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A’s happy to welcome back ‘overlooked’ Casilla

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 03:13:00 UT

On the day reliever Santiago Casilla officially joined the A’s, he recited an old saying: “It’s always good to go home, and I’m happy to get this new opportunity with the Athletics.” The Giants bade farewell to one of their bullpen stalwarts without making him an offer, instead signing Mark Melancon to close and choosing to hand the setup jobs to younger, cheaper relievers on staff. Giants fans could not wait for Casilla to clear out his locker after he blew nine saves and pouted about the way manager Bruce Bochy used him. Across the bay, the A’s saw Casilla’s messy denouement in San Francisco as an opportunity to bolster their bullpen with a 36-year-old right-hander who started his career with the A’s and who still throws 94 mph. “As we got through the offseason, we felt he was being overlooked a little because of some of the narratives surrounding his departure with the Giants,” Oakland general manager Dave Forst said Friday. Casilla will pitch outside the spotlight of a team expected to compete for a title. [...] while Forst said the right things about the closer role being settled in spring training, Casilla almost certainly will set up Ryan Madson, who had 30 saves last year. According to a source, Bochy sent Casilla a heartfelt letter thanking him for his contributions.

Trevor Plouffe becomes A’s newest third baseman

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:03:11 UT

Plouffe is ready for the big foul ground at the Coliseum, though he says he needs to get more familiar with the bullpen mound down the third-base line. Plouffe, 30, played in only 84 games last season because of injuries and missed the final month with strained oblique and intercostal (ribcage) muscles. With Plouffe’s arrival, Ryon Healy, who in July supplanted Danny Valencia at third base a year after Valencia replaced Brett Lawrie,will play primarily first base, his more natural position, and also will be a designated hitter. A’s general manager David Forst said that Healy still will get 500-plus plate appearances and occasionally will sub at third, but will be mostly at first, along with Yonder Alonso, and at DH. Forst is from the same area as Plouffe and said they know many of the same people — Forst had known Plouffe and Healy’s late high school coach, Scott Muckey, since Forst was 10 years old — and Forst had seen Plouffe play as an amateur. The right-hander went 1-3 with a 3.15 ERA and .230 opponents’ batting average in 16 games after the break, and walked just six batters in 70 innings for the season. Forst said the A’s continue to explore trades and potential free-agent signings; they’ve been linked to free-agent first baseman Mark Trumbo, the major-league home run leader in 2016.

Former Giants closer Santiago Casilla nearing deal with A’s

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 05:55:47 UT

Reliever Santiago Casilla helped the Giants go far during his seven seasons in San Francisco, three of which ended in World Series championships. Casilla’s addition also would give the A’s flexibility to deal another experienced reliever such as Madson, Sean Doolittle or John Axford, between now and the July 31 trade deadline. The contract agreement allows Casilla to earn an additional $1.5 million in each year based on games finished, a clause that rewards him if he becomes Oakland’s closer. Casilla, 36, rose from setup man to closer with the Giants, earning 123 saves to go with the four he had during his first stint with the A’s. [...] Casilla lost the closer’s job during a terrible 2016 season, when he blew nine of 40 save chances, clashed with manager Bruce Bochy over his role and was not among the five relievers whom Bochy picked to try to save a three-run, ninth-inning lead in Game 4 of the Giants’ Division Series against the Cubs, who scored four runs to win the game and series. Casilla was the closer for the 2014 World Series title team, and he earned four saves during that postseason. [...] he struck out a career-best 10.1 batters per nine innings, but he became susceptible to the long ball and the big hit.

GM David Forst: A’s still looking to add offense

Thu, 5 Jan 2017 02:51:24 UT

The A’s are talking to free-agent power-hitter Mark Trumbo, The Chronicle confirmed. Oakland, with a vacancy at designated hitter and apparently willing to spend money, previously made a bid for Edwin Encarnacion, who signed with Cleveland. [...] that we’ve filled center field, we’re open to adding guys in any number of spots. … “You get a little more room to roam and take away hits,” he said. Davis hit a career-high 12 home runs last season for the Indians — plus his memorable, game-tying homer in Game 7 of the World Series — and stole 43 bases in 49 attempts. Davis subsequently bounced around the American League, with stops in Toronto, Detroit and Cleveland. Forst said infielder Jed Lowrie (foot injury), pitcher Chris Bassitt (elbow surgery) and catcher Josh Phegley (knee injury) are making “good progress” in their recoveries. … The A’s named Don Schulze as Double-A Midland’s pitching coach this season. Chronicle staff writer Susan Slusser contributed to this report.

