielder from Cardinals

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USATSI

A's acquire local outfielder from Cardinals

UPDATE (8:15am on Thursday) -- The A's acquired Stephen Piscotty, the team announced.

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It appears the A’s have checked one very large item off their to-do list at the Winter Meetings.

They’ve agreed to a trade for St. Louis outfielder Stephen Piscotty, according to a report from FanRag Sports. The A’s have not announced any deal, but Jon Heyman reports that two minor leaguers are going back to the Cardinals. Those players have not been identified.

If a deal is in place, there won’t be any announcement from the A’s until Piscotty has taken a physical. There’s no indication of how quickly that will happen.

Piscotty, who is from Pleasanton and attended Stanford, is not a household name. But if this trade reaches the finish line, it’s an impact addition for Oakland. Piscotty would assume one of the starting outfield corner spots; the majority of his major league starts have come in right field, but he appeared at all three spots for the Cardinals and even saw brief time at first base.

He fills a need that Oakland’s front office considered its most crucial of the winter — a right-handed hitting corner outfielder, which will allow the A’s to move their most dangerous hitter, Khris Davis, from left field to designated hitter.

Piscotty turns 27 in January, and he’s under team control for the next six years. He’s guaranteed $29.5 million over the next five seasons — a very manageable sum — and the A’s will hold a $15 million club option for 2023 that includes a $1 million buyout.

Piscotty made his big league debut in 2015 and followed up with an excellent 2016, when he hit .273 with 22 homers and 85 RBI. Last year was a step back — he finished at .235 with nine homers and 39 RBI in 107 games. But it’s worth noting that Piscotty dealt with quite a burden off the field, as his mother was diagnosed with ALS. He left the Cardinals for a period after her diagnosis.

Reports out of St. Louis were that the Cardinals were looking to find a trade that brought him closer to home.

A major league scout who has seen Piscotty plenty over the years said that for a man of his size, 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Piscotty shows good athleticism defensively and has an above average arm, with an above-average power bat that can play well for either corner outfield spot. The A’s can decide which spot fits best for Piscotty and returning right fielder Matt Joyce, with Chad Pinder likely to fit into the equation at one of the corner spots as well.

Oakland remains on the lookout for a left-handed reliever, likely to be found via free agency.

2019 A's predictions: Why Matt Chapman, Frankie Montas will win team awards

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AP

2019 A's predictions: Why Matt Chapman, Frankie Montas will win team awards

The A's head start is an early hole. 

After an 0-2 start against the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Oakland has to play catch-up when 28 other teams open their seasons Thursday. The winless start isn't insurmountable, though, as the A's snagged a Wild Card spot in 2018 after starting the season 5-10. 

Can Oakland do it again in 2019? With the MLB season set to start (or restart) Thursday, we take our best crack at predicting the A's top contributors this year:

Offensive MVP: Khris Davis

Matt Chapman and Stephen Piscotty could certainly be in the running, but Davis takes Oakland's lineup to another level. The 31-year-old has recorded more than 40 home runs and 100 RBI in three straight years, leading all of baseball with 48 homers last season.

Davis has also increased his home run and RBI totals in each of his three seasons with the A's. There's no reason to believe he'll slow down now.

Defensive MVP: Matt Chapman

Not only is Chapman the best defensive player in Oakland -- he's the best defender in the AL, and possibly all of baseball.

Last season, the A's third baseman led MLB with 29 defensive runs saved en route to winning the AL's Platinum Glove Award as the best defensive player in the league. Chapman's combination of agility, quickness, range and arm strength make him the frontrunner to win the award again in 2019.

Overall MVP: Matt Chapman

Chapman gets the slight edge over Davis because of his defense. Davis will almost certainly lead the team in home runs and RBI again, but Chapman might not be far behind.

Last season, the 25-year-old slashed an impressive .278/.356/.508, and was especially productive in the second half of the season. As he continues to improve at the plate, Chapman could challenge for AL MVP.

Best starting pitcher: Frankie Montas

This choice could come to a surprise as many, but the A's have always believed in Montas' potential to become a front-line starter.

The 26-year-old right-hander showed flashes of dominance last season, and was even better this spring. Montas features an overpowering fastball and slide,r and has added a splitter this year. That led to him allowing just one earned run in 16 innings during the spring, with 16 strikeouts.

Best relief pitcher: Blake Treinen

The A's have plenty of talented relievers to choose from, but Treinen is arguably the best closer in all of baseball.

The 30-year-old right-hander is coming off one of the best seasons in MLB history, recording 38 saves, 100 strikeouts, and a ridiculous 0.78 ERA in 80 1/3 innings. There's almost no way Treinen can approach those numbers again, but his devastating sinker and slider will ensure he remains hard to hit.

Best newcomer: Jurickson Profar

Profar enjoyed a breakout season last year in Texas, hitting .254/.335/.458 with 20 home runs, 35 doubles, and 77 RBI, all career-highs. The switch-hitter should build off that success in his first season with the A's.

