Athletics

AL West offseason update: A's in holding pattern, others making moves

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AL West offseason update: A's in holding pattern, others making moves

While the A's have been relatively quiet this offseason, the same cannot be said for the rest of the American League West. The Astros, Angels, and Rangers have all signed key free agents already, and the Mariners' fire sale has been one of the biggest stories in baseball.

Here's a closer look at what each AL West rival has done so far and what it means for the A's:

Angels

Key additions: Matt Harvey (SP, Justin Bour (1B)

Key losses: Garrett Richards (SP), Jose Alvarez (RP)

The Angels' biggest move came Tuesday when they signed Matt Harvey for way too much money -- $11 million to be exact, with incentives that could bring the deal to $14 million. After a spectacular first three seasons with the Mets, Harvey has fallen apart the last three years in part due to injuries, but mainly just poor performance.

Harvey hasn't posted an ERA under 4.80 since 2015. He pitched a little better last season after getting traded to the Reds, going 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA in 24 starts with Cincinnati. But that's still a far cry from the pitcher we saw between 2012 and 2015.

The Angels also signed free agent first baseman Justin Bour to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. They still need to add a catcher as well as more starting pitching, and perhaps some relievers too. At this point, they don't appear to be a serious threat to the A's in the AL West.

[RELATED: A's GM David Forst says there's 'still an opportunity' for Mike Fiers in Oakland]

Astros

Key additions: Michael Brantley (OF), Robinson Chirinos (C), Aledmys Diaz (SS)

Key losses: Charlie Morton (SP), Brian McCann (C)

Michael Brantley and Robinson Chirinos are solid additions for the two-time defending AL West champions, and they likely aren't done. Houston is reportedly pursuing former Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz, who belted 37 home runs last season.

However, the Astros' starting rotation took a hit with the departure of pitcher Charlie Morton, and Dallas Keuchel could also sign elsewhere. To make matters worse for Houston, starter Lance McCullers Jr. will miss the entire 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The Astros do still have Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole to form a strong 1-2 punch, not to mention one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. They will return plenty of young talent in their lineup and should once again be a legitimate World Series contender. Until dethroned, the Astros have to be considered the favorite in the AL West.

[RELATED: Source: Edwin Jackson, A's not on same page in contract negotiations]

Mariners

Key additions: Edwin Encarnación (DH), Mallex Smith (OF), Jay Bruce (OF)

Key losses: Edwin Diaz (RP), James Paxton (SP), Robinson Cano (2B), Jean Segura (SS), Juan Nicasio (RP), Alex Colome (RP), Mike Zunino (C)

The Mariners' fire sale is truly one to behold. Seattle has already traded away three former All-Stars in Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and Jean Segura, while shipping their best starter James Paxton to the Yankees. The aforementioned Nelson Cruz will also be playing somewhere else next season.

Despite winning 89 games last year, Seattle decided to go full rebuild. That's good news for the A's and the rest of the division, at least in the short-term, as the Mariners figure to be one of the worst teams in baseball next season.

Oakland will be especially happy to see Cano leave the American League. The eight-time All-Star has destroyed A's pitching over the years, slashing .292/.344/.470 with 25 home runs and 33 doubles in 160 games. Same goes for Segura, who has slashed .351/.380/.485 in 32 career games against Oakland.

[RELATED: A's expect recent trade acquisition Tanner Anderson to help rotation]

Rangers

Key additions: Lance Lynn (SP), Jesse Chavez (RP), Jeff Mathis (C)

Key losses: Adrián Beltré (3B), Matt Moore (SP), Robinson Chirinos (C), Alex Claudio (RP)

At least the Rangers have tried to address their woeful pitching with the additions of Lance Lynn and Jesse Chavez. They still have a lot more work to do.

Texas' most notable departure is future Hall of Famer Adrián Beltré, who announced his retirement after 21 MLB seasons. It's safe to say the A's won't be upset to see him go -- in 223 career games against Oakland, Beltré slashed .287/.332/.485 with 41 homers, 50 doubles, and 145 RBI.

The Rangers lost 95 games last season to finish dead last in the AL West. They might move out of the cellar next year, thanks to Seattle's rebuild, but they almost certainly won't be anywhere near the top of the division.

A's Mike Fiers responds to Rob Manfred's vow to protect him this season

A's Mike Fiers responds to Rob Manfred's vow to protect him this season

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to the media Tuesday and addressed some additional questions surrounding the Astros' cheating scandal. One topic in particular touched on the safety of Mike Fiers.

