Athletics

MLB free agency: Five starting catchers the A's could target

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MLB free agency: Five starting catchers the A's could target

Last week, the A's agreed to terms with backup catcher Josh Phegley on a one-year deal. But Oakland still needs to sign a starting catcher

Fortunately, it's a deep catcher market this offseason. Here are five potential names the A's could consider:

Jonathan Lucroy

Why not begin with last year's starting catcher? Lucroy gave the A's exactly what they needed last season, from defense to clubhouse leadership. While his offensive numbers were a bit down, he still slashed .241/.291/.325 with four home runs and 51 RBI, sixth-most among American League catchers. Lucroy also led MLB with 31 runners caught stealing.

The 32-year-old earned $6.5 million last year, but Spotrac lists his current market value at just $2.3 million. Other teams might be scared off by his recent decrease in offensive production, but Lucroy's value goes far beyond the numbers.

James McCann

McCann became a free agent last week when he was non-tendered by the Tigers. The 28-year-old is coming off the worst season of his career, slashing .220/.267/.314 with eight homers and 39 RBI. But the year before, McCann's slash line was a solid .253/.318/.415.

Like Lucroy, McCann is a stellar defensive catcher and knows how to manage a pitching staff. He earned $2.375 million last season and was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to get $3.5 million in arbitration, making him affordable for the A's.

Matt Wieters

Wieters is a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, though his production has declined the last two seasons. Still, he slashed a respectable .238/.330/.374 last year for the Nationals. He also threw out 37 percent of attempted base stealers, well above the league average of 28 percent.

Wieters, 32, earned $10.5 million last season but figures to get less than that in his next contract. Of course, with Scott Boras as his agent, he will still likely command a hefty sum.

Martin Maldonado    

The A's have become quite familiar with Maldonado the last two seasons with the Angels and Astros. The 32-year-old has never lit it up offensively but has always been solid behind the plate.

Last season, Maldonado slashed .225/.276/.351 with nine home runs and 44 RBI in 119 games between Los Angeles and Houston. More impressively, he led all of baseball with a 49 percent caught stealing rate. Maldonado earned $3.9 million last year, which Spotrac also lists as his current market value. 

Nick Hundley

Finally, the A's could just look across the bay for a potential catching option. Hundley slashed .241/.298/.408 last season with the Giants, belting 10 home runs in just 96 games. However, the 35-year-old's defense is a bit of a concern, as he only threw out 21 percent of attempted base stealers in 2018.

Hundley earned $2.5 million last year and will certainly be affordable on the free agent market. He could, at the very least, split time with Phegley behind the plate in Oakland.
 

A's 2019 projections: Mike Fiers looks to repeat strong performance

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A's 2019 projections: Mike Fiers looks to repeat strong performance

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

When the A's non-tendered Mike Fiers in November, it seemingly marked the end of his tenure in green and gold. But just a few weeks later, Oakland re-signed the veteran right-hander to a two-year, $14.1 million deal, addressing their need for starting pitching.

Fiers performed well last year after coming over from the Tigers. The 33-year-old made 10 appearances with Oakland, including nine starts, going 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. For the season, Fiers went 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 172 innings. In eight career seasons, he has an ERA of 4.04.

Fiers was especially effective at the Oakland Coliseum, going 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA in six starts. While he is not necessarily a strikeout pitcher, he does a great job limiting walks and should benefit from the A's solid defense behind him.

Baseball Reference projects Fiers to go 10-9 next season with a 4.22 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. They also predict 139 strikeouts in 160 innings.

We expect better numbers than that for Fiers, who will anchor the A's rotation, especially during the first half of the season. Although he allows a high percentage of fly balls, pitching at the Coliseum will benefit him, as will Oakland's stellar defense.

[RELATED: Fiers' two-year contract makes A's look like geniuses]

Last year marked Fiers' best season since 2014 when he posted an ERA of 2.13 with Milwaukee. He seems to be getting better with age as he continues to hone his command and mix his pitches. We see no reason for that to change next season.

Projection: 13-8, 3.69 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 141 K, 171 IP

Source: A's unlikely to re-sign reliever Shawn Kelley in free agency

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Source: A's unlikely to re-sign reliever Shawn Kelley in free agency

Shawn Kelley played a significant role in the A's stellar bullpen last season, but NBC Sports California has learned the veteran right-hander is unlikely to re-sign with Oakland.

Kelley, 34, has reportedly been in talks with about 10 teams, and his agent Mike McCann confirmed to NBC Sports California that the A's are not among those clubs.

The two sides did have conversations earlier this offseason but have not spoken since Oakland signed right-hander Joakim Soria to a two-year, $15 million deal nearly a month ago.

Kelley earned $5.5 million last season and is projected to get a similar amount next year. As much as the A's would like to bring him back, they have identified starting pitching as a higher priority.

After joining the A's from the Washington Nationals last year, Kelley went 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 19 games. Overall, he finished the season 2-0 with a 2.94 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 54 appearances.

He has a career ERA of 3.67 in 10 big league seasons.

Even without Kelley, the A's will boast one of the strongest bullpens in baseball next season. Oakland will bring back All-Star closer Blake Treinen, as well as setup men Fernando Rodney, Lou Trivino, J.B. Wendelken, and Ryan Buchter.

The addition of Soria will add even more depth to the group.

The A's would ideally like to sign another left-handed reliever to join Buchter in the pen, but again, starting pitching is the top priority.

Veteran starters Edwin Jackson and Brett Anderson are both still in the mix to return, though nothing appears imminent.