Athletics

Mike Fiers surprisingly non-tendered by A's, who need starting pitchers

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USATSI

Mike Fiers surprisingly non-tendered by A's, who need starting pitchers

The A's announced Friday that they did not tender contracts to right-handed pitchers Mike Fiers, Kendall Graveman and Cory Gearrin, making all three free agents.

Graveman and Gearrin's non-tenders were somewhat expected, but Fiers is a bit of a surprise, especially considering Oakland's desperate need for starting pitching. The 33-year-old was the A's No. 1 starter at the end of last season, going 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA after coming over from the Detroit Tigers in a trade in exchange for prospects Nolan Blackwood and Logan Shore.

Last season, Fiers went 12-8 overall with a 3.56 ERA, 10th best in the American League. He ranked fifth in the AL in issuing just 1.94 walks per nine innings.

Fiers was projected to receive $9.7 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors. While that's certainly not the cheapest price tag, it seemed reasonable for a No. 1 or 2 starter. Instead, Fiers will hit the free agent market, where he figures to draw plenty of interest.

With Fiers gone, the A's have no starting pitchers from last season's rotation under contract for next season. Executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said last month that addressing the starting rotation would be a top priority this offseason, but he and general manager David Forst will have to pursue those arms through free agency.

Graveman was Oakland's Opening Day starter last season, but he struggled to a 1-5 record and 7.60 ERA. He later underwent Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the entire 2019 season. The 27-year-old was projected to receive $2.5 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Gearrin pitched just six innings for the A's, allowing four earned runs. He went 2-1 with one save and a 3.77 ERA last season between San Francisco, Texas and Oakland. The 32-year-old was projected to get $2.4 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

The A's did tender contracts to their other six arbitration-eligible players: Khris Davis, Marcus Semien, Blake Treinen, Sean Manaea, Mark Canha and Ryan Buchter. Oakland earlier reached one-year deals with Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull, and Josh Phegley.

Baseball America releases new top 10 A's prospects for 2020 MLB season

Baseball America releases new top 10 A's prospects for 2020 MLB season

The A's top three prospects virtually are set in stone. Wherever you look, you likely will see the same three names in the same order: Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk and Sean Murphy. 

That's a pretty talented trio right there. It's the same top three that led off Baseball America's list of top A's prospects going into the 2019 season. The same goes for 2020

Luzardo and Puk are regarded as two of the best left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball. With a high-90s fastball and nasty changeup, Luzardo has all the ingredients to one day be a perennial Cy Young candidate. Puk's fastball-slider combination has him right up there with Luzardo, too. 

Murphy is expected to make a big impact on the A's this upcoming season, and the catcher is regarded as one of the best defensive prospects in the game. The 25-year-old made his MLB debut last year and hit four homers in limited time, too. 

The real change for the A's, however, is at No. 4. Going into last season, Baseball America had a Heisman Trophy winner as Oakland's fourth-best prospect. That's right, we're talking about Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyle Murray. 

While Murray claims he still believes he can play both sports in a calendar year, and the A's still own his baseball rights, it's highly unlikely the elusive QB ever wears an A's jersey. So, who's the A's new No. 4 prospect? Cal product Daulton Jefferies made a huge leap in the rankings. 

Jefferies, 24, entered 2019 as the A's No. 18 prospect on Baseball America's top-30 team rankings. The low ranking wasn't due to his talent, though. It was all because of injury risks. Jefferies missed a chunk of his junior year at Cal with a shoulder injury and then had Tommy John surgery in late April 2017. 

Prior to the 2019 season, Jefferies had only pitched 20 1/3 innings since being drafted by the A's with the 37th pick overall in 2016. He was healthy last year and showed his potential that always has intrigued front offices. The 6-foot right-hander went 2-2 with a 3.42 ERA and had 93 strikeouts to only five walks in 79 innings pitched between Advanced Class A and Double-A. 

[RELATED: A's Reed hopes to reunite with Florida teammate Puk in '20]

Jefferies is expected to start the season in Triple-A Las Vegas. He throws everything for strikes and sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball. The A's will be safe with his workload, but don't be surprised if the former Cal Bear makes it to Oakland this season. 

There's no doubt the A's have one of the best young trios in Luzardo, Puk and Murphy. Don't forget about Daulton, though -- even if he does spell his name wrong.

MLB rumors: A's free-agent target Matt Wieters returning to Cardinals

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AP

MLB rumors: A's free-agent target Matt Wieters returning to Cardinals

The A's could use a veteran catcher on their major league roster, but Matt Wieters will not be that guy.

The veteran catcher will be returning to the St. Louis Cardinals, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Sunday.

A little over a week ago, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported, citing sources, that Wieters was drawing interest from the A's and Cardinals.

Wieters to the A's would have made sense because both catchers on Oakland's big league depth chart, Sean Murphy and Austin Allen, are rookies.

Instead, Wieters decided to stick with the team he played for in 2019. In 67 games last season, the 33-year-old slashed .214/.268/.435 with 11 homers and 27 RBI.

[RELATED: Buddy Reed hopes to reunite with Puk]

With Wieters reportedly off the board, there still are several attractive veteran catchers on the free-agent market for the A's to consider: Russell Martin, Caleb Joseph, Nick Hundley, Jonathan Lucroy, Bryan Holaday and Welington Castillo, just to name a few.

The A's have been relatively quiet this offseason, so we'll see if they make any more additions before pitchers and catchers report to Mesa, Ariz. on Feb. 12.