Athletics

Rich Hill 'incredibly thankful' for time spent with A's

Rich Hill 'incredibly thankful' for time spent with A's

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The A’s didn’t make waves in the opening stages of the winter meetings, but one of their former pitchers did.

Rich Hill signed a three-year $48 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In doing so, he returns to the team that acquired him from Oakland at last summer’s trade deadline.

It’s quite a career pinnacle for Hill, 36, who the A’s took a chance on last winter by signing him to a one-year $6 million deal. The lefty was less than a year removed from pitching in independent ball with the Long Island Ducks, a move he made to transition back to starting after years pitching in relief.

Hill showed emotion at times as he addressed reporters Monday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. He also expressed gratitude for his half-season in green and gold. The lefty flourished in 14 starts with Oakland, going 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA before the trade. That validated him as a legitimate big league starter and helped pave the way for Monday’s payday, as Hill stood out as arguably the top starter available in a thin free agent pitching market.

“Obviously that’s an opportunity we were incredibly thankful for,” Hill said. “To be able to do that with Oakland, be re-established as a starting pitcher. When you look back at that time, I’m extremely humbled by that but also the opportunity in Boston and going back even to Long Island. Connecting the dots going backward, we feel very fortunate getting to this point. But all those things had to fall into place.”

Hill said his camp had discussion with several teams this winter, but that there was no meaningful dialogue with the A’s about a return. Now the Dodgers hope he can bolster their rotation for the next three years behind superstar ace Clayton Kershaw.

Hill turns 37 in March, so signing him to a three-year deal can be viewed as going out on a limb. But Hill says he looks to other older pitchers as an example of what can be accomplished even pushing beyond a 40th birthday.

“You see guys like R.A. (Dickey) and Bartolo (Colon), who are still pitching into their mid-40’s, it’s inspiring because it’s something I would love to do,” he said. “ However, we all know the body clock says other things.”

A’s officials weren’t scheduled to arrive at the winter meetings until Monday evening, with the first media availability for Oakland’s front office set for Tuesday. At the top of their to-do list is finding an everyday center fielder, either through free agency or a trade.

Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

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Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

OAKLAND – It really was a freak injury. One swing of the bat, a seemingly inconsequential foul ball.

But during Thursday's loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Matt Olson knew right away something was wrong.

"I generally have a pretty high pain tolerance," the A's first baseman said Sunday. "I couldn't grip the bat when I came back (to the dugout) so I knew something was up."

It turned out Olson had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He underwent hamate excision surgery Friday in Los Angeles, and will be out indefinitely.

"It sucks," Olson admitted. "The timing of it is good and bad. Good because I get five or six days here to get ahead, but it sucks because it's the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point."

A's manager Bob Melvin added: "There are certain guys who you feel like are a little more replaceable than others. He's a tough one. ... He makes everybody in the infield better. All you've got to do is get it over in his direction. He's got a wide wingspan and he picks everything out of the dirt.

"It's tough not having him out there, but that's why we have a Mark Canha, a (Jurickson) Profar, and a Chad Pinder. It gives somebody else an opportunity."

Olson was not given a timetable for his return, but he noted a wide variance in other players with the same injury, anywhere from four to eight weeks. While he's obviously disappointed, he believes the team can survive without him.

"We've got guys -- Canha, Pinder, (Franklin) Barreto, and Profar -- all of those guys are very established and have good at-bats," Olson said. "They're guys who are going to get more at-bats because of it. I don't think it's a bad thing. It sucks for me, but I'm glad these guys are going to get a little more regular playing time."

[RELATED: A's have options at first base in light of Olson injury]

Although he hasn't missed any games yet, Olson joked he has already experienced the effects of sporting a cast on his right hand in his everyday life.

"I had to go to the store today to get stuff for my apartment. I got a ton of stuff. Then I got to the apartment complex, and thought I was going to have to make like five trips because I can only carry things with one hand," he laughed.

As Olson adjusts to life with just one functional hand, the A's must adjust to life without Olson's powerful bat in the lineup and his slick glove in the field. In both cases, it will be a difficult process.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.