Ozuna trade to Cardinals could help A's land outfielder they covet


Ozuna trade to Cardinals could help A's land outfielder they covet

The Cardinals’ reported acquisition of Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins could pave the way for the A’s acquiring fellow outfielder Stephen Piscotty from St. Louis.

It’s easy to connect those dots as the third and final full day of the Winter Meetings unfold. Several outlets have reported that the Cardinals have agreed to terms to acquire Ozuna from Miami, with a physical being the only thing keeping it from becoming official.

The St. Louis-Post Dispatch mentioned Wednesday morning the idea of that trade possibly facilitating a Piscotty deal to Oakland. Acquiring Ozuna certainly would give St. Louis an outfield surplus. The A’s are known to have been targeting Piscotty since well before the Winter Meetings began. He would fit the bill as the right-handed hitting corner outfielder they desire.

Even better for Oakland, Piscotty is young — he turns 27 next month — and is under team control for the next six years. He’s owed $29.5 million over the next five seasons, a figure the A’s could easily absorb, with a club option for 2023 attached.

Piscotty attended Amador Valley High in Pleasanton and then played at Stanford. As the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported, a trade to Oakland also would bring Piscotty closer to his mother, who was diagnosed with ALS earlier this year.

Should the A’s not be able to get Piscotty, they could look elsewhere on the trade market or scan the free agent market, which they’ve expressed a willingness to do.

Frankie Montas turning into the pitcher the A's hoped he would become

Frankie Montas turning into the pitcher the A's hoped he would become

OAKLAND – Frankie Montas has always had the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher at the major league level. Now, at the age of 26, he's converting that potential into reality.

Montas spun 6 1/3 sparkling innings Wednesday night, limiting the red-hot Astros to a single run on just three hits, with six strikeouts. The talented right-hander improved to 3-1 as the A's snapped Houston's 10-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory at the Coliseum.

"You can see his confidence grow every time he goes out there," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "It's starting to be dominant stuff at times."

"I feel like I'm throwing more strikes and having more command of my fastball in and out of the zone," Montas added. "The splitter really helped me a lot too."

That splitter is a new addition to Montas' arsenal, a pitch he sort of stumbled upon this spring.

"Honestly, I kind of just started playing with it in spring training," he said. "I was not really serious about it, but I saw that I could throw it and get good results. I was just trying to get something else for hitters."

Melvin highlighted the importance of the new pitch.

"It's been the key," Melvin said. "It's a true third pitch. His slider was really good too. Sometimes it's tough to tell the difference between the slider and the split. But a mix of pitches like that...he's a tough guy to hit when he's ahead in the count and feeling pretty good."

In four starts this season, Montas has allowed a total of seven earned runs in 23 1/3 innings for an ERA of 2.70. His 0.94 WHIP ranks first among A's starters as does his .190 opponents' batting average.

This is the pitcher the A's were hoping to someday see when they acquired him from the Dodgers in 2016. Early in his career, Montas suffered injury setbacks to his knee and later his ribs, but the ability never went away.

[RELATED: A's place Estrada on IL]

"There was a point in his career where he was on the path to do this," Melvin said. "The injuries sidelined him a little bit and he ended up being a reliever. He got humbled a little bit in relief and had to find a different way to do it, and he did. We saw it all spring and we've seen it all season."

Now fully healthy and brimming with confidence, Montas appears ready to fulfill his destiny as a big-league ace.

How A's Khris Davis changed batting stance to become MLB's best slugger

How A's Khris Davis changed batting stance to become MLB's best slugger

OAKLAND – If you've been watching Khris Davis since his time in Milwaukee, you probably noticed a pretty drastic change in his batting stance after he joined the A's.

Davis stands much more upright now and keeps his hands significantly lower than his stint with the Brewers. He says the adjustment was inspired by a Hall of Famer.

"I think I stand a little more like Griffey now," Davis told NBC Sports California, referencing former Mariners great Ken Griffey Jr. "That's what I thought in my head when I made the adjustment. You can see my hands are a little lower. My rhythm is a little different. Whenever I made that adjustment, it clicked right away and I haven't changed much since then."

Davis was already a pretty good power hitter in Milwaukee, belting 49 home runs between 2014 and 2015. But he took it to another level in Oakland, crushing 42 homers in 2016, 43 in 2017 and 48 last season. This year, he leads the majors with 10 round-trippers through 20 games.

"I think the swing changed with the stance," Davis said. "When I had my hands higher, the doubles weren't home runs. Now, the doubles are home runs."

A comparison of Khris Davis' batting stances in Milwaukee (left) and Oakland (right). "You can see my hands are a little lower," Davis told NBC Sports California. 

Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "I've seen video in the past and everybody makes adjustments from time to time over the course of their career. But what I know is what I've seen here, and it's been all pretty good. You don't need to make too many adjustments when you're hitting 40-plus home runs a year."

While Davis credits Griffey as the inspiration for his current stance and swing, NBC Sports California analyst Bip Roberts sees another former All-Star: longtime Cincinnati Reds outfielder Eric Davis (no relation).

"When we talk about throwing the bat head, Eric Davis was incredibly quick and so is Khris Davis," Roberts explained. "What they're doing is the old school way of hitting, and that's taking the bat head down to the baseball, down through it. And if they get a curveball, they can get under it because they have control of that bat head."

Davis notes that, while his current stance marks a significant change from his Brewers days, it's actually not completely new for him.

"In my head, I've done it throughout my whole life," he said. "The first time I did it when I was young, I hit a home run. That's just the one adjustment I could go to that's worked."

[RELATED: Davis dubbed 'the most interesting player in baseball']

Perhaps the most interesting element of the adjustment is that Davis made it on his own, without the input of A's hitting coach Darren Bush.

"No, that's completely me," Davis said. "Bushy helps me more with the mental side, how to slow the game down. The swing is the swing."

And the swing is effective. Since the start of the 2016 season, Davis leads the majors with 143 home runs.

"Different stances work for different guys," he suggested. "Whatever stance you feel comfortable in is what I recommend."