A’s sign Rajai Davis to fill center-field needs

Wed, 4 Jan 2017 03:51:14 UT

From 2008-2010, Davis hit .287 with 11 homers, 119 RBIs and 159 runs in 369 games with Oakland. Davis is a right-handed hitter, which could point toward an opportunity for lefty-hitting minor-league outfielder Jaycob Brugman to make the roster as a backup; the A’s other potential center-field options, Jake Smolinski and Brett Eibner, bat right-handed. In Game 7 of the World Series, Davis crushed a game-tying two-run homer off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning before Chicago came back to win in the 10th. To make room for Davis on the 40-man roster, utility man Max Muncy was designated for assignment.

Desmond’s signing with Rockies a done deal

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 00:30:34 UT

With an abundance of outfielders, the Rockies expect Desmond to move to first base — a spot he’s never played in his career. Desmond was an All-Star outfielder for the Rangers last season when he hit .285 with 22 homers and 86 RBIs. The Rockies gave him a lucrative deal to learn a new skill set at Coors Field, where he’s a .379 career hitter in 23 games. Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis hopes to be back on the mound for spring training after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Bettis said in a statement that he underwent surgery Nov. 29 to have a testicle removed after blood work revealed an abnormality. “I was completely caught off guard by my diagnosis, but have subsequently found that the vast majority of cases occur in men 20 to 40 years of age, and that the survival rate is 99 percent when contained and caught early,” Bettis said in the statement released through his agent, Matt Sosnick. Danks was a first-round pick who went a career-best 15-11 with a 3.72 ERA in 2010.

Bud Selig’s latest words on A’s and Barry Bonds

Tue, 6 Dec 2016 01:11:41 UT

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — On Bud Selig’s watch as commissioner, many teams got new ballparks, including the Giants, but the A’s keep waiting. Selig was selected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday in voting by the Today’s Game Era Committee, an offshoot of the old Veterans Committee, along with longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz. Last month, the A’s shook up their ownership when John Fisher replaced Lew Wolff — Selig’s friend since their days at the University of Wisconsin — as managing general partner. Dave Kaval replaced Mike Crowley as president and is point man for the stadium pursuit. In the new collective bargaining agreement, reached last week, the A’s will lose their generous revenue-sharing checks over the next four years, creating more of an urgency to get a ballpark. Selig formed a three-man committee in March 2009, 93 months ago, to examine the A’s ballpark situation. Selig was commissioner for much of the steroid era and was criticized for not doing enough to stop it. Bonds broke the single-season home run record and career record, previously owned by Selig’s longtime friend, Hank Aaron. [...] we solved it a lot better than I think any of us had a right to believe. Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, who voted for Selig, was asked if the Selig selection will make it more possible for players linked to PEDs to get elected.

New A’s president on CBA, revenues and ‘fan experience’

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 07:02:28 UT

Prettying up the Coliseum is as tough as prettying up Candlestick Park back in the day, but with revenue-sharing checks evaporating, the A’s will be forced to change how they conduct business at 7000 Coliseum Way. Kaval said every dollar of revenue generated will go to “the on-field product and the fan experience.” “We’re 100 percent focused on reinvesting all the revenues that we have on the Coliseum as well as the on-field product and making sure we can be as good as we can, getting the resources necessary to Billy (Beane) and the team to be successful,” Kaval said on a conference call. Kaval said extra revenue could be generated from ticket sales, sponsorships and other sources. The reality is, when you have a vibrant, energized Oakland Athletics fan base at the Coliseum, that’s one of the best experiences in professional sports. Every week for two hours, beginning at 3 p.m., he welcomes fans to visit at the Coliseum owners’ suite. The A’s have reached a contract agreement with first baseman Yonder Alonso. The A’s tendered contracts to all their arbitration-eligible players, including Sonny Gray, Khris Davis, Stephen Vogt and Liam Hendriks. Friday was baseball’s non-tender day, and any players eligible for arbitration who weren’t tendered become free agents. [...] infielder Rangel Ravelo, who was designated for assignment Wednesday when the A’s signed outfielder Matt Joyce, was outrighted to Triple-A Nashville and will be a nonroster invitee to spring training.

