Athletics

Joakim Soria rewarding A's offseason faith during MLB playoffs push

Joakim Soria rewarding A's offseason faith during MLB playoffs push

OAKLAND -- To say that this season hasn't gone as Joakim Soria had hoped would be an understatement.

The A's had high expectations when they signed the veteran reliever to a two-year, $15 million contract in the offseason. After all, Soria recorded a 3.12 ERA in 66 games last season between the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, striking out 75 batters in 60 2/3 innings.

This year has been a completely different story. Soria, 35, is just 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA, the worst of his 12-year career. Recently, however, Soria has shown glimpses of his All-Star days.

After missing nine games earlier this month with inflammation in his elbow, Soria has looked like a completely different pitcher. In two appearances since returning, the right-hander has tossed two perfect innings with four strikeouts.

"I felt good," Soria told NBC Sports California on Friday after the A's 8-0 win over the Texas Rangers at the Coliseum. "Everything was working right and hopefully it continues that way."

Soria's velocity was up as well Friday, even hitting 95 mph with his four-seam fastball. He was dominant on back-to-back nights.

"I think it was getting healthy," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "His workload was extreme. You know, this is not a 21-year-old. He's (had two) Tommy John (surgeries). We used him a lot. I think the break did help him. Obviously, we don't want to see anyone get a little nicked up like he was, but I do think the break helped him and it looks like all of his pitches are fired up again."

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If Soria could find his old form, it would provide an incredible boost for the A's bullpen down the stretch and into the postseason. It certainly wouldn't be the first time a pitcher has struggled during the regular season only to catch fire during the playoffs -- think Barry Zito with the Giants in 2012.

"It's always good to get back healthy and throw good outings," Soria said. "It's really good for your mental point of view."

Soria now has has struck out six in 4 2/3 scoreless innings in September, allowing just one hit and one walk. Sure, that's a small sample size, but it's still a promising development for the A's ahead of their playoff push.

Why A's should bring back catcher Josh Phegley in final arbitration year

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Why A's should bring back catcher Josh Phegley in final arbitration year

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who may or may not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Josh Phegley, C

Contract: Final year of arbitration (projected to get $2.2 million after earning $1.075 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

Phegley put together the best season of his career in 2019. The 31-year-old slashed .239/.282/.411 with 12 home runs, 18 doubles and 62 RBI in 106 games, spending most of the year as Oakland's starting catcher.

Even with top prospect Sean Murphy poised to take over the starting job in 2020, Phegley still could provide significant value as a backup. He knows the A's pitching staff well, having been with the team since 2015, and he has displayed some pop with the bat.

Reasons to let him go

Murphy long has been considered the A's catcher of the future, and the future is now. The 25-year-old is a better defensive catcher than Phegley and more productive offensively as well. Oakland could decide that $2.2 million is too much to spend on a backup catcher, or they could choose to fill that role in free agency (anyone up for a Stephen Vogt reunion?).

[RELATED: Why A's should  non-tender Blake Treinen]

Final verdict

For $2.2 million, Phegley is a bargain and should return to Oakland. He has proven to be a serviceable starting catcher, in case Murphy goes down, and he fits in well with the rest of the clubhouse. Sure, the A's could find a slightly cheaper backup catcher if they really wanted, but Phegley's intangibles, including his veteran leadership, and his production make him well worth the money.

Why A's should either trade or non-tender All-Star Blake Treinen

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Why A's should either trade or non-tender All-Star Blake Treinen

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who may or may not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Blake Treinen, RHP

Contract: Final year of arbitration (projected to get $7.8 million after earning $6.4 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

In 2018, Blake Treinen enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in MLB history. The right-hander went 9-2 with 38 saves and a 0.78 ERA, notching 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings.

Unfortunately, Treinen followed that up with the worst season of his career, going 6-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 2019, ultimately losing the closer job to Liam Hendriks. Still, Treinen's stuff looked dominant at times and he could certainly bounce back in 2020.

Treinen is still just 31 years old and should have some productive years ahead of him. His fastball averaged 97 mph this season with explosive movement. If he can improve his command, Treinen could still be a productive reliever moving forward.

Reasons to let him go

Treinen is coming off an incredibly disappointing season. He entered the year as one of the top closers in baseball, but quickly lost his closer job due to injury and poor performance.

Treinen's 4.91 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, and 5.14 FIP were all career worsts, as were his 37 walks in just 58 2/3 innings. He saw his season come to a premature end when an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his back. And pitchers and back injuries don't mix well (see: Marco Estrada). Tendering Treinen a contract would be a major risk.

Final verdict

Treinen could very well return to being an effective relief pitcher, but the A's can't afford to take that chance for nearly $8 million. That money would be better spent on multiple relievers to help shore up the team's shaky bullpen.

[RELATED: A's stay or go candidate for 2020 season: Jake Diekman]

Between Treinen's on-field struggles and the injury concerns, Oakland would be better off seeking an offseason trade of its former All-Star closer. If the A's can't get a deal done, look for a non-tender.