Jake Diekman trade gives A's another dominant late-inning option


Jake Diekman trade gives A's another dominant late-inning option

OAKLAND -- For the second time in two weeks, the A's have bolstered their pitching staff, courtesy of the Kansas City Royals.

On July 14, Oakland acquired veteran starter Homer Bailey from Kansas City for minor-league infielder Kevin Merrell. Now the A's have added some bullpen help, trading for left-hander Jake Diekman in exchange for minor-league outfielder Dairon Blanco and minor-league pitcher Ismael Aquino, neither of whom were ranked among Oakland's top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline.

"We've talked for a while about wanting to add to the bullpen," said A's general manager David Forst. "Jake was someone we had engaged with in the offseason as a free agent and he's pitched really well for Kansas City. The first thing that jumps out at you is the fastball velocity -- 96, 97 (mph) every time out. He's pitched well against right-handers. I think it's a good compliment to what we have in the pen."

As Forst noted, Diekman features a mid-to-high 90s fastball along with a mid-80s slider and can be a dominant presence on the mound. The 32-year-old has notched 63 strikeouts in just 41 2/3 innings this season, a rate of 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

While Diekman's 4.75 ERA and 1.34 WHIP are not all that impressive, his advanced metrics have been terrific. He boasts a FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 3.37 and is limiting opponents to a .212 batting average.

"He's a tough customer," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He's a guy that certainly misses some bats. ... Watching left-handers around the league have to deal with him, it's certainly not a comfortable at-bat. It makes us a lot better. This is a guy we've targeted here for a little bit, finally got it done, and we're glad to have him."

Diekman has actually been equally tough on lefties and righties this year, allowing a sub-.700 OPS against both, meaning Oakland doesn't have to use him solely as a left-handed specialist.

"It allows me to match up a little bit more so with (Ryan) Buchter too and maybe get a key left-hander out a little bit earlier," Melvin said. "This is one of those lefties that you kind of just run through an inning a lot of times and not worry too much about the matchup. I think this guy was sought after by quite a few teams so I think we were lucky to get him."

Diekman joins Buchter, Liam Hendriks, Lou Trivino, Blake Treinen, Yusmeiro Petit, and Joakim Soria as Oakland's primary late-inning options. Diekman, Hendriks, Trivino, and Treinen all throw in the high-90s.

"I think (he) compliments the guys in our pen right now," Forst said. "When you're talking about the seventh, eighth inning and giving Bob some options to mix and match, I think when you can bring velocity from both sides, it gives him some really good choices."

[RELATED: Braden on A's current rotation]

Even after adding Diekman and Bailey, Forst made it clear the A's aren't done seeking trades. Oakland would still like to add another starting pitcher and possibly another reliever.

"We still have other conversations going on," Forst confirmed. "I have not put my phone away. We'll continue to be busy. Obviously, getting something done takes two sides, so I can't guarantee anything by Wednesday. But we're going to continue to try."

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Programming note: NBC Sports California will air three classic A’s-Astros games beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. PT.

Since joining the AL West after switching leagues in 2013, the Houston Astros quickly have morphed into one of the A’s most hated rivals.

Those seven seasons have produced plenty of classic matchups, as the clubs finished the season as the division’s top two teams in four of the seven years.

However, the coronavirus outbreak forcing an indefinite suspension upon MLB has robbed teams of getting a chance at revenge on Houston, after the organization was implicated in a nefarious sign-stealing scheme this offseason.

Nevertheless, there's still a way to get your fix, as fans can tune in to NBC Sports California on Saturday afternoon to relive three memorable A’s victories over the Astros.

Lowrie caps comeback -- Sept. 8, 2017

The A’s had their backs against the wall entering the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing Houston 7-3 on a cloudy fall evening in Oakland.

Then Marcus Semien walked to the plate. It took just one swing for the game to be tied at seven as the Bay Area native connected on his third career grand slam. After former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick gave Houston back the lead in the top half, the A’s brought out the power once again. 

Boog Powell led off the bottom half by tying the game with a solo home run, then a few batters later Jed Lowrie brought Semien home to deliver a walk-off win.

The A’s clearly fed off the momentum of that victory, as Oakland went on to sweep the four-game set.

Olson beats Astros -- Aug. 17, 2018

Neck-and-neck in the divisional race, these two adversaries faced off once again at the Oakland Coliseum just under a year later. 

In his 29th career MLB appearance, outfielder Nick Martini was the night’s first hero, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI double to bring home Ramon Laureano, who initially was called out before a replay review reversed the ruling.

Slugger Matt Olson came up in the 10th, and lifted a towering shot just over the right-field fence, bringing the A’s to within one game of the AL West lead.

[RELATED: Why Olson's walk-off homer vs. Brewers was so impressive]

A’s offense explodes -- Sept. 10, 2019

A day after the A’s were hammered 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, the A’s returned the favor in a big way with a 21-7 win.

Astros starter Wade Miley lasted just a third of an inning before being relieved, having allowed six runs, all of which came on RBI singles.

Oakland ended up with six total home runs, including two apiece from Olson and young catcher Sean Murphy. It also was the first time in the expansive history of the A’s that the team scored 20 or more runs, had 25 or more hits, and hit at least six home runs in the same contest.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy what likely would have become America’s new greatest pastime this summer: Watching your team beat the Astros.

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

A’s utility man Chad Pinder is home in Charlotte, North Carolina getting plenty of things done. Watching Netflix, painting nursery furniture, and getting in decent workouts in his garage.

Productive, but not reassuring.

“This is kind of unprecedented in our lifetime, basically to have the nation on hold right now,” Pinder told NBC  Sports Bay Area this week. “It is a very scary time, especially in some the areas that are affected bad right now.”

It was only a few weeks ago Pinder and his Oakland teammates were in Mesa, Arizona getting ready for a highly anticipated 2020 MLB season. 

They, like most of the country, didn’t fully interpret the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at first.

“I don’t know if we initially realized what was going on,” Pinder said. “Thought maybe this would be a two-week break, month maximum. The more information you get, the more you see going around, you realize this is a long-term thing.”

Pinder, a highly-regarded clubhouse leader, now keeps in touch with teammates mostly through text messages.

“We have a group thread, everybody’s talking,” Pinder said.

Their main conversations are about MLB developments, and to keep each other in the loop of when baseball could resume. Players don’t have any more assurances or insights than the average fan does these days. But there are some certainties. 

“Even when we resume stuff, there will be residual effects of what’s been going on,” Pinder said.

[RELATED: Stewart better after coronavirus scare]

That aforementioned nursery project is indeed preparation for Chad and his wife Taylor’s first child, due in the late summer months. He is certainly seeing different perspectives of events right now, as they relate to the future.

“The way we handle this, the way we come out of this,” Pinder said. “We’ll look back on the rest of our lives and remember this time.”