Daric Barton

Diving into the depths: Oakland Athletics

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.

Rotation
1. Dallas Braden
2. Trevor Cahill
3. Brett Anderson
4. Gio Gonzalez
5. Brandon McCarthy
6. Rich Harden
7. Josh Outman
8. Bobby Cramer
9. Tyson Ross
10. Guillermo Moscoso
11. Anthony Capra

The Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour additions would seem to make it more likely that Harden will begin the year in the rotation, but I’m sticking with McCarthy in the fifth slot for now. He’s probably the better pitcher at this point. With the Coliseum aiding and an excellent outfield defense behind him, he could be very good while healthy.

Bullpen
1. Andrew Bailey
2. Brian Fuentes
3. Grant Balfour
4. Craig Breslow
5. Michael Wuertz
6. Brad Ziegler
7. Rich Harden
8. Jerry Blevins
9. Joey Devine
10. Tyson Ross
11. Bobby Cramer
12. Fernando Cabrera
13. Trystan Magnuson
14. Graham Godfrey
15. Vinnie Chulk
16. Mickey Storey
17. Travis Blackley
18. Willie Eyre

I don’t imagine that the A’s will keep all of these guys, but they have some crazy bullpen depth at the moment. Wuertz, Ziegler and Blevins are the best bets to go. The A’s certainly won’t need both Wuertz and Ziegler if Devine looks sharp this spring in his return from Tommy John surgery.

Catcher
1. Kurt Suzuki
2. Landon Powell
3. Josh Donaldson
4. Anthony Recker

First base
1. Daric Barton
2. Conor Jackson
3. Chris Carter
4. Adam Rosales

Second base
1. Mark Ellis
2. Adam Rosales
3. Eric Sogard
4. Andy LaRoche
5. Jemile Weeks

Third base
1. Kevin Kouzmanoff
2. Adam Rosales
3. Andy LaRoche
4. Steven Tolleson
5. Adrian Cardenas

Shortstop
1. Cliff Pennington
2. