Athletics

How Jurickson Profar's talk with Adrian Beltre helped A's second baseman

How Jurickson Profar's talk with Adrian Beltre helped A's second baseman

This was not the first impression Jurickson Profar had in mind.

The A's new second baseman was mired in a 5-for-47 slump, held without a single RBI through his first 12 games. He was pressing, trying too hard to impress his new team.

That's when Profar made a phone call to recently retired third baseman Adrián Beltré, a long-time teammate in Texas, to wish him a happy 40th birthday. Beltre responded by providing Profar with some helpful advice.

"I just asked him about how he handled himself when he went to a new team," Profar told reporters. "I asked him about my swing and everything."

Whatever Beltré said worked, because in the next theee games, Profar went 6-for-12 with two home runs and seven RBI.

"Just the confidence," Profar explained. "He told me that he knows I'm going to do well. Just relax and do my thing, and that's it. ... He made me feel comfortable."

"We knew he was going to swing the bat well," A's manager Bob Melvin added. "He's probably a little bit more relaxed than he was."  

Profar, 26, had spent his entire career playing alongside Beltré in Texas before being traded to Oakland this past offseason. Last year, Profar had a breakout season, slashing .254/.335/.458 with 20 home runs, 35 doubles, and 77 RBI. The A's believed he would build on that performance this year, but it didn't start out that way.

"When you're with a new team, you want to get some hits and show the new team what you have to offer," Melvin said. "He certainly did that in the (Baltimore) series, not that he needed to because we've been on the other side. Last year he beat us up some, so we know what he can do at the plate."

It's also been a struggle for Profar defensively early on. He has already committed four errors, including a couple of costly errant throws in key situations. But Melvin believes Profar will get more comfortable playing second base as the season goes on.

"It's still kind of a new position for him, based on the fact he was on the other side of the diamond for the most part last year," Melvin told reporters. "Learning the angles, learning new players with Marcus at short and so forth, that all takes time. ... I think he enjoys the fact that he can come out and just work on one position consistently and know that's where he's going to be." 

[RELATED: Profar reflects on his time with Rangers]

Profar has drastically picked up his play of late, both offensively and defensively. He has raised his batting average from .106 to .191, driving in nine runs in his last six games. He credits that conversation with Beltré.

"I have a good friend in him and I can always call him and ask him for tips," Profar said. "If I ask him, he always will help. He's that kind of guy."

Why A's need to address bullpen this offseason, according to MLB.com

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AP

Why A's need to address bullpen this offseason, according to MLB.com

The A's bullpen relied on different faces in 2019, but it was once again strong. 

Liam Hendriks emerged as the team's closer, while one-time stalwarts Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino struggled to reach their 2018 heights. Still, the A's finished the season seventh in bullpen ERA (3.89), third in FIP (3.98) and fourth in WAR (6.9). In 2018, the A's ranked third, 11th and sixth in those respective categories. 

Oakland's relievers also led the majors in blown saves (30), and the group could be due for a lot of turnover in 2020. September call-ups Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk are headed to the rotation, while the A's will have to make decisions on Treinen, Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit. Writing for MLB.com Friday, Will Leitch argued that the A's should embrace change in their bullpen this offseason.

"The A’s keep falling short in the AL Wild Card Game, but considering where the Astros are likely to be next year, that may be their ceiling again," Leitch wrote. "So more arms might be the answer for a team whose lineup looks to be terrific top to bottom in 2020."

Relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Will Smith and Kenley Jansen almost certainly will be out of the A's price range this winter, but there is a long list of free-agent options to re-tool their bullpen on the fly. Plus, the A's have intriguing pitching prospects in Daulton Jeffries, James Kaprielian and Grant Holmes who conceivably could follow in Luzardo and Puk's footsteps by making their big league debuts out of the 'pen.

[RELATED: Ex-Athletic Maxwell still receives death threats after protest]

Given the rollercoaster nature of relief pitching, though, standing pat is an option. Now healthy, Treinen and Trivino seem like good candidates to bounce back in 2020, and regression to their respective career means would give manager Bob Melvin more options in the later innings. 

The A's surely would like more consistency from their bullpen in 2019, but the results weren't all that far off from the group that was Oakland's strength in 2018. A few tweaks might be just what the A's need for perception to match reality.

Why A's All-Star reliever Blake Treinen could be non-tender candidate

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USATSI

Why A's All-Star reliever Blake Treinen could be non-tender candidate

The MLB offseason is fast approaching, which means it's time to prepare for moves to be made. Things will start to happen five days after the World Series champion is crowned and the weather turns cold.

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand recently put out an article detailing some surprising players who will be non-tender candidates.

Non-tendered essentially means when a club declines to give a certain player a contract for the upcoming season, making them a free agent. A club usually will non-tender a player because it feels the monetary value he would receive from arbitration would be greater than his value on the field.

A's reliever Blake Treinen is one of them.

"Treinen earned $6.4 million in his second year of arbitration-eligibility, winning his case against the Athletics last offseason," Feinsand wrote. "Treinen was fresh off of an incredible season that saw him post a 0.78 ERA, 38 saves and 0.834 WHIP, but the 2019 season was not as kind to the right-hander. Treinen, 31, had a 4.91 ERA and a 1.619 WHIP, both career worsts. Oakland could decide to cut ties with him rather than give him a raise."

As Feinsand addressed, Treinen had a completely different season in 2019 than the outstanding one he left behind in the previous season.

The typical dominant closer switched to more of a setup role. And while Liam Hendriks did a sensational job taking over those responsibilities, Treinen never recovered. He ended up exiting the season early because of back problems, which shifted Chris Bassitt to the bullpen.

MLB Trade Rumors' annual arbitration projections expect Treinen's salary figure to be $7.8 million. That's quite the gamble on someone who didn't live up to expectations in 2019.

So perhaps this isn't much of a surprise at all.

Last season, Mike Fiers was non-tendered by the A's, who were starving for starting pitching. The team ultimately signed the starter to a two-year contract, and that return on investment turned out to be successful.