A’s, Yonder Alonso agree on new deal

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 22:09:20 UT

The A’s tendered contracts to all their arbitration-eligible players, including Sonny Gray, Khris Davis, Stephen Vogt and Liam Hendriks. Friday is baseball’s non-tender day, so any players eligible for arbitration who aren’t tendered become free agents. Pitchers love Alonso’s defense, and he was a reason shortstop Marcus Semien’s error total dropped significantly. Alonso hit .302 with runners on base and went 7-for-11 with the bases loaded. Infielder Ranel Ravelo was outrighted to Triple-A Nashville and will be a non-roster invitee to spring training.

A’s sign outfielder Matt Joyce for 2 years, $11 million

Thu, 1 Dec 2016 07:25:39 UT

“I don’t know if that’s just fate, but I thought that was really cool,” Joyce said Wednesday after the A’s signed him to a two-year, $11 million contract. Joyce’s .403 on-base percentage was an obvious attraction for the A’s, who ranked 28th in the majors in OBP and 27th in walks. Joyce’s OBP was fourth best in the National League among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances. Joyce won’t pinch hit 81 times in the American League as he did in 2016 when he played 140 games but started just 40 and had just 293 plate appearances. Joyce is career .252 hitter against righties, .185 against lefties, but he improved a bit last season to hit .235 in limited action against lefties with a .381 OBP. Forst expressed early interest to Joyce’s agent, Seth Levinson, and Joyce got a good feeling about the A’s from Pirates teammate John Jaso, who played in Oakland in 2013 and 2014. Joyce, whose wife, Brittany, will give birth to the couple’s first child, a girl, in January, was in Oakland on Tuesday for a physical and to have lunch with Forst, manager Bob Melvin, assistant GM Dan Feinstein and trainer Nick Paparesta. [...] Forst said he’s seeking a new center fielder to play between Khris Davis in left and Joyce and a platoon partner in right. To make room on the 40-man roster for Joyce, the A’s designated infielder Rangel Ravelo for assignment.

A’s protect five, including Brugman, Barreto, from Rule-5 draft

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 20:42:14 UT

The A’s protected five promising minor-league players from the Rule-5 draft Friday, placing right-handers Paul Blackburn and Bobby Wahl on the 40-man roster, along with shortstop Franklin Barreto, infielder Yairo Muñoz and outfielder Jaycob Brugman. Muñoz, 21, can play shortstop, second and third and he especially opened up eyes during the Texas League postseason this year, batting .387 in eight games for Double-A Midland en route to the league title. There are some notable names left unprotected, including reliever Tucker Healy, who had a standout season at Nashville, allowing opponents just a .202 average and striking out 76 in 52 1/3 innings; reliever Sam Bragg, who has had a nice Arizona Fall League season, putting up a 1.98 ERA; and well-regarded starter Dylan Covey, who was 2-1 with a 1.84 ERA in six starts at Midland before missing the remainder of the season with an oblique strain. Covey is pitching in the Fall League and combined with another A’s minor-league, Frankie Montas, and Marlins prospect Drew Steckenrider on a no-hitter earlier this month.

