Athletics

A's to keep using openers in 2019 as strategy spreads to rest of MLB

A's to keep using openers in 2019 as strategy spreads to rest of MLB

LAS VEGAS -- Love it or hate it, the opener isn't going anywhere.

After experimenting with the strategy of starting a relief pitcher in September, not to mention the AL Wild Card Game, the A's plan to continue employing it next season.

"Yeah, I think that is here to stay," manager Bob Melvin told reporters Tuesday. "I think we're used to it, so to speak. And you're seeing other teams do it, too. I think you'll see more of it next year."

General manager David Forst added: "I think it may continue to be a necessity going forward. It's not easy to find starting pitching. We are exploring all avenues, but I think we recognize that there are different ways to get 27 outs and we're going to have to consider all of them." 

Oakland primarily used right-hander Liam Hendriks in the opener role last season. He figures to be a logical choice again next year after signing a new one-year, $2.15 million deal last month.

"I think depending on who we identify as guys we need to get innings from and then maybe if there's some vulnerability with some other guys, maybe that's the route we go as far as the opener," Melvin explained.

The Tampa Bay Rays were the first team to start using an opener last season. Since then, the trend has grown beyond just Oakland.

As Melvin mentioned, more and more teams are open to the idea, no pun intended. Even Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he would consider the strategy next season.

The opener certainly makes sense for a team like the A's, who boast an incredibly strong bullpen while lacking depth in the starting rotation. If they can work out some of the kinks, the tactic could ultimately prove quite successful.

Just ask the Rays.

Why A's are focused more on keeping young stars than MLB free agency

Why A's are focused more on keeping young stars than MLB free agency

The AL West is moving and shaking early this MLB offseason, with players coming in and out of the division. 

Star third baseman Anthony Rendon reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $245 million contract to join the Angels. The Halos also traded for former top prospect Dylan Bundy to add to their rotation, and reportedly are pursuing longtime Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. The Astros, who have been the cream of the crop out west, lost pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Yankees, and Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto is bound to make 47 trades by spring training. 

A's GM David Forst says he's more focused on his own squad than what his division foes are up to, but he certainly isn't mad about the Cole news. 

"I'm not sad to see Gerrit Cole leave our division is the best way to put it," Forst said to NBC Sports California in a 1-on-1 interview Wednesday. "We try not to get too wrapped up into what other teams are doing."

The A's came to the Winter Meetings in San Diego looking to upgrade their roster like every other team, however, they're much more focused on who they have in-house as opposed to the free-agent market this year. 

Oakland should receive a big boost to its starting rotation with the additions of Jesus Luzardo (22) and A.J. Puk (24) next season. The A's infield also is full of young talent, including budding stars Marcus Semien (29), Matt Chapman (26) and Matt Olson (25). Franklin Barreto (23), Jorge Mateo (24) and Sheldon Neuse (25) will compete for second base. 

"We've got a really good foundation and we're not heavily invested in free agency right now because we have those guys," Forst said. "We have young pitching, we have the position player group. So our focus has been on filling holes -- looking for a left-handed bat, something in the bullpen. We're fortunate enough to not have to be out there in free agency." 

Semien, who finished third in AL MVP voting last season after hitting 33 homers with an .892 OPS, is expected to earn nearly $14 million in arbitration this offseason and becomes a free agent after next season. The Bay Area native also has reiterated his hope to stay with the A's long term. 

Chapman and Olson both are arbitration-eligible after next season and are set to hit free agency once the 2023 season ends. 

"Certainly our hope is to keep all these guys together," Forst said. "You mentioned Marcus, who's going to be a free agent potentially after this year. That's something we'll address as the season goes along, and the rest of those guys, we're looking for ways to keep them in Oakland as long as possible."

The A's real goal when it comes to 2020 is avoiding the AL Wild Card Game after falling two years in a row in the winner-take-all contest. Forst and the rest of the front office is focused on giving Oakland its best chance at winning the division to get a better shot at the World Series. 

[RELATED: Beane opens up on A's-Semien negotiations, Astros scandal]

"You want to give your guys a chance to play in a series with a better chance to advance," Forst said. "To do that, you have to win the division. We've obviously stayed close to Houston the last couple of years, but as we put this team together, we're definitely looking towards a way to win the division, to get out of the wild card game and give our guys a better chance at a division series."

The A's will need another big season from the Semien, Chapman, Olson trio for that to happen, and they hope to keep them together well into the next decade. 

MLB rumors: A's interested in acquiring Jed Lowrie for third time

MLB rumors: A's interested in acquiring Jed Lowrie for third time

A's general manager David Forst made it clear the organization is looking for a left-handed bat at the second base position following the Jurickson Profar trade to the San Diego Padres.

That could mean a reunion.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported the A's have "had internal conversations about bringing back" Jed Lowrie via trade. But there are 10 million reasons the New York Mets wouldn't go through with that transaction.

The Mets would have to eat a big chunk of that $10 million salary the 35-year-old possesses. 

Switch-hitting Lowrie had two stints with the A's totaling five seasons in which he earned an All-Star selection in 2018 when he slashed .267/.353/.448 line with 23 home runs and 99 RBI. He was also in MVP talks during that time.

He was signed by the Mets as a free agent last year, but played in only nine games as he was dealing with a series of leg injuries over the course of the 2019 season.

Having him back in green and gold would prove not only beneficial for the A's, but could give a clearer sense of what the Mets would do with a somewhat crowded infield. Robinson Cano could be the everyday second baseman if the team doesn't decided for the veteran to take on a lesser role, and the third base spot has Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis who could take over at the hot corner.

[RELATED: Marcus Semien reiterates wanting to stay with A's]

Jorge Mateo and Franklin Barreto are the current A's at the second base position along with Sheldon Neuse who played at the position a bit last season. Lowrie would help make the starting decision easier. And he would probably want that season of redemption after sitting on the sidelines.