Athletics

Beane: Gray contract extension could be 'lose-lose situation'

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Beane: Gray contract extension could be 'lose-lose situation'

NASHVILLE – Deciding whether to offer Sonny Gray a contract extension is one of the biggest long-term questions facing the A’s.

Billy Beane has said in the past that it’s a possibility. But on Tuesday, the A’s top baseball executive pumped the breaks when asked about the idea, saying there’s little margin for error in committing such big dollars for a team that annually operates on a small budget compared to many other clubs.

“We have no choice but to be right,” Beane said on a decision to lock up Gray. “I mean, we just can’t absorb being wrong. So sometimes you have (to ask), ‘Is the risk worth it?’ … Especially where some of these deals are going now (in terms of cost). Even if we’re right, it may not be the right thing to do based on the percentage of payroll the player would be taking up. And if you’re wrong, you’re in big trouble. It’s kind of almost a lose-lose situation.”

Some would argue that the A’s payroll constraints are exactly why they should attempt to extend the 26-year-old Gray now. He will become arbitration-eligible in 2017, when his salary will begin escalating sharply on his way to free agency before the 2020 season. The A’s could at least get some cost certainty by inking him to a deal now.

[RELATED: A's moving to option No. 2 in starting rotation]

But Gray would not come cheap. He’s posted a 2.88 ERA in three big league seasons and has a top-three Cy Young finish and All-Star selection under his belt.

Oakland has made moves to secure some of its young core pitching in the recent past. Trevor Cahill received a five-year, $30.5 million contract in 2011. Brett Anderson got four years and $12.5 million in 2010 and Sean Doolittle received a five-year $10.5 million extension in 2014.

Gray’s price tag obviously would be on another level, probably doubling Cahill’s contract value over the same amount of years.

So if extending Gray isn’t automatically in the cards, should the A’s go ahead and trade him? He could command a huge return given his age and the fact that he doesn’t hit free agency for four more years.

“It’s a fair question,” Beane said. “You’re talking about a guy who was on TV for (the) Cy Young. He’s still a two-plus pitcher (in terms of service time), and you could imagine how many people, at least early in the winter, were inquiring on him. We were pretty aggressively returning those calls and saying it wasn’t something we were gonna consider. That’s our stance now.”

Expanding on the factors to consider in whether to trade Gray, Beane added:

“A lot of it is the surrounding team -- where you’re at and where you’re headed. If you have a five-plus (year) star pitcher and you’ve been in last place for three years, it might behoove you to change things. There’s just a lot of variables.”

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The A’s dealt reliever Evan Scribner to Seattle on Tuesday night for minor league right-hander Trey Cochran-Gill. But the talk surrounding the A’s bullpen right now centers on the pitchers they’ve added. Manager Bob Melvin is pleased with the addition of high-velocity guys like Ryan Madson and Liam Hendriks. Madson’s three-year contract won’t be announced until he completes a physical later in the week.

[RELATED: A's trade Scribner to Mariners]

“One of the things we probably didn't have that some of the other bullpens had were hard throwers, guys that come in and miss bats, throwing 95, 96 miles an hour,” Melvin said. “We had a couple of guys, but it seems like most bullpens, every time that bullpen door opens up, someone is coming out of the bullpen throwing hard, so that was key.”

Scribner gave up 14 homers last season, most among major league relievers, and was out of minor league options. Cochran-Gill is a reliever who spent most of 2015 at Double-A. He’s got a 2.90 ERA in 70 minor league games. He was a 17th round draft pick out of Auburn in 2014.

Why A's should either trade or non-tender All-Star Blake Treinen

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Why A's should either trade or non-tender All-Star Blake Treinen

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who may or may not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Blake Treinen, RHP

Contract: Final year of arbitration (projected to get $7.8 million after earning $6.4 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

In 2018, Blake Treinen enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in MLB history. The right-hander went 9-2 with 38 saves and a 0.78 ERA, notching 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings.

Unfortunately, Treinen followed that up with the worst season of his career, going 6-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 2019, ultimately losing the closer job to Liam Hendriks. Still, Treinen's stuff looked dominant at times and he could certainly bounce back in 2020.

Treinen is still just 31 years old and should have some productive years ahead of him. His fastball averaged 97 mph this season with explosive movement. If he can improve his command, Treinen could still be a productive reliever moving forward.

Reasons to let him go

Treinen is coming off an incredibly disappointing season. He entered the year as one of the top closers in baseball, but quickly lost his closer job due to injury and poor performance.

Treinen's 4.91 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, and 5.14 FIP were all career worsts, as were his 37 walks in just 58 2/3 innings. He saw his season come to a premature end when an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his back. And pitchers and back injuries don't mix well (see: Marco Estrada). Tendering Treinen a contract would be a major risk.

Final verdict

Treinen could very well return to being an effective relief pitcher, but the A's can't afford to take that chance for nearly $8 million. That money would be better spent on multiple relievers to help shore up the team's shaky bullpen.

[RELATED: A's stay or go candidate for 2020 season: Jake Diekman]

Between Treinen's on-field struggles and the injury concerns, Oakland would be better off seeking an offseason trade of its former All-Star closer. If the A's can't get a deal done, look for a non-tender.

Why Jake Diekman's command issues could mean A's move on in offseason

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USATSI

Why Jake Diekman's command issues could mean A's move on in offseason

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who might or might not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Jake Diekman, LHP

Contract: $5.75 million mutual option for 2020 ($500,000 buyout)

Reasons to bring him back

Diekman's stuff is undeniable. The 32-year-old left-hander boasts a 96-mph fastball along with a wicked slider, making him a tricky at-bat for right-handed and left-handed hitters alike.

Despite a 1-7 record and 4.65 ERA this season, Diekman notched 84 strikeouts in just 62 innings. For his career, he has averaged 11.2 punchouts per nine innings.

Another reason to keep Diekman is Oakland's lack of left-handed relievers. Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk both figure to move to the starting rotation next year and Ryan Buchter's return is far from certain. As a result, Diekman could be the only southpaw in the A's bullpen.

Reasons to let him go

While Diekman's strikeout numbers were highly impressive, his lack of command became a major issue down the stretch. He walked 39 batters this season, including 16 in 20 1/3 innings with the A's.

That contributed significantly to Diekman's disappointing 1.42 WHIP and 4.65 ERA. For $5.75 million, you'd have to think the A's would want someone more consistent and reliable in the late innings.

[RELATED: A's 3B coach Williams will manage in Korea next season]

Final verdict

Oakland is unlikely to bring Diekman back next season for a couple of reasons. Far too often, he just doesn't know where his pitches are going. Throughout his career, Diekman has averaged five walks per nine innings. That's a serious problem for a setup man.

The other factor is Diekman's $5.75 million price tag. That is a high figure for any non-closer, but particularly worrisome for a setup man who has proven to be inconsistent.

The A's would probably be wise to spend that money elsewhere.