Burnt last winter, A's threaten to sit out free agency

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Let down by Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra last winter, the A’s plan to sit out free agency this time, GM Billy Beane told MLB.com on Wednesday. Instead, he wants to go the trade route.

“We’re going to look at young players to fill spots, first and foremost,” Beane said. “If those players we’d like to acquire aren’t obtainable, we’ll consider bringing in guys who can hold the positions down. We’re going to stay disciplined and try to do everything we can to fill those spots with young players.
“So the next step is to continue to bring guys like Andrew [Bailey] up here. That’s our responsibility, and I know the deal. To sign a couple free agents and have three or four press conferences during the winter doesn’t get it done. We’re going to be disciplined.”

With the Angels certain to be in the mix again and both the Mariners and Rangers coming on in a big way, the A’s are certain to need some reinforcements to succeed next year. As things stand now, they’re likely looking at the following lineup:
CF Rajai Davis
RF Ryan Sweeney
LF Scott Hairston
DH Jack Cust
C Kurt Suzuki
3B Eric Chavez
2B Mark Ellis
1B Daric Barton
SS Cliff Pennington
There is some nice outfield depth in the form of Aaron Cunningham, Travis Buck and Eric Patterson, but that’s a lineup without a lot of punch and the team will have to bring in a quality alternative to Chavez at third base in the event that free agent Adam Kennedy departs.
The rotation has Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and a bunch of question marks. Trevor Cahill is a top talent, but he might need some additional minor league time. Vin Mazzaro and Gio Gonzalez both had ERAs in the mid-5.00s last season. Josh Outman probably won’t be an option until the second half following Tommy John surgery.
The bullpen will remain a strong point, especially if Joey Devine makes it back, and the defense should be very good if Cust can be limited to DH duties for the most part. The A’s, though, simply must bring in a couple of quality players if they hope to challenge for the AL West. As is, it looks like they’re in for a rebuilding season. Fortunately, they’ll finally shed Chavez’s contract after next year, potentially putting them into pretty good position for 2011.

Twins’ top prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.

Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.

It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”

Brock Holt has been shut down from game activity

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Things have gone from bad to worse for Red Sox’ outfielder Brock Holt, who was shut down “for the foreseeable future” on Friday after meeting with head trauma specialist Michael Collins. The Red Sox placed Holt on the 10-day disabled list in April after he began experiencing vertigo, the latest in a series of head injuries he’s sustained since last spring.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, the outfielder was initially advised to attempt playing through his symptoms, but it quickly became apparent that the strategy wasn’t going to work. Now, the plan is to shut him down from any game activity in the hopes that he’ll be able to recover from all lingering symptoms before returning to the roster. Club manager John Farrell told reporters that the 28-year-old is still cleared to take batting practice and work on his defense, but won’t continue his rehab starts in Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being.

Holt had been making regular appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox and was batting .209/.292/.372 with two home runs through 14 games this spring. This season marks his fifth run within the Red Sox’ organization. He experienced a bit of a slump at the plate in 2016 and slashed .255/.322/.383 after breaking out during his first All-Star year in 2015.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe suggests that the team’s concern for Holt extends past his setbacks at the plate. It’s still a long road to a full recovery, and while Farrell told reporters he believes the outfielder is on track to make a return sometime in 2017, he’ll need to make sure that Holt is both physically and mentally prepared to do so.