Athletics

MLB free agency: Five infielders A's could target this offseason

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MLB free agency: Five infielders A's could target this offseason

The A's infield appears mostly set for the 2020 season, but there are still questions to answer at second base and behind the plate. Oakland could choose to bring back Jurickson Profar and Josh Phegley, or they could instead turn to the free agent market at those positions.

With that in mind, here are five infielders the A's could target in free agency:

Stephen Vogt - C

We know that the A's have already reached out to their former catcher to discuss a reunion. Vogt is coming off a strong season with the Giants, slashing .263/.314/.490 with 10 home runs, 24 doubles, and 40 RBI in 99 games.

The 35-year-old is still extremely popular in the A's organization and among Oakland fans. He would be an excellent mentor for young Sean Murphy, with the two forming a potent platoon behind the plate.

Vogt figures to earn a raise from this year's league-minimum salary of $555K but should still be affordable for the A's, if they choose to move on from Phegley.

Jason Castro - C

Castro represents another left-handed bat to platoon with Murphy behind the plate. The 32-year-old is a Castro Valley native and played his college baseball at Stanford.

Castro posted a .232/.332/.435 slash line with the Twins this season, blasting 13 homers and 30 RBI in 79 games. He is also one of the better defensive catchers in the league, particularly when it comes to pitch framing.

Castro earned $8 million this year in the final season of his three-year contract with Minnesota. He almost certainly won't get that much money in his next contract, though he may still be more expensive than Vogt.

Eric Sogard - 2B

Sogard spent his first six major league seasons in Oakland, where he became a fan favorite, thanks in part to his distinctive "Nerd Power" glasses. This season, Sogard reminded us that Nerd Power can also translate to some serious production on the field.

The 33-year-old enjoyed the best season of his career, slashing .290/.353/.457 with 13 home runs, 23 doubles, and 40 RBI in 110 games between Toronto and Tampa Bay. If the A's choose to trade or non-tender Profar, Sogard could take over the starting second baseman job and add a much-needed left-handed bat to the lineup.

Sogard earned just $555K this year and will get a significant raise in free agency. However, he could still cost less than Profar's projected $5.8 million in arbitration.

Jason Kipnis - 2B 

Kipnis has spent his entire nine-year career with the Indians, slashing .261/.333/.417. This past season, those numbers dipped a bit to .245/.304/.410, but he still notched 17 homers, 23 doubles, and 65 RBI in 121 games.

The 32-year-old should still have some productive seasons in front of him and, like Sogard, he would provide another left-handed bat in the A's lineup, if Oakland decides to move on from Profar.

Kipnis just completed a six-year, $52.5 million deal with Cleveland but figures to come a bit cheaper now. The A's might even be able to snag him on a one-year contract.

[RELATED: Five relievers A's could target]

Ben Zobrist - 2B

Zobrist is 38 years old but can still swing the bat when healthy. The former A has a career slash line of .266/.357/.426 in 14 seasons, the last four coming with the Cubs.

Zobrist only played in 47 games this year due to personal issues, but in 2018, he hit .305/.378/.440 with nine home runs, 28 doubles, and 58 RBI in 139 games. The switch-hitter could provide the A's with an additional left-handed bat against right-handed pitching.

Zobrist earned $12.5 million this year in the final season of a four-year, $56 million deal with Chicago. With his age and uncertainty, he could be available for fairly cheap.
 

MLB rumors: Blake Treinen, Dodgers agree to one-year, $10M contract

MLB rumors: Blake Treinen, Dodgers agree to one-year, $10M contract

The A's might have thought about bringing Blake Treinen back, but the former All-Star closer will be turning in the green and gold for blue and white. 

 Treinen has agreed to a one-year, $10M contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Wednesday, citing sources.

Treinen broke out in 2018 for the A's, collecting 38 saves while putting up a 0.78 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP. But 2019 was a tough season for the right-hander. Treinen struggled early and lost his closer job to All-Star Liam Hendriks. 

The right-hander fought to regain his All-Star form from a season ago, but was unable to recapture the magic, putting up a 6.14 ERA during the second half to the season. 

The A's opted to non-tender Treinen last week. General manager David Forst had said the A's remained in contact with Treinen, but it appears the reliever felt a change of scenery was for the best. 

