Athletics

Forst sees Hendriks as potential bullpen 'fixture' for A's

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Forst sees Hendriks as potential bullpen 'fixture' for A's

In the effort to rebuild their bullpen, the A’s may have acquired an important foundation piece Friday.

They acquired reliever Liam Hendriks from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for right-hander Jesse Chavez, and A’s general manager David Forst said he envisions the 26-year-old Hendriks as a potential setup man to closer Sean Doolittle.

Hendriks is young, he’s under team control for four more years, and he’s coming off an excellent season in Toronto’s bullpen. That made him a target for an A’s team that carried the highest bullpen ERA in the American League last season (4.63).

“I think we see him as a guy who could potentially pitch in a setup role or at the back end of the bullpen,” Forst said. “He made a leap forward this year after being a starter most of his career. His velocity spiked up. We felt this is a guy that could become a fixture in our bullpen for a number of years.”

To get him, the A’s parted with Chavez, whose ability to start or relieve made him a valuable trade commodity. The A’s and Jays had discussed Chavez going back to July’s trade deadline, Forst said, and the addition of free agent starter Rich Hill made it easier for the A’s to part with Chavez. Hill’s one-year contract was announced Friday as part of a busy day of team transactions.

[STIGLICH: A's trade RHP Jesse Chavez to Blue Jays]

Chavez was at home in Pomona, putting together a patio sofa, when he got the call from Forst. Chavez admitted the news left him “confused” because of the timing.

“We don’t need a roster spot. We weren’t at the winter meetings yet.”

But he said he had a great conversation with Forst and thanked the A’s for giving him the opportunity to fill so many roles and build his versatility.

Doolittle said Chavez will be missed.

“He’s been a late-inning guy, he’s been a long man and he’s been a starter. He’s so good working with guys on mechanics. It’s gonna be tough to fill that role.”

Hendriks enjoyed great success in 2015, his first as a full-time reliever. He posted a 2.92 ERA and struck out 71 in 64 2/3 innings, an average of 9.9 per nine innings. His four-seam fastball touches the mid 90’s and he complements that with a hard sinker and slider. It stands to reason he could split the eighth-inning setup role with lefty Drew Pomeranz, provided Pomeranz isn’t needed in the rotation.

[STIGLICH: Perseverance pays off for new A's starter Rich Hill]

Right now, it appears the A’s could have four of seven bullpen spots filled with Doolittle, Hendriks, Pomeranz and Ryan Dull, who showed promise in a September call-up. Forst emphasized the A’s are still looking to add to the bullpen, whether through free agency or trade.

“We’ve explored all those (avenues), some free agents, some trade possibilities already,” he said. “Obviously to trade for a (top reliever), the cost is high. There are some big contracts being thrown out there. We’ll stay on top of both. … Payroll is not a (deterrent). We’ve got room to spend. We’ve just gotta find the right guys.”

Top-shelf free agents like Darren O’Day and Joakim Soria reportedly are looking for three- or four-year deals near $9 million per season. At the other end of the spectrum are relievers like Trevor Cahill or Alexi Ogando, lower-cost options whose effectiveness is tougher to predict.

Forst added that even after signing Hill, the A’s are still on the lookout for starting pitching too.

“There’s probably not a better example than 2015 of us needing as many starting pitchers as we can get.”

A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

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USATSI

A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 10 - Nick Allen, SS/2B

The A's selected Allen out of high school in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft and he is beginning to develop into the shortstop they hoped he would be. At just 5-foot-9, the 21-year-old is far from imposing physically, but he is a defensive wizard.

Allen has tremendous range and a cannon for an arm, with MLB Pipeline assigning him a 65 fielding rating on the 20-80 scale and an arm grade of 60. There has never been any question about his defensive ability, which is already MLB quality. Now he's beginning to show improvement at the plate as well.

Allen struggled in 2018 at Class-A Beloit, slashing just .239/.301/.302 in 121 games. But this past season at High-A Stockton, that slash line shot up to .292/.363/.434, with improved power numbers across the board.

Allen also has above-average speed, with a 60 rating from MLB Pipeline. He stole 37 bases in 193 games over the past two seasons.

Allen can play shortstop and second base, both potential positions of need for the A's in the near future. Marcus Semien is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season and Jurickson Profar is far from a sure thing to return. Youngsters Jorge Mateo, Franklin Barreto, and Sheldon Neuse could also be options at the middle infield positions, but Allen has a great chance to earn a spot down the road.

Realistically, Allen doesn't figure to join the A's until at least 2021, with 2022 seeming more realistic. He just turned 21 earlier this month and has yet to play a single game above High-A.

Allen will likely start the 2020 season at Double-A Midland, with an opportunity to move up to Triple-A Las Vegas, based on his performance. If he continues to progress offensively, he could certainly earn a major league call-up at some point in 2021.

[RELATED: Why A's should move on from Grossman]

Allen has already added some strength, which has been reflected in his increased productivity at the plate. He will need to continue his work in the weight room, without losing his speed, which should be his biggest weapon offensively.

While Allen will never be a power-hitter, he can use his speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths. If he maintains his magical defensive prowess, he has an opportunity to develop into a solid major leaguer for Oakland.

A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

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USATSI

A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

A's closer Liam Hendriks is one of three finalists for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.

Hendriks is joined by Astros closer Roberto Osuna and Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. The NL finalists are Josh Hader, Will Smith, and Kirby Yates.

Hendriks, 30, enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, recording a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. The right-hander notched 124 strikeouts in 85 innings, an A's franchise record for relievers, compared to just 21 walks.

Hendriks took over closing duties from Blake Treinen in the middle of the season and finished with 25 saves, along with eight holds. His 124 punchouts led AL relief pitchers and his 1.80 ERA ranked second among AL relievers with at least 40 innings.

Osuna posted a 2.63 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, with 73 strikeouts in 65 innings. Chapman finished with a 2.21 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out 85 in 57 innings.

[RELATED: Hendriks' energy a big part of A's success]

The voting will be conducted by a panel of eight all-time great relief pitchers: Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco, and Billy Wagner. Both the AL and NL awards will be presented on October 26, before Game 4 of the World Series.