The 26-year-old will also be valuable in the field, where he can play every infield position. He primarily will play second base but can also help fill in at first until Matt Olson returns from injury.

[RELATED: Breaking down A's biggest competition in AL West]

Best rookie: Jesús Luzardo

Luzardo was recently shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain, but he is already feeling better. Of course, the A's will be extremely cautious with the 21-year-old, who is ranked as the top left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball.

If he gets a chance to pitch later this season, Luzardo could make a massive impact. 

Astros, Angels look like A's biggest competition in new-look AL West

Astros, Angels look like A's biggest competition in new-look AL West

After a busy offseason, the AL West could look a lot different than it did a year ago. Every team in the division lost key pieces and will have to adjust to new faces in the clubhouse.

In 2018, the A's made a surprising run to the AL Wild Card game by winning 97 games. But the Astros won the division with 103 victories and are again the heavy favorites to repeat as AL West champions.

Oakland's run to another playoff berth will be challenging, as they've suffered injuries to slugger Matt Olson and top prospect Jesús Luzardo

Regardless, the A's enter 2019 with the goal of playing October baseball once again. But to do so, they'll have to outlast a remade AL West.

[RELATED: MLB Power Rankings]

Here's a breakdown of the A's competition entering the season:

The Favorite: Houston Astros

Newcomers: Michael Brantley (OF), Robinson Chirinos (C), Aledmys Diaz (SS), Wade Miley (SP)

What they lost: Dallas Keuchel (SP), Charlie Morton (SP), Tony Sipp (RP), Marwin Gonzalez (OF), Martin Maldonado (C), Evan Gattis (DH)

Despite losing Charlie Morton and possibly Dallas Keuchel in free agency, the Astros are once again a heavy favorite to win the AL West crown. Houston added left-hander Wade Miley to join Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Collin McHugh in the starting rotation, and their bullpen is still one of the best in baseball.

The Astros will also feature a deep and dynamic lineup, led by MVP candidates Alex Bregman and José Altuve. Michael Brantley and Robinson Chirinos are solid additions and the club returns Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Yuli Gurriel as well.

Until they are dethroned, the Astros are the team to beat in the AL West.

The Contender: Los Angels Angels

Newcomers: Trevor Cahill (SP), Matt Harvey (SP), Cody Allen (RP), Justin Bour (1B), Jonathan Lucroy (C)

What they lost: Garrett Richards (SP), Jose Alvarez (RP), Blake Parker (RP)

The Angels believe they have addressed their starting pitching issues by signing Matt Harvey and former A's pitcher Trevor Cahill. The two veteran right-handers will join Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, and Jaime Barria in the rotation.

Los Angeles also improved its bullpen by signing former Indians closer Cody Allen. The 30-year-old struggled last season but put together four straight impressive years before that.

The Angels lineup should be productive with Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, Justin Bour, and Kole Calhoun doing most of the damage. If they find a way to get consistent pitching, they could challenge for a Wild Card spot, if not the division title.

Stock falling: Texas Rangers

Newcomers: Lance Lynn (SP), Jesse Chavez (RP), Shawn Kelley (RP), Shelby Miller (SP), Hunter Pence (OF)

What they lost: Adrián Beltré (3B), Jurickson Profar (INF), Robinson Chirinos (C), Matt Moore (SP), Alex Claudio (RP)

The Rangers could be in for a long season. After winning just 67 games a year ago, Texas lost Adrián Beltré to retirement and Jurickson Profar to the A's.

The Rangers' pitching staff was the biggest problem last season, finishing with a combined ERA of 4.93. That ranked 28th out of MLB's 30 teams. Texas did add starters Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller, as well as relievers Jesse Chavez and former Athletic Shawn Kelley.

The Rangers may be slightly better than last year, but it will be a massive surprise if they end up anywhere near .500.

Roster overhaul: Seattle Mariners

Newcomers: Yusei Kikuchi (SP), Hunter Strickland (RP), Cory Gearrin (RP), Edwin Encarnación (DH), Mallex Smith (OF), Jay Bruce (OF), Domingo Santana (OF), Tim Beckham (SS)

What they lost: Edwin Diaz (RP), James Paxton (SP), Nelson Cruz (DH), Robinson Cano (2B), Jean Segura (SS), Juan Nicasio (RP), Alex Colome (RP), Mike Zunino (C), Ben Gamel (OF)

Despite winning 89 games last year, the Mariners completely overhauled their roster with an eye on the future. Seattle cut ties with stars like Edwin Diaz, James Paxton, Nelson Cruz, and Robinson Cano.

The Mariners did add highly-touted Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi and former Giants closer Hunter Strickland, both of whom pitched well against the A's last week in Tokyo. Seattle's lineup was also productive in the season-opening series against Oakland.

While the Mariners are a long shot to contend, they certainly have talent and could surprise teams in the AL West.