The A's pitcher was at the base of bringing the Astros' sign-stealing to surface by going on the record in a November interview with The Athletic.

After exposing Houston, Fiers received scrutiny, mainly from Astros fans. Manfred, who appeared to be aware of what the pitcher had been enduring, wanted to make sure he was working toward a plan for his safety.

But Fiers isn't sure how they would be able to protect him, he told The Athletic's Alex Coffey on Wednesday.

“I’m not asking for extra security," Fiers said in the interview. "I’m here to play baseball and I can defend myself, if anything. We do have National League games, and I’m going to have to get into the box (to hit) just like everybody else. It’s part of the game. If they decide to throw at me, then they throw at me. There’s nothing much you can do about it.”

The A's will host the Astros during their second series of the season at the Coliseum in Oakland, beginning on March 30.

It'll be tense.

The A's will head to Houston not soon after that at the end of April and then another time in May and in July. All eyes will be on Fiers, whether he's on the bump at Minute Maid Park or not.

He knows the attention will be on him. 

"Listen … everyone’s mad at (the Astros)," he said. "There are teams that are mad. It doesn’t matter what it is, extra protection, I mean, what are you going to do? There’s not much you can do.”

He's doing his best to concentrate on doing his job as a pitcher in a highly-anticipated season for the A's, but it's not that easy. Teammates have shown him what's being said on social media, which surely makes him uncomfortable. Since he addressed the media at the end of January during media day, he stressed the fact he didn't want to distract his teammates.

[RELATED: Fiers feels 'ahead of schedule' despite distractions]

Those teammates, and manager Bob Melvin, stood right by him as more and more information spilled out on the scandal.

He knows there will be repercussions, we all do. But those shouldn't start, or end, with him. 

What makes Matt Chapman is so confident in self, A's for 2020 season

What makes Matt Chapman is so confident in self, A's for 2020 season

OAKLAND -- There was a sense of confidence among A's players and manager Bob Melvin as they trickled into media day.

BoMel said it was the most excited he has been about the team since he has been with the A's, and it's no different for two-time Platinum Glove Award winner Matt Chapman, but he had to embrace the tough ending to 2019 first.

"We were really sad, and then for a while, it was pretty quiet," Chapman told NBC Sports California at the end of January. "But then, we all kind of turned the page a little bit and started appreciating everything accomplished -- and we were getting excited for next year."

Chappy made it clear the one-and-done post-season experience the team faced over the past two years is not going to become a trend. He is adamant there will not be a repeat of that in 2020.

"We're going to take it to the next level," he said. 

And it'll begin with the young arms, he went on.

"I think it starts with all of our young pitching that is getting more mature," Chapman added.

Top left-handed pitching prospects A.J. Puk and Jesús Luzardo likely will be a part of that starting rotation this upcoming season.

Luzardo, although limited to a small sample size, posted a 1.50 ERA and 0.667 WHIP over six games and 46 batters faced in 2019. Puk, who also made his highly-anticipated MLB debut last season, came out of the bullpen and in 11 1/3 innings posted a 3.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts.

Oakland will also get a full season of Frankie Montas, who missed a chunk of time in 2019 after violating MLB's Joint Drug Agreement for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Veteran Mike Fiers and Sean Manaea are set to join the starting rotation as well.

"It's like the first time we've had a set rotation, and it's guys we really trust, guys that have been tested," Chapman said. "We've had rotations, but we've always had guys go down, or this or that, it's like -- we have a five-man rotation with [Chris] Bassitt in there as well as a sixth, or a bullpen guy, whatever we need."

"They all have insane stuff," Chapman added. 

Chapman included the defensive and offensive game as two additional things for the team to have confidence in.

"Our pitching is only getting better, and I think our hitters are only going to get more polished, we're just going to be more mature -- we have more experience," he said. "The more at-bats you can give those guys, the better. The bullpen is only going to get better."

[RELATED: Fiers feels 'ahead of schedule,' despite distractions

"I think we're just a really, really good young, well-rounded team."

It was also something new and exciting for Chappy to be able to look around the clubhouse and recognize most of the players this time around.

"I just have the confidence in our whole team -- we know what to expect," Chapman said. "Instead of starting from scratch, we can kind of just build on what we have, the momentum."