New A’s president Dave Kaval focused on stadium, community

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 06:21:00 UT

New A’s President Dave Kaval believes so strongly that the community should have a say in its sports franchises that he plans to continue his regular open office hours for the public 3-5 p.m. Tuesdays at the Coliseum. During Kaval’s open hours with the Earthquakes, a Bulgarian gentleman frequently visited to urge Kaval to start using 14 players at a time. Kaval, 41, brings a fresh approach and some good humor to the A’s for a task that to date has been nothing but a misery: trying to find a new stadium site for the team. Ultimately, we want to have a stadium that has an ambience around it; those are the stadiums that transform cities,” said Kaval, who added that the A’s were looking at “several areas. Kaval co-wrote a book, “The Summer That Saved Baseball,” about traveling to all 30 of the then-big-league stadiums in 1998, and he has East Bay ties: his wife, Maria, is from Newark, and while based in San Ramon, Kaval founded the independent Golden Baseball League in 2003. Howard Terminal, Laney College and the current Coliseum site are believed to be the top considerations, and Kaval emphasized that the A’s would like to construct shopping and dining options around the privately funded ballpark, too. Kaval will be in charge of the A’s overall budget, but he didn’t commit to an increase in payroll, saying the team might spend more or it might not. [...] could some long-term deals be on the horizon for some of the team’s young players? “I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Kaval said.

A’s shakeup: Wolff, Crowley out as team redoubles stadium efforts

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 04:10:29 UT

The A’s shook up their upper management Thursday and reasserted their commitment to building a privately funded stadium at an unspecified location in Oakland. Dave Kaval, the president of the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team, becomes the team president, replacing Michael Crowley, who had served in that role since 1998. Kaval recently spearheaded the construction of Avaya Stadium, a soccer facility in Santa Clara, and will become the point man to build the A’s a ballpark. Fisher, who has not made himself available to the media, is believed to be most enthusiastic about the proposed Howard Terminal site near Jack London Square; Wolff has been a proponent of building at the Coliseum site once the Raiders’ situation becomes clear. Kaval, who will continue to serve as the Earthquakes’ president, said that all the sites, including the Coliseum, have the potential for a “ballpark village” around them, noting that San Jose’s vibrant Santana Row shopping and dining area was once a parking lot. Wolff, 80, said by phone that his age was a consideration in stepping down, but he will not be departing entirely and plans to be at many games and spring training. The Chronicle reported Oct. 31 that with the possibility the A’s might lose their annual revenue-sharing check — worth upward of $30 million — in the collective bargaining agreement being negotiated between players and owners, one of the owners might look to sell. Wolff will sell most of his stake to the rest of the ownership group and become chairman emeritus of the club. [...] with John Fisher and Dave Kaval’s new roles within the organization and their extensive expertise in private stadium development, I look forward to ushering in another incredible era for the team and our city. There are no indications that the leadership shakeup will have any impact on the A’s 2017 payroll — Kaval said spending might go up or it may not — but it’s possible the change could help forestall the loss of revenue-sharing should the union and MLB owners be convinced the team is in serious pursuit of a new stadium.

Lew Wolff out as A’s managing partner; new role for Michael Crowley, too

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 17:30:58 UT

Lew Wolff, the longtime managing partner of the A’s ownership group, is stepping away from that role and selling most of his stake in the club to the team’s other owners, The Chronicle has learned. [...] Michael Crowley will move from team president to a senior advisor to the ownership group. The Chronicle reported on Oct. 31 that one or more of the A’s owners might sell stakes in the club because of the looming possibility that the team will no longer receive revenue-sharing money in the new collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association.

Dave Roberts, Terry Francona earn Manager of Year awards

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 02:52:46 UT

Dave Roberts of the Dodgers won the National League Manager of the Year award and Terry Francona, who took Cleveland to the World Series, earned AL honors. Roberts led Los Angeles to the NL West title despite the Dodgers putting 28 different players on the disabled list, more than any other team in the past 30 years. Francona guided a club beset by injuries and drug suspensions to a surprising first-place finish. Christenson won titles with Double-A Midland in each of the past two seasons and has not failed to make the postseason in four seasons as a minor-league manager, putting up a record of 323-236. The Chronicle learned that the A’s have brought back three of their minor-league free agents, including left-handed starter Felix Doubront, who missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery, and catcher Matt McBride, who had three stints in Oakland and appeared in 12 games. Major League Baseball gave 50-game drug suspensions to two A’s minor-leaguers: left-handed pitcher Kevin Duchene (drug of abuse) and catcher Beau Taylor (amphetamine).