Athletics

Report: A's out of the running for Japanese star Shohei Ohtani

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Report: A's out of the running for Japanese star Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani has reportedly narrowed the group of teams he’ll consider signing with, and it appears the A’s are out for the Japanese sensation who’s making the jump to the major leagues.

The Athletic reported Sunday that the A’s were among a number of teams told over the weekend that they didn’t make the cut. Ohtani and his representatives are planning to meet with clubs they’re interested in over the coming week. He reportedly is leaning toward signing with a West Coast team, with the Yankees and Red Sox among the more high-profile teams said to be out of the running.

The Giants, in the thick of trade talks for Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, and the Seattle Mariners are two teams that will indeed meet with Ohtani, according to Yahoo Sports.

The A’s were never considered one of the favorites to land the two-way star, who desires to make an impact as both a pitcher and hitter in the bigs. But, like most all of the other 30 teams, Oakland felt it was worth throwing its hat in the ring for his services.

The 23-year-old Ohtani is classified as an international amateur, meaning he’s subject to international spending pool limits and therefore can’t command a large contract right away. That seemingly leveled the playing field for him and gave most teams optimism they had a shot for him, regardless of payroll size. The A’s were among many teams who sent a detailed presentation to Ohtani’s camp that essentially served as a sales pitch, with Oakland reportedly offering the chance for Ohtani to play the outfield on his non-pitching days.

Though Ohtani will come at an incredible bargain for whatever team lands him, the A’s still were hamstrung financially in trying to sign him. Because of penalties stemming from July 2016, when they spent way over their bonus pool limit to sign a group of highly touted international prospects, the A’s could only offer Ohtani a maximum $300,000 bonus. Several other clubs have the capability of offering a seven-figure bonus.

With the annual winter meetings just a week away in Orlando, Fla., the A’s remain on the lookout for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder and left-handed relief help. They’re also keeping an eye out for starting pitching, though front officials don’t categorize that as a major priority.

Jed Lowrie hopes A's front office recognizes opportunity this year

Jed Lowrie hopes A's front office recognizes opportunity this year

The Oakland A's last made the playoffs in 2014. Beginning about a month after Salvador Perez walked Oakland off in the 12th inning of the AL Wild Card Game, the A's began the process of reshaping their team, trading away key players such as All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson and letting others walk away in free agency.

Oakland second baseman Jed Lowrie, who's set to appear in his first-ever MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday, was one of those players. Naturally, the 34-year-old has a unique perspective, now that his A's have the sixth-best record in baseball. 

On Monday, Pedro Martinez asked Lowrie on MLB Network if the A's are going to stay together this time.

"You know, I've been in Oakland when we've actually added pieces," Lowrie said. "And I think that front office knows an opportunity when they see it, and hopefully they see the opportunity this year because I think we've got a good group."

His bosses might be one step ahead of him. A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Bean told The Athletic on Friday that his team is prepared to add at the trade deadline. General manager David Forst, meanwhile, told Jim Rome last week that his team "deserves a chance to stay together."

Does Lowrie believe it? 

“Like I said, it’s a smart group, and I think they recognize an opportunity when it presents itself,” Lowrie added in the MLB Network interview.

At 55-42, the A's might just have that opportunity. 

A's top prospect Jesus Luzardo honors Stoneman Douglas High School at Futures Game

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AP

A's top prospect Jesus Luzardo honors Stoneman Douglas High School at Futures Game

While A's top prospect Jesus Luzardo was impressing scouts with his arm at Sunday's MLB Futures Game, all eyes should have been on his feet. 

A graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the 20-year-old Luzardo wore cleats honoring the 17 victims of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida school. 

“It’s for those who passed and the people affected,” Luzardo told USA Today's Ted Berg before his start on Sunday. “After what happened, I’m glad to be here representing them — we have [Stoneman Douglas alum and Cubs first baseman Anthony] Rizzo, we have other guys. But it’s always good to be known that I went to Stoneman Douglas. I’m happy that I grew up there.”

Born in Peru, Luzardo and his family moved to Parkland when he was a baby. Luzardo told USA Today's Ted Berg he was supposed to be at his alma mater on Feb. 14, in order to throw batting practice to his old team, but stayed away from campus after coach Todd Fitz-Gerald told him there was an active shooter. 

Luzardo's honored the victims in his community elsewhere, too. He set up a YouCaring.com fundraiser to create a scholarship fund in honor of one of the victims, athletic director Chris Hixon. The fund has raised already just over $10,060, and is about $5000 shy of its $15,000 goal. 

The A's acquired Luzardo in a midseason trade with the Washington Nationals last season. Luzardo, who MLB.com ranked as the No. 60 prospect in baseball entering the season, moved up to Double-A this season. In 13 starts with the Midland RockHounds, Luzardo has pitched 63.2 innings with a 2.54 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.