Athletics

The one starting pitcher A's should spend big on in MLB free agency

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The one starting pitcher A's should spend big on in MLB free agency

The A's aren't known for spending a ton of money in free agency, but every once in a while, they catch the baseball world by surprise (see: Yoenis Céspedes).

Oakland's current roster already is chock-full of young talent, so there's no need to go crazy signing expensive free agents. However, if the A's do decide to take a run at one big name, it should be a starting pitcher.

Allow me to introduce Patrick Corbin.

You probably already know the name quite well. A two-time All-Star, Corbin has spent his entire career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he's an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

The 29-year-old left-hander is coming off the best season of his career, going 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. He notched a career-high 246 strikeouts in 200 innings, and limited opponents to a .197 batting average.

Corbin was a bargain at $7.5 million last season, but he figures to get a huge raise in free agency. Could the A's again surprise the baseball world and bring in a new ace in the prime of his career?

Forget the money for a second (easy for us to say!). Corbin would transform the A's starting pitching from a weakness to a strength.

Oakland's rotation could feature Corbin, Mike Fiers, Jesus Luzardo, Edwin Jackson and Daniel Mengden, with A.J. Puk and Jharel Cotton likely to return from Tommy John surgery sometime during the season. Combine that with a strong bullpen and powerful lineup, and the A's would have to be one of the favorites in the American League.

Now back to reality for a moment. Corbin is expected to receive at least $20 million per season, and he reportedly has drawn interest from the Giants, Dodgers, Yankees and Braves. The A's highest-paid player in 2018 was Khris Davis, who earned about half of that at $10.5 million.

Sure, it's unlikely Oakland will throw that type of money at any free agent. But in Corbin's case, it's at least worth considering.

Jessica Mendoza blames A's Mike Fiers for making Astros scandal public

Jessica Mendoza blames A's Mike Fiers for making Astros scandal public

Blaming the whistleblower is far too popular these days. On Thursday morning, Jessica Mendoza became the latest to join the wrong side of history. 

Mendoza, a former gold medalist softball player, blamed A's pitcher Mike Fiers for the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal becoming public information and the way it has "hurt the game." 

"Going public, yeah," Mendoza said Thursday morning on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" when asked if she had a problem with Fiers speaking out on the Astros cheating while with a new team. "I mean, I get it. If you're on the Oakland A's and you're with a different team, I mean, heck yeah. You better be telling your teammates, 'Look, hey, heads up when you're pitching and you hear some noises, this is what's going on.' For sure. But to go public, yeah, it didn't sit well with me. 

"And honestly, it made me sad for the sport that that's how this all got found out. I mean, this wasn't something that MLB naturally investigated or that even other teams complained about because they naturally heard about and then investigations happened. It came from within. It was a player that was a part of it, that benefitted from it in the regular season when he when a part of the team.

"And when I first heard about it, it just hits you like any teammate would. It's something that you don't do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it's hard to swallow." 

Mendoza later tried to explain her remarks. 

Her original comments are wrong on so many levels, but let's start with the conflict of interest here. Mendoza is an MLB broadcaster for ESPN while at the same time working in an advisory role for the New York Mets' baseball operations. There's conflict of interest No. 1. And it doesn't stop there. 

Carlos Beltran was a player on the Astros when they won the World Series in 2017, the year that Houston is accused of electronically stealing signs. He also was the only player named in MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's report on the cheating scandal. How does this tie back to Mendoza? Beltran was hired as the Mets' manager on Nov. 1, 2019.

There's conflict of interest No. 2. 

Shortly after Mendoza's remarks Thursday, Beltran and the Mets mutually parted ways.

In a November report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drelich, Fiers, who joined the A's halfway through the 2018 season, was the first player to confirm the Astros used technology to steal signs. 

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said

On Monday, MLB looked to clean the game up like Fiers wished. 

Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Lunhow were each suspended by MLB without pay for the 2020 season. Houston also had to forfeit its first- and second-round picks for the 2020 and '21 MLB Drafts. On top of that, the Astros were fined $5 million -- the highest allowable fine under the Major League Constitution -- and former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman was placed on baseball's ineligible list through the end of the 2020 World Series. 

Later that day, the Astros announced they fired Hinch and Lunhow.

Alex Cora, who was an Astros bench coach at the time and was linked to electronically stealing signs, parted ways with the Boston Red Sox as their manager Tuesday.

[RELATED: Where Luzardo, Puk rank among lefty pitching prospects]

What Fiers did in November was far from a sad day for baseball. It was an act of courage to put your name next to strong statements instead of hiding behind anonymous quotes. 

What Mendoza did Thursday, however, is nothing more than cowardice.

Where Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk rank among left-handed pitching prospects

Where Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk rank among left-handed pitching prospects

The A's have three no-hitters in their rotation between Mike Fiers and Sean Manaea. They have one of the most intriguing pitchers in baseball with Frankie Montas. And yet, none of those three bring as much excitement and reason for optimism as two young lefties. 

Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk are two of the best young lefties in the game. MLB Pipeline agrees. 

Both Luzardo and Puk were highlighted Wednesday when MLB Pipeline released its list of the 10 best left-handed pitching prospects in the game. Luzardo leads the way for Oakland and is ranked behind only San Diego Padres prospect MacKenzie Gore as the best southpaw prospect. 

Luzardo, 22, jumped one spot from his previous ranking. He made his major league debut last season in September and immediately looked like a future star. The first Peruvian-born big leaguer struck out the first batter he faced in the majors, Houston Astros infielder Aledmys Diaz. 

Luzardo suffered a few setbacks last season, including a Grade 2 lat strain and a shoulder injury. He finished the season with a 1.50 ERA in six appearances out of the bullpen and struck out 16 batters in 12 innings. 

The A's expect Luzardo to play a large role in their rotation next season, however, they likely will limit his innings and keep a keen eye on his health.

Puk dropped two spots in MLB Pipeline's rankings, from No. 5 to No. 7. He also is expected to be a big factor among A's starters this year. 

The 6-foot-7, former No. 6 pick in the 2016 draft, had Tommy John surgery in April 2018 and will need to prove he's built to be a starter. Puk made his big league debut in late August and showed he has plenty of strikeout stuff, though he did struggle with his control at times. 

[RELATED: MLB execs: A's prospects Luzardo, Murphy will thrive in '20]

The former Florida Gator went 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 11 1/3 innings last year. Puk can hit triple digits and has an absolutely nasty slider. 

Luzardo and Puk should be a nightmare for opposing AL West teams for years to come. That's the dream scenario for the A's and their fans alike.