In joining the Dodgers, Treinen becomes part of a bullpen that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman felt needed an upgrade. All-Star closer Kenley Jansen has seen his effectiveness waver over the past two seasons, and last offseason prize Joe Kelly was inconsistent at best in Year 1 in LA. 

The Dodgers have one of the more complete rosters in baseball, but adding a reliever who can get big outs late in the game is a must for any World Series contender. Whether or not Treinen can return to his 2018 form remains to be seen. 

[RELATED: Semien reiterates preference to stay in Oakland long term]

As for the A's, they still are trying to decide what MVP finalist Marcus Semien's future in Oakland looks like and will turn their attention to filling out the bullpen in due time. 

While there aren't a lot of top-tier relievers on the open market this offseason, the A's should be able to fill Treinen's with a low-cost high-upside option that Billy Beane has been known to unearth. 

Marcus Semien reiterates hope to stay with A's as MLB free agency looms

Marcus Semien reiterates hope to stay with A's as MLB free agency looms

Marcus Semien was both quantity and quality in 2019.

The A's shortstop started all 162 games and was a finalist for both American League MVP and Gold Glove Awards. He also was named to the second-team "All-MLB team," which was announced Tuesday.

It only raises the value for one of Oakland's longest-tenured players, who is expected to receive a notable raise in his final year of arbitration.

“But going forward, we all know what comes after that,” Semien told NBC Sports California in an exclusive interview Tuesday at the MLB Winter Meetings. “That is the business side. Of course, I love winning, love being home and love my teammates.  Love going to battle with guys who share the same qualities as me.”

Semien doesn’t hide his preference to stay in Oakland long term: “Of course, that would be ideal," he said.

The shortstop also said his camp wouldn’t want to currently interfere with VP Billy Beane and GM David Forst continuing to build the team before re-approaching a long term deal.

“As we approach Spring Training, we’ll see what happens,” Semien said.

Here's what else Semien touched upon during our conversation.

Success In A New Role

It’s easy to forget last season was actually a transitional one for Semien, who had previously been hitting in the bottom third of the lineup before becoming the became the regular leadoff guy.

“The amount of at-bats is a big one for me," Marcus said. “The more at-bats I get, I feel the better I get."

Batting first also helped him gain a better grasp on games.

“Most of the time it gets you in the rhythm of the game right away. I think in years past, I hit seventh, eighth or ninth, sometimes you don’t get your first chance to bat until the third inning. It’s harder to get into a rhythm, so I tried to take advantage of that this year."

Power or consistency

In his first four seasons with Oakland, Marcus' bat always was a strong point, through either consistency or power. In 2019, he excelled in both regards, clubbing 33 homers and a .285 average.

“The average is a byproduct of getting more pitches to hit," he said. "Getting in better counts to do more damage, that’s where the power comes from."

Especially noticeable was Semien’s ability to crowd the plate and still get around on inside pitches this past summer.

“A lot of my teammates laugh at it sometimes when I sometimes pull my hands in to hit a pitch that’s off the plate inside. But it’s definitely a quality that I want to keep, and a weapon to use if they throw it in there.”

Middle-infield partner

Marcus has paired with several different middle infielders over the years, and it seems like consistency at second base would benefit both him and the team. The departure of Jurickson Profar opens up a menu of at least four in-house choices for Oakland, and potentially anyone else they might acquire in the offseason.

“The platoon system has worked out for some teams,” said Semien. “But in my opinion, we’ve got an infield where three guys play every day, and have gotten better year in and year out. So we’ll see what they do at second base.”

[RELATED: Beane reveals he has Kyler on his fantasy football team]

Is this the window?

Optimism is high surrounding a team that has won 194 games over the last two seasons. After seeing the arrival of highly anticipated prospects like A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo debut last year, many are wondering whether Oakland is entering a window for something special over the next three to five years.

But Semien is not focusing on where the A’s have been, but rather where they need to go.

“Our division is only going to get better," he said. "Especially with the Rangers getting a new ballpark and looking to spend more money on free agents. Anaheim has one of the best lineups in the game, if they add pitching they’ll be right up there too.

"For us, we can’t take anything for granted, we need to get better and stay healthy as a group.”