NASHVILLE – The A’s have a clear idea of the type of starter they’re going after.
Reeling him in will be the challenge.
Manager Bob Melvin, speaking at length for the first time since the offseason began, would like a veteran No. 2 starter to slot in behind ace Sonny Gray.
“We’re looking at some veteran guys right now,” Melvin said. “Whether or not we’ll be able to sign them, I’m not sure yet.”
The potential hang-up – you guessed it – is money. It was just recently that the A’s were saying that financial constraints, relatively speaking, wouldn’t be the overriding factor in their free agent pursuits. Then they raised eyebrows with the agreement of reliever Ryan Madson to a three-year, $22 million contract, a move that has not been officially announced yet. That was an overspend in the eyes of some around the game, but a key acquisition from the A’s standpoint based on last year’s bullpen woes.
Billy Beane, their executive VP of baseball operations, says the 2016 payroll will increase slightly over last year’s $83.8 million Opening Day figure. But he added that the pitching search is “starting to become a little limited in terms of payroll.”
Beane was asked if the A’s are still targeting starters who would require multi-year commitments or more one-year type guys.
“Both, but there’s a small number of guys that could sort of fit that (affordable multi-year) group,” he said. “There are some guys we’re not gonna meet with.”
Unless Beane is sandbagging, that would seem to eliminate a reunion with left-hander Scott Kazmir -- expected to land a minimum length of three years at around $15 million annually or more – and others among the second-tier free agents who are still available.
To Melvin, whoever the A’s bring in doesn’t necessarily have to boast No. 2 starter credentials.
“It's usually more of a veteran-type guy, and maybe not even a production guy,” the manager said. “It’s more taking the pressure off some of the younger guys. I mean, you potentially could put a veteran guy in the ‘2’ hole even though you might get more production out of your ‘3’ and ‘4’ guys. But it's just kind of taking a little bit of the pressure off.”
It wouldn’t be a surprise if one-time Athletic Bartolo Colon came into play for the A’s, though the Mets reportedly are interested in re-signing him. Someone like Doug Fister, a Northern California native who’s coming off a down year with Washington and might be had on a one-year deal, might also fit the bill.
The A’s have hope that Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Chris Bassitt can take a step forward after last season’s experience in the rotation. Hahn, who missed the final three months with a strained forearm, isn’t expected to have any restrictions when spring training begins in February.
The same goes for Jarrod Parker, and Beane reiterated that he’s eyeing Parker as a potential starter. The 27-year-old right-hander has undergone two reconstructive elbow surgeries and fractured the same elbow in May. That’s led to a school of thought that perhaps it’s wisest to pitch him out of the bullpen, which would allow him to mainly be a fastball/changeup guy and maybe save some stress on his elbow.
Parker told CSN California in November that he thinks his best role will be obvious based on how he’s throwing come spring camp.
“Obviously his health is going to dictate everything,” Beane said. “… I like Jarrod as a starter, that’s where his value was for us. If for some reason it’s medically recommended he (shouldn’t start), for some good objective reason, well, at that point we (have him relieve). But that hasn’t been the case.”