Athletics

MLB free agency: Nathan Eovaldi fit Red Sox price range, but not A's

MLB free agency: Nathan Eovaldi fit Red Sox price range, but not A's

The Hot Stove is starting to leave simmer and we can finally feel the heat. This free agency, it's started with pitching. And the second piece to the puzzle is Nathan Eovaldi. 

After becoming a postseason hero, Eovaldi is returning to the Red Sox, according to multiple national reports. The two sides have agreed to a four-year, $67.5 million deal, according to Mark Feinsand. 

For all he did in the Boston's World Series run, Eovaldi clearly placed himself outside of the A's and many others' price range. Between the Rays and Red Sox, Eovaldi went 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA, but then in 22 1/3 innings during the playoffs, he allowed just four earned runs. 

Perhaps no other team in baseball needs starting pitching more than the A's. Oakland essentially has no starting rotation right now -- that's not an exaggeration -- but now they can see how much top arms are costing teams. 

Patrick Corbin cost the Nationals $140 million and the Red Sox are paying Eovaldi, who has already had Tommy John surgery twice, just under $70 million. The A's are already in talks with bringing back Trevor Cahill, which won't take a big chunk out of their wallet.

After surprising everyone last season, Billy Beane has made it clear starting pitching is his No. 1 target this offseason. Does that mean taking a long look at Dallas Keuchel now that Corbin and Eovaldi are gone? 

The Red Sox are primed to make a repeat run, and if the A's want to build off last season, they're going to have to get serious about starting pitchers. 

Two SoCal Little Leagues ban using Astros name after cheating scandal

Two SoCal Little Leagues ban using Astros name after cheating scandal

The surest bet for the A's to avoid the dreaded AL Wild Card Game would be for MLB to follow the lead of a pair of Little Leagues in Southern California. 

The Long Beach Little League and East Fullerton Little League won't have any teams named after the Houston Astros in the wake of Houston's sign-stealing operation coming to light this offseason.

Neither Little League thinks the Astros are a good example for their kids. 

"Parents are disgusted," Long Beach Little League president Steve Klaus told the Orange County Register. "They are disgusted with the Astros and their lack of ownership and accountability. We know there's more to this scandal. What's coming tomorrow? With the Astros, you've got premeditated cheating."

A's pitcher -- and former Astro -- Mike Fiers told The Athletic in November that his old club used a center-field camera to steal opposing catchers' signs in 2017, the year they won the World Series. Astros players or team employees would then bang a trash can to tell their teammates what pitches were coming. 

MLB suspended then-Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch -- who were both fired soon after -- while fining the organization $5 million and docking first- and second-round draft picks in each of the next two years after an investigation confirmed that the Astros stole signs.

Rob Manfred thinks that was punishment enough, but those who called for players to be punished or the team to be stripped of their title probably wish the MLB commissioner had taken note of his counterparts in Southern California. 

[RELATED: Manfred says Fiers did 'a service' revealing Astros scandal]

The A's won 97 games in 2018 and 2019 but finished no better than 6.0 games back of the Astros in the AL West. Oakland subsequently was eliminated in the AL Wild Card Game in both seasons, losing to the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively. 

Could the A's have gone farther without the Astros standing in the way of a division crown? We'll never know the real answer, but the A's in the Long Beach and East Fullerton Little Leagues have one less juggernaut to worry about, at least. 

Rob Manfred says Astros whistleblower Mike Fiers did MLB 'a service'

Rob Manfred says Astros whistleblower Mike Fiers did MLB 'a service'

Rob Manfred didn't love Trevor Bauer calling him "a clown," but the MLB commissioner and the Extremely Online Cincinnati Reds pitcher agree on one thing. 

A's pitcher Mike Fiers was right to lift the lid on the Houston Astros' trash-can-and-video-camera-powered cheating scandal. 

“Mike Fiers, in my view, did the industry a service,” Manfred told ESPN's Karl Ravech in a sit-down interview released Sunday (H/T New York Post). “He opened the door here. Without that opening of the door, we would not have been able to conduct the effective investigation that we did. We would not have been able to impose the disciplines that were imposed. We would not have been able to probably take the prophylactic measures that we’re gonna take with respect to 2020, and it’s important -- painful, but important -- that we clean all that up.”

Fiers told The Athletic in November that the Astros used a camera in center field to record and steal opposing catchers' signs en route to Houston's 2017 World Series title. Those signs would then be relayed to an Astros batter when his teammates or team employees banged on a garbage can. 

The Astros acquired Fiers in a midseason trade that year, and he signed with the Detroit Tigers the following offseason. Fiers told the Tigers about the scheme and later told the A's following a 2018 trade to Oakland. 

Fiers faced criticism from some in baseball, including television analysts Jessica Mendoza and Pedro Martinez, for whistleblowing and breaking what Manfred referred to as the "cone of silence" coming from the clubhouse. Carlos Correa, Fiers' former Astros teammate, said the pitcher should be "man enough" to clear Jose Altuve of the spreading insinuation his 2017 AL MVP was tainted by Houston's cheating. 

The pitcher didn't say that Altuve's was when he first revealed the scheme to The Athletic back in November, and he told the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser on Sunday that the Astros "cheated as a team" in 2017. 

[RELATED: Manfred explains why Astros players haven't been punished]

Fiers will see his former teammates for the first time since going public when the Astros visit the A's in Oakland on March 30. The A's, then, will first play in Houston on April 24.

Don't bet on the fans at Minute Maid Park being as understanding as their Coliseum counterparts or the commissioner.