Athletics

Billy Beane: Starting pitching is A's top priority in MLB free agency

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Billy Beane: Starting pitching is A's top priority in MLB free agency

By the end of the 2018 season, the A's starting rotation consisted of four guys who weren't even on the team at the beginning of the year.

A barrage of season-ending injuries left Oakland in a deep hole for the American League Wild Card Game, resulting in a full bullpen game for the most important game of the season. Executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane wants to make sure that doesn't happen again.

"I think one of the things we have to address is the starting pitching," Beane said Monday. "We need to create a starting pitching group that Bob (Melvin) can rely on every day."

Unfortunately for the A's, the injury problems will continue into 2019, with starters Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, A.J. Puk, Kendall Graveman, and Daniel Gossett, and possibly others, all due to miss at least part of the season.

Oakland also has decisions to make on Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill, and Brett Anderson, all of whom are either free agents or eligible for arbitration. Even if the A's bring all four veteran starters back, they will likely need to add at least one more arm in free agency.

"It's probably going to be necessary to bring in somebody from the outside, just from a depth standpoint," Beane said. "You can't assume you're going to have five guys and they're going to pitch all year. Part of the strategy of putting together a team is creating depth. ... We're definitely going to have to look outside in some capacity." 

General manager David Forst echoed those sentiments, telling NBC Sports California he believes it's necessary for a team to have 10 starting pitchers for depth purposes.

Oakland should get a boost from young arms like Jesús Luzardo, Frankie Montas, and Daniel Mengden. But with Puk and Cotton still recovering from Tommy John surgery, reinforcements will be necessary.

Beane and Forst steered clear of discussing any specific free agents, though there are several affordable options available. The A's could also surprise the baseball world and make a run at a top flight starter like Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.

Either way, A's fans should take great comfort in knowing Beane has identified starting pitching as a top priority in free agency.

Matt Chapman Q&A: A's star discusses life in MLB, favorite actor

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Matt Chapman Q&A: A's star discusses life in MLB, favorite actor

Matt Chapman was drafted by Oakland in 2014 and has been with the A’s since mid-2017. You’d think by now, we’d have a pretty good grasp on who the multi-platinum third baseman actually is. However this past weekend at A's FanFest, we got to learn more about the real “Chappy."
 
NBC Sports California: Number one piece of tech in your backpack for road trips?
Matt Chapman: The number one piece of tech that I make sure is on every flight and trip is our giant team speaker that goes on the bus and on the plane. I’ve been the DJ for the last two or three years, but I’m always willing to give up the reigns.
 
Most important aspect of a good walk-up song?
It gets you fired up.
 
Something you need to get done in the on-deck circle?
Make my bat feel light, I use one big donut.
 
Best thing to tell a teammate after they made an error?
Nothing. You should always let your teammate know you are there for them, and everything, but if I made an error and somebody came up to me, I would be like - get away.
 
Team potluck dinner, what does Matt Chapman bring?
I wish I could bring fish tacos. That’s one of my favorite foods. I just don’t know if I’d be able to cook them.
 
Which teammate gives the best interviews?
Liam [Hendriks], because of his accent.
 
Teammate who you think hates interviews the most?
Probably Marcus [Semien].
 
Teammate you’d be a fan of, if they weren’t your teammate?
I’d probably say [Matt] Olson because of how good he is. I’m sure if [Mark] Canha wasn’t on my team I’d probably be pissed when he flipped his bat, but since he’s on our team, actually I love it. Ramon [Laureano], I’d love his defense and arm, and the emotion he shows… that guy’s a badass.
 
Song that you know all the words to?
“Neighbors” by J. Cole.
 
Are audiobooks considered reading?
No.
 
Tougher sport to play tonight, if you had to: football or hockey?
Ice hockey, because I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve been ice skating. But football would be scarier. I’d probably rather play hockey, I’d feel more comfortable there. And football, I feel like I would die.
 
What matters most to you, launch angle, spin rate or exit velocity?
Exit velocity. If you’re hitting the ball hard, good things are going to happen. If you’re so concerned about launch angle, you start trying to get under the ball more and more. If you’re trying to hit the ball hard, you’re right where you need to be.
 
We’ll give you a free trip this weekend: Napa, Tahoe, or Monterey?
I’m going to Tahoe. Beautiful in summer or winter.
 
Theme park ride that you go visit first?
If I was at Six Flags, and the park opened, I would probably run to Goliath. That big one with the drop, big and fast roller coaster. When I was a little kid, I could ride those forever. Now I might get a headache. 
 
Favorite person or account that you follow on social media?
I don’t have Instagram. But I will say on Twitter, Brett Anderson makes me laugh, a lot. Dallas Braden makes me laugh a lot too. He’s funny.
 
The best actor in your lifetime so far is Tom Hanks, agree or disagree?
Disagree. Christian Bale, that’s my favorite actor.

[RELATED: Why BoMel is excited to see young A's catchers this season]
 
A-F, grade your use of emojis.
Probably like a C, right in the middle
 
Any car could be in your driveway tonight, what would it be?
An S 63 AMG Mercedes.  It’s a nice car.  It’s a dream car, maybe one day.  Even though I have a Tahoe that I’m pretty attached to.

Why A's young catchers excited Bob Melvin heading into 2020 season

Why A's young catchers excited Bob Melvin heading into 2020 season

OAKLAND -- The catcher position is an important one, especially for A's manager Bob Melvin.

A 10-year catcher in the bigs, Melvin knows how underappreciated the position can be. But not to him.

For the A's, however, the position appears quite young. If today were Opening Day, 25-year-old Sean Murphy would be the starter behind the plate.

Not that this would be particularly a bad thing. In 60 big-league plate appearances last season, Murphy slashed .245/.333/.566 with four home runs and eight RBI.  

"And certainly the development of Murphy," Melvin told NBC Sports California at A's Media Day last Friday. "[He] did enough last year, and certainly in his minor-league career, to have us excited."

Across three minor-league teams last season, Murphy finished with a .964 OPS, 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 41 games. 

The A's also acquired catcher Austin Allen in the Jurickson Profar trade from the Padres.

"We're excited to see Allen -- supposedly he swings the bat really well," Melvin told NBC Sports California. 

Fans appear to be excited, too.

"Jonah Heim had a great year for us, too -- he's another roster guy for us, a switch-hitting catcher who really kind of had a breakout year for himself last year, so he's another guy we'll be watching."

Heim took advantage of the Pacific Coast League with a .358/.412/.557 line in 35 games with Triple-A Las Vegas. 

[RELATED: BoMel recalls funny story about Beltran, Cespedes]

"Who knows if there's something else we do before spring, or during spring -- or whatever, but we're comfortable with the guys we have right now," Melvin added.

The A's reportedly were targeting veteran catcher Matt Wieters before he ultimately signed with the Cardinals earlier this month.

With just a couple of notable catchers left on the free-agent market, the A's could make a bid on one of them, but there's always a possibility of a trade for one of those veteran names to be a part of that squad.