Athletics

With playoffs looming, Brett Anderson shows A's a glimmer of hope

With playoffs looming, Brett Anderson shows A's a glimmer of hope

OAKLAND -- In what is now a 10-game season for the Oakland Athletics, every game not started by Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson or Bull J. Pen is essentially a mini-referendum on how manager Bob Melvin decides to set his postseason pitching rotation.
 
Or, to use Melvin’s words after the A’s 10-0 dance party over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, “We’re obviously going to need more than just the two guys, so yeah, I guess you can put it that way.”
 
And then he knocked on the dry wall he was leaning against in the A’s clubhouse to ward off bad juju. The A’s aren’t a playoff team yet, and superstitious old goat that he is, Melvin never leaves anything available for hexing.
 
“That is,” he said, “if we get in.”
 
Enter Brett Anderson, throwing nothing but sliders and sinkers and becoming the first A’s starter in almost a month to reach, let alone get an out, in the seventh inning. In limiting the Angels to three harmless singles and forcing them to pound 12 ground-ball outs, Anderson left an impression that both he and his manager hopes can linger awhile, if only to minimize the temptation to bullpen a playoff game.
 
Knock dry-wall.
 
“It was good to be a reason we were winning instead of a reason we were losing,” Anderson said, referencing his skittish start in Baltimore against the laughable Orioles a week ago. “Tonight, it was pretty much just having early control and quick outs.”
 
And a six-run fourth inning doesn’t hurt, either. Two two-run doubles by Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty jumped Angels starter Felix Pena, followed up an inning later by Piscotty’s three-run homer off Parker Bridwell, gave Anderson all the cover he could have wanted, and the rest was him showing Melvin that he can be a trustworthy part of a playoff rotation.
 
Knock dry-wall.
 
“It’s been hard (to extend starters into a third swing through the opposition order) the way we’re set up,” Melvin said, “but Brett was just so efficient tonight. I think he threw two breaking balls the whole night, and I thought he had a pretty good one in the bullpen.”
 
Pitching coach Scott Emerson thought it might have been three, and Anderson barely remembers any. But the two pitches Anderson did favor were more than plenty to stop the trickle of blood caused by a three-game losing streak and the refusals of either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays to lose when the A’s need them to do so the most.
 
As it was, the A’s whittled one unit off their magic number for clinching a playoff by taking matters into their own hands, and moved back to four behind Houston, which lost to Seattle. Thus, the earliest they can clinch their place in October would be Saturday, and that presumes that the Rays will ever lose again, which in their present state may simply be too much to conceive.
 
So let’s just say that the A’s will have to do what must be done without the kindnesses of the strangers closest to them in the standings. Let’s also say that the most important of the 10 important games left will be the ones in which either Anderson (this coming Monday in Seattle and Sunday in Los Angeles) or Trevor Cahill (Friday against Minnesota and Wednesday in Seattle) start. I mean, bullpenning is a kicky little way to get through a day here or there, but the playoffs are a difficult time to go experimental. Besides, the wild card game is essentially a bullpenning game anyway if the starter struggles early.
 
And with that last reference to the postseason, we take our nightly leave of Oakland, where Bob Melvin is frantically knocking on his desk, which is made of actual wood rather than mere dry-wall. He is nothing is not devoted to his superstitions.

Khris Davis contract extension 'an ongoing conversation' with A's

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USATSI

Khris Davis contract extension 'an ongoing conversation' with A's

LAS VEGAS -- While the A's focus at the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings understandably is on free agents, they haven't forgotten about their most valuable player.

Khris Davis is set to become a free agent after next season, and A's general manager David Forst said Monday that the team still is discussing a contract extension.

"It continues to be an ongoing conversation," he said. "Khris is going to be here in 2019 no matter what, so the sense of urgency right now is making sure we build the rest of the roster. But Khris is a huge priority for us, and that conversation is always ongoing."

Davis earned a team-high $10.5 million last season, and he's expected to receive a major raise in arbitration. MLB Trade Rumors projects the number to be $18.1 million.

While completing next year's roster is the focus right now, Forst has made it clear to Davis that he is a top priority.

"His representatives know," Forst said. "Not that much time has passed since the last time I talked to Khris' representatives. So it is constantly ongoing."

Davis, 30, has recorded 40 or more home runs and 100 or more RBI in each of his last three seasons, joining Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx as the only two players in A's history to accomplish the feat. Since 2016, Davis leads all of baseball with 133 homers.

"I envision myself winning a championship in Oakland," Davis told NBC Sports California last season. "We've got a great group of guys I like to be around and just grow with them on a daily basis. I like where I'm at right now."

MLB rumors: Jonathan Lucroy, A's far apart in contract negotiations

MLB rumors: Jonathan Lucroy, A's far apart in contract negotiations

LAS VEGAS -- A's general manager David Forst said the team definitely will add another catcher this offseason, but it's looking like it might not be 2018 starter Jonathan Lucroy.

Lucroy and the A's are far apart on potential salary figures, The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported Monday, citing sources. According to Slusser, the 32-year-old would accept a one-year deal for the right price, but the A's are offering under $5 million, and he wants more than that.

Lucroy earned $6.5 million from the A's last season, but Spotrac lists his current market value at just $2.3 million because of his subpar offensive numbers. He slashed .241/.291/.325 with four home runs and 51 RBI in 126 games.

Of course, Lucroy's value goes far beyond his offensive production. Last season, he helped Oakland's pitching staff navigate through numerous injuries, and he provided stellar defense behind the plate. Lucroy led the majors in runners caught stealing, though he also allowed the most stolen bases.

[RELATED: A's staying patient in pitching pursuit as MLB Winter Meetings begin]

Lucroy has shown he is willing to be patient in free agency. He didn't sign with the A's until March last offseason. But this year's catcher market is much deeper, and he could struggle to get his desired salary from anyone.

Some of the other free-agent options at catcher include Wilson Ramos, Yasmani Grandal, Martin Maldonado, James McCann, Matt Wieters and Nick Hundley. The A's also could pursue a catcher via trade.

Currently, Josh Phegley is the only catcher on Oakland's 40-man roster, though the A's have Sean Murphy and Beau Taylor under contract in the minors.