Athletics

Mike Fiers' two-year contract makes A's look like geniuses

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AP

Mike Fiers' two-year contract makes A's look like geniuses

When the A's non-tendered Mike Fiers three weeks ago, it came as a surprise to many across the baseball world.

It turns out Billy Beane and David Forst knew exactly what they were doing.

Fiers agreed to a two-year contract with the A's on Saturday, and the team made the signing official on Monday.

The contract is worth between $14 million and $15 million, MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported. The deal will keep the 33-year-old right-hander in green and gold through the 2020 season.

MLB Trade Rumors projected Fiers to receive $9.7 million in arbitration, so Oakland likely will save more than $2 million in annual salary. Compare that to other starting pitchers' deals this offseason, and the A's come out looking like geniuses.

Most recently, the Los Angeles Angels signed former A's right-hander Trevor Cahill to a one-year contract worth $9 million, possibly up to $10.5 million including incentives. The Angels also signed right-hander Matt Harvey for $11 million, with incentives potentially taking his deal to $14 million. Lance Lynn got three years and $30 million from the Texas Rangers.

Fiers had better numbers than all three of those pitchers.

Between the Detroit Tigers and the A's, Fiers went 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA, 10th best in the American League, and a 1.18 WHIP. In 10 appearances with the A's, he was 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, notching 52 strikeouts in 53 innings.

Cahill had a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Lynn was far worse in both categories, with a 4.77 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. Harvey checked in at 4.94 and 1.30. Yet the A's managed to bring back Fiers for between $7 million and $7.5 million per season.

While Oakland probably would like to add another starter this offseason, Fiers will go a long way toward solidifying the rotation in 2019. He joins Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Paul Blackburn and top prospect Jesús Luzardo to form the A's likely starting five, with Chris Bassitt and Tanner Anderson also in the mix. Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk both are recovering from Tommy John surgery, but they should provide reinforcements midway through the season.

In the last two days, the A's have added Fiers, highly regarded reliever Joakim Soria and talented young infielder Jurickson Profar, all for less than $20 million in 2019 salary. That certainly should make for a happy holiday season in Oakland.

A's GM David Forst says bullpen improvement main priority for 2020

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USATSI

A's GM David Forst says bullpen improvement main priority for 2020

MLB's hot stove season has been lukewarm, to say the least, especially when it comes to the A's. But they need arm help, especially in the bullpen.

Last year's reliever squad sang a different tune from what we heard in 2018. The A's led all of MLB with 30 blown saves last season, and that's something A's general manager David Forst wants to make sure doesn't happen again.

“We need to get better. We need to try and catch the Astros and get out of that one-game playoff,” Forst told MLB.com's Martin Gallegos. “We have a number of things to do, but addressing the bullpen is definitely at the top of the list.”

The AL Wild Card has been a thorn in the A's side in their last three playoff appearances. They've lost the wild-card game each time, including a 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in October. 

The free agency pool for relievers not only possesses a lot of talent, but a lot of those available arms appear to be what the team goes after historically.

Daniel Hudson could be a nice fit with his experience and the way he's made an uptick in his career, despite his age (33). But that reported interest also shows that the A's recent bullpen approach hasn't been working. 

“There’s a lot of talent in our bullpen,” Forst added. “I couldn’t say how many guys we need, but we have to have the depth, both starting, and bullpen, to last over a 162-game season.”

Liam Hendriks took over at the closer role last season and was sensational. He boasted a 1.80 ERA with 124 strikeouts in 85 innings. The 2019 All-Star took the place of Blake Treinen, who wasn't the same from his All-Star campaign in 2018. And we can't go without mentioning Yusmeiro Petit who had a great campaign of his own with a 2.71 ERA with a 0.81 WHIP. 

Forst added he's excited about the future the Green and Gold will bring to the table -- and fans should be as well.

[RELATED: Where A's MVP finalist Semien wants to improve in 2020]

Last season, top A's prospects Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk made short appearances out of the bullpen. But they'll join the starting rotation that will have a healthy Sean Manaea and a full season from Frankie Montas. 

“We feel like we’re going to be able to contend again in 2020," Forst said. "We still have some work to do, but we like our team coming back.”

Where A's MVP finalist Marcus Semien wants to improve next season

Where A's MVP finalist Marcus Semien wants to improve next season

OAKLAND -- Marcus Semien enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, in just about every area. The Oakland shortstop became the first A's player to register a top-three finish in the AL MVP race since Miguel Tejada in 2002.

"It means a lot," Semien told NBC Sports California. "It was a very competitive field this year. I think that the game is changing. There are so many players who can do everything on the field -- fielding, base running, scoring runs, producing runs. I'm trying to work on every part of my game to get better, and in the second half, I really made some improvements."  

Semien, 29, set career-highs in runs, hits, home runs, doubles, RBI, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and just about any other stat you can think of. The Bay Area native might have been even better defensively, where he was a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight year.

But despite all of his accomplishments, Semien believes he still has room to improve in 2020.

"I think baserunning is a big one, just getting in scoring position more for our big hitters," Semien said. "We've got great hitters in the middle of the lineup, so walking and getting hits, you want to just make sure you run the bases right. Defensively, turn more double plays, help our pitchers. We're going to have some young pitchers, so we want to make them feel as comfortable as possible."

Last offseason, Semien's most significant development involved plate discipline. He reduced his strikeout total from 131 to 102 and drew a career-high 87 walks, 26 more than the year before.

Semien also matched an A's single-season record by scoring 123 runs, fourth-most in the majors.

"Scoring runs was a big one for me," Semien said. "Solidifying myself in the leadoff spot. I've been moving around the lineup for a couple of years now and just to solidify the leadoff spot and score runs and get in a routine was great."

[RELATED: A's star Semien tells mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

While he appreciates the individual recognition, Semien's main focus is team success. After experiencing back-to-back Wild Card Game losses, he is optimistic that the A's can make a deeper run next season.

"I think we're going to be good," he said. "We want to start off better than we did last year. I think that our rotation will be more solidified. These last two years, we've added at the (trade) deadline to get our rotation where we want it to be, where this coming season, we'll hopefully start the rotation that we like. Position players are ready. I think that we'll have everybody healthy and it'll be fun."