Athletics

A's face interesting decisions with four veteran starting pitchers

A's face interesting decisions with four veteran starting pitchers

By the end of the 2018 season, injuries had forced the A's to use a franchise-record 15 different starting pitchers. Heading into 2019, Oakland will have some difficult decisions to make as they try to piece together their five-man starting rotation.

The A's should be bolstered by the return of some of their injured pitchers and the continued development of their young arms. However, LHP Sean Manaea is expected to miss most, if not all of 2019 as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Top prospects A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo will likely push for starting jobs at some point next season. However, Puk is coming off Tommy John surgery and will miss the first part of the season, and Luzardo is just 21 years old, with limited Triple-A experience.

[ROSS: A's look ahead to future]

RHP Jharel Cotton will also be coming off TJ surgery but should be a part of the starting rotation whenever he is able to return. 25-year-olds Frankie Montas and Daniel Mengden both showed flashes of excellence in 2018 and will certainly be in the running for starting jobs. Paul Blackburn could provide additional depth if he is able to return from his elbow injury.

That brings us to the veterans. Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill, and Brett Anderson are all free agents and Mike Fiers is eligible for arbitration. So who will the A's decide to bring back?

Mike Fiers – Arbitration Year 3

Fiers earned $6 million in 2018 and figures to get a raise in arbitration. The 33-year-old had the best season of his career, going 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.18 WHIP between Detroit and Oakland. In 10 games with the A's, Fiers was 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

It would make sense for the A's to bring Fiers back, as he has proven to be a reliable veteran starter, and as we learned this year, you can never have too many of those. While Fiers will likely command more than the $6 million he earned in 2018, his salary should still be a bargain for what he can provide. He can be a middle to top of the rotation pitcher for a playoff team.

Edwin Jackson – Unrestricted Free Agent

Jackson earned $1.5 million this season and was one of the most pleasant surprises in all of baseball. Any team in the league could have had the 35-year-old, but the A's were the only squad to show interest, signing him to a minor league deal in June. Jackson rewarded them with a 6-3 record and 3.33 ERA in 17 starts.

Jackson seems like another solid bet to return to Oakland, mainly because he loves playing there and it's hard to imagine much of a market for his services. Jackson said many times during the season that the A's clubhouse was one of the most cohesive groups he had ever been a part of. The two sides seem to be a perfect fit, especially with Jackson's reasonable price tag.

[RATTO: Big offseason for A's, Giants]

Trevor Cahill – Unrestricted Free Agent

Cahill also earned $1.5 million in 2018 but had an up-and-down season in his second stint with the A's. The 30-year-old went 7-4 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 21 outings, dealing with injuries for parts of the year and struggling with his performance down the stretch.

As with Jackson, it's hard to imagine much of a market for Cahill, which could make a return to Oakland a possibility if he is willing to accept another small contract. If Cahill did re-sign, there is no guarantee he would be in the starting rotation. But again, you can never have too much starting pitching depth, especially in this era of numerous arm injuries.

Brett Anderson – Unrestricted Free Agent

Anderson made $4 million this past season. The southpaw had his moments during the year, but mostly struggled, finishing 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 17 starts. Anderson also made a couple of trips to the disabled list.

It's unlikely Anderson would start 2019 in Oakland's starting rotation, but the A's might be open to bringing him back for depth purposes, if he was willing to take a pay cut. Oakland could also use another left-hander in the bullpen, though Anderson may have no interest in that type of role.

MLB rumors: A's free-agent target Matt Wieters returning to Cardinals

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AP

MLB rumors: A's free-agent target Matt Wieters returning to Cardinals

The A's could use a veteran catcher on their major league roster, but Matt Wieters will not be that guy.

The veteran catcher will be returning to the St. Louis Cardinals, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Sunday.

A little over a week ago, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported, citing sources, that Wieters was drawing interest from the A's and Cardinals.

Wieters to the A's would have made sense because both catchers on Oakland's big league depth chart, Sean Murphy and Austin Allen, are rookies.

Instead, Wieters decided to stick with the team he played for in 2019. In 67 games last season, the 33-year-old slashed .214/.268/.435 with 11 homers and 27 RBI.

[RELATED: Buddy Reed hopes to reunite with Puk]

With Wieters reportedly off the board, there still are several attractive veteran catchers on the free-agent market for the A's to consider: Russell Martin, Caleb Joseph, Nick Hundley, Jonathan Lucroy, Bryan Holaday and Welington Castillo, just to name a few.

The A's have been relatively quiet this offseason, so we'll see if they make any more additions before pitchers and catchers report to Mesa, Ariz. on Feb. 12.

Boston's JD Martinez understands why Mike Fiers spoke up about Astros

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USATSI

Boston's JD Martinez understands why Mike Fiers spoke up about Astros

The latest "MLB cheating scandal" cast a murky cloud over America's Pastime when it was brought forth allegations that the Houston Astros used technology to illegally steal signs during the team's 2017 championship season.

The team allegedly would use centerfield video cameras to steal signs from opponents and relay an audio signal (banging on the cans) to batters to give them a heads up which pitch would be coming.

Current A's pitcher Mike Fiers, who spent three seasons as a member of the Astros, was the first to go on record and talk about the cheating ways. Since then, he's received quite a bit of backlash from fans ... and even sports analysts.

But he has a lot of support when you sift through the awful Twitter mentions (and fake niece accounts -- seriously, what?!) in his friend and former college teammate J.D. Martinez.

“Sucks for him. I’ve talked to him about it,” Martinez said in an interview with MassLive.com. “I understand his side of it. I understand his side of it, being in that division and going against those guys. It’s one of those things where it’s an uncomfortable position for him. I understand why he did what he did.”

The Boston Red Sox designated hitter was also asked if it were possible Fiers would fall victim to any type of retaliation on the field during this upcoming season -- or any season after that.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Martinez said. “I wish him the best with everything. I talked about it with him. He obviously felt like he needed to and I understand it.”

We don't know what will materialize once actual baseball games are played, but it appears there is more heat on Major League Baseball than Fiers.

ESPN baseball analyst and Mets advisor Jessica Mendoza recently gave her thoughts publicly on what Fiers had done saying it "didn't sit well" with her on the fact that he decided to "go public."

What she said didn't sit well with many. Myself included.

This isn't an article to discuss what she said or the fact she holds both of these titles is a conflict of interest. This article will, however, expound she was false in her statements.

It's important to showcase that Fiers has the support from not only his friends/fellow baseball players but those who spend money and time dedicated to the sport.

Since Fiers bravely went public in that interview with The Athletic, baseball saw a few historic penalties.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Lunhow were both fired. The team forfeited its first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and '21 MLB drafts and were fined $5 million. This is the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution. 

The Red Sox and manager Alex Cora "mutually parted ways" after the scandal. Cora served as the Astros' bench coach the year the team won the World Series.

As Martinez says, we don't know what will happen in the upcoming months as more light is shed on these situations, but many are saying Fiers should be commended for what he did.

[RELATED: A's projected to win under 90 games in 2020]

He could have been anonymous. He could have subtweeted it in a cryptic way. He could have waited years from now to write a novel about it.

He didn't.

Fiers stamped his name on it, and that brought more individuals forward to do the same. That took courage.