The future is bright in Oakland, but the fans may be wary

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They’re 61-76 and sit 20.5 games out of first place, but if you listen to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, the Oakland Athletics have a bright future:

“It’s one of the best collections of talent in baseball right now. They made some mistakes in deceiving themselves (that) they had a chance to do something this year rather than just fully committing to the rebuild, but all signs point to up.”

The reason for the optimism: A good draft, some key international signings, and most importantly, the 24 players they’ve received for Dan Haren, Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin, Joe Blanton, Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay, Marco Scutaro, Matt Holliday and Orlando Cabrera.

Fans’ mileage tends to vary with this sort of thing.  There are certainly a lot of people — myself included — who get excited about a promising-looking bunch of prospects.  Who is going to make it? Who is going to bust? Who is going to get flipped for the guy who, in hindsight, constituted the final piece of the playoff puzzle?  That sort of thing can keep a fan warm all winter, dreaming all spring, and exciting all the following summer.

But A’s fans have been through this before.  There was a parade of great talent in the early part of this decade, and so much of it eventually went away.  To be sure, what was left played some very impressive baseball for a while, but they ultimately fell short, and for some fans close isn’t good enough.

Between that and the fact that ownership has mentally abandoned Oakland, it’s completely understandable if folks fail to buy what Goldstein is selling.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.