Athletics

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A’s general manager David Forst says he has a stack of strongly worded letters from fans who grow frustrated with many of the team’s personnel moves.

That comes with the territory of running a major league front office. But Forst also said, during a wide-ranging interview on the latest A’s Insider Podcast, that honest critiquing must come from within office walls.

“You do want to do some self-evaluation and self-assessing,” Forst said. “What I don’t do, I don’t go back and second-guess decisions, whether it’s a trade or a signing. I don’t sort of hypothetically think, ‘Well, what if we hadn’t done this,’ because it’s not a good use of anybody’s time. What you do have to do is make sure the process that led to that decision is sound and a good one.”

Certainly one of the most scrutinized A’s moves of recent history was their signing of designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year $30 million contract in November 2014. That turned out to be a costly mistake, with Butler being released in September with one year left on his deal and the A’s still on the hook for roughly $10 million. Forst acknowledged how poorly that decision worked out but sticks by the initial motivation to sign Butler.

“Look, Billy Butler didn’t go the way we expected, and that’s one that gets brought up a lot,” Forst said. “But I think back to the time when we made that decision to sign him, and what we were projecting Billy to do. It was very clear what our team needed. Again, going into 2015, coming off the wild card that year, we still felt like this was a team that could compete for a division title. So all the things that went into the decision, ultimately I will stand by.”

Forst spoke frankly about several other topics during the podcast. Regarding fans’ frustration about seeing so many high-profile players traded:

“I’ve got a stack of letters on my desk, the substance of which I can’t repeat on the air,” he said with a smile. “… But there’s passion. And I know we have a fan base that cares, and that’s really a good place to be.”

Forst said the A’s definitely will pursue starting pitching this offseason, despite the fact that 1) he’s very optimistic about the crop of young pitching Oakland has developed, and 2) he believes Sonny Gray will bounce back from a poor 2016 season. The GM takes encouragement that Gray made a full physical recovery from a strained forearm.

“Am I going to get the Cy Young (caliber pitcher) from Day 1? I don’t know. But I think there’s a confidence that this was an aberration, this whole year, more than anything else.”

Evaluating the A's arbitration decisions: Cory Gearrin

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Evaluating the A's arbitration decisions: Cory Gearrin

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

The A's acquired RHP Cory Gearrin from Texas in August for minor league pitchers Abdiel Mendoza and Teodoro Ortega. Gearrin pitched just six innings for Oakland, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits, with two strikeouts and two walks.

For the season, the 32-year-old went 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.34 WHIP between San Francisco, Texas, and Oakland. He has a career ERA of 3.54 over seven major league seasons.

Gearrin earned $1.675 million in 2018 and is projected to get $2.4 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Gearrin has proven to be a solid veteran reliever and a team can never have too much depth in the bullpen. He will turn 33 in April and figures to have at least a few good seasons remaining.

With fellow veteran relievers Jeurys Familia, Fernando Rodney, and Shawn Kelley unlikely to return, Gearrin could have a role in the A's pen as a setup man for closer Blake Treinen.

Why he might be too pricey

If the number really is as high as $2.4 million, it would be a lot to pay for a depth option like Gearrin. While his numbers have been decent, the A's have younger and cheaper options in Lou Trivino and J.B. Wendelken. Oakland may be better off using that $2.4 million on other pitching help, or for re-signing other key players.

Verdict

It seems highly unlikely that Gearrin will return in 2019, especially for $2.4 million. The A's already have a deep bullpen and don't really have a need for Gearrin. Treinen, Wendelken, Trivino, Ryan Buchter, and Yusmeiro Petit all provide more value than Gearrin, and it would be hard to justify giving $2.4 million to your sixth best relief pitcher. Expect Oakland to move on without the 32-year-old right-hander.

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Sean Manaea

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Sean Manaea

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Sean Manaea was having the best season of his career before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, which is expected to keep him out for most, if not all, of 2019 as well.

Manaea, 26, went 12-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 27 starts, striking out 108 and walking 32. The left-hander was the ace of the A's staff for most of the season, and he threw his first career no-hitter on April 21 against the league-leading Boston Red Sox.

Manaea earned just $550K in his third Major League season, but he is projected to get a raise to $3.8 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Even though Manaea is expected to miss the vast majority of the 2019 season, it's a no-brainer for the A's to keep him. At 26 years old, he has plenty of good years in front of him, and he proved he can be a top of the rotation type pitcher.

Manaea has said his shoulder bothered him for the entire season, and yet he was still able to post excellent numbers and throw a no-hitter. His velocity was down for much of the season, likely due to his shoulder injury, but he learned how to utilize his secondary pitches and became a better all-around pitcher in the process. If he can get back to full healthy, he should be a number one or two starter on the A's for years to come.

Why he might be too pricey

The only way the A's would let Manaea go is if they believe he will not recover from the shoulder surgery. Spending $3.8 million on an injured pitcher obviously involves some risk, but based on all reports, his surgery went as well as they could have hoped.

Verdict

Assuming Manaea's prognosis is good, he should remain in Oakland, not just in 2019, but for years to come. The left-hander has already developed into a top flight pitcher in the American League, and at the age of 26, he hasn't even hit his prime yet.

Manaea also fits in well in the A's clubhouse and feels very comfortable pitching in Oakland. He has a great relationship with the fans and in the community, and he can be a face of the franchise for several seasons.