Athletics

Would A's bats struggle or benefit from MLB limiting defensive shifts?

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AP

Would A's bats struggle or benefit from MLB limiting defensive shifts?

Defensive shifts were at an all-time high last season in baseball. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred would like to do something about that.

On Wednesday, Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported that baseball's competition committee has given Manfred "strong backing" to limit defensive shifts. As Stark notes, any rule change would have to be approved by the players' union.

Defensive shifts primarily affect left-handed hitters, particularly those who hit for power. Last year, teams employed a shift against left-handers 29.6 percent of the time compared to just 8.9 percent against right-handers, according to BaseballSavant.

On the A's, only Matt Olson and Matt Joyce faced the shift on a regular basis. Olson ranked fifth in all of baseball with 350 at-bats against a shift according to FanGraphs, or 60.5 percent of his total at-bats. Joyce was shifted 73 percent of the time for a total of 130 at-bats against a shift.

Olson actually performed well against the shift, batting .300 on balls in play, not including home runs. That was eight points higher than his overall BABIP of .292. Olson benefited from his low ground ball rate of 36 percent, seven points below the league average.

[RELATED: The A's love launch angle and dingers]

Joyce hit .246 against the shift, four points higher than his overall BABIP of .242.

Jed Lowrie faced the shift in 198 at-bats, or 28.1 percent of the time, batting .323 on balls in play. Khris Davis hit against a shift in 20.8 percent of his at-bats, recording a BABIP of .248.

Matt Chapman and Dustin Fowler also occasionally faced shifts, as did Stephen Piscotty, Marcus Semien, and Ramón Laureano to a lesser extent.

On defense, the A's themselves shifted 16.7 percent of the time, ranking 15th in baseball. The Astros shifted a staggering 37.3 percent of the time, far more than anyone else in the league. The Angels shifted the least at just 3.4 percent.

It remains to be seen if baseball will actually take action to limit defensive shifts, and if they do, it's still unclear what rules they would implement. Either way, it would likely affect other teams more than the A's.
 

A's sign free-agent outfielder Robbie Grossman to one-year contract

A's sign free-agent outfielder Robbie Grossman to one-year contract

Spring training is here and the A's are adding to their depth in the outfield. 

The A's have officially signed outfielder Robbie Grossman, the team announced on Friday. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was first to report the news on Wednesday.

Grossman, 29, hit .273 with a .751 OPS last season for the Twins. He was also worth 1.5 bWAR. 

[RELATED: Brett Anderson re-signs with A's on one-year contract]

The switch-hitter also brings versatility on defense. Grossman has experience at all three outfield positions. In 2018, he played 52 games in right field, 34 in left field and served as the DH 36 times. 

A's should target a pair of pitchers as Marlins' fire sale continues

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USATSI

A's should target a pair of pitchers as Marlins' fire sale continues

At the rate they're going, the Marlins might not be able to field a team on Opening Day.

Last week, Miami traded talented young catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies, continuing their seemingly never-ending fire sale. As ESPN's Sam Miller pointed out, the Marlins have now traded 23 of their top 25 players in franchise history, based on WAR.

With Miami clearly tanking this year, there might be an opportunity for the A's to add some talent before the season starts. CBS Sports' R.J. Anderson listed nine players who could soon be shipped off by the Marlins. We've selected two the A's should target:

José Ureña - SP

José Ureña would have a chance to be the A's number one or two starter. The 27-year-old right-hander is coming off a solid 2018 season with the Marlins, going 9-12 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 174 innings.

Ureña was even better in 2017, finishing 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA. He has always had great stuff but has struggled a bit with his command. Getting out of Miami would probably serve him well, and what better place to pitch than the Oakland Coliseum?

Ureña will earn just $3.2 million this season and is under team arbitration control through 2021, making him even more attractive to a team like the A's. With Oakland's wealth of outfielders and prospects, a trade for Ureña wouldn't be unrealistic.

[RELATED: A's manager Melvin praises Luzardo's wicked breaking ball]

Dan Straily - SP

Dan Straily is another starter who could help solidify the A's rotation. The veteran right-hander began his career in Oakland, spending three seasons with the A's from 2012-14.

Last year, Straily went 5-6 with a 4.12 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 122 1/3 innings. The 30-year-old has a career ERA of 4.23 in seven Major League seasons.

Straily is scheduled to make $5 million this season and has one more year of arbitration control. He could potentially slot in as the A's number three or four starter and likely wouldn't cost a whole lot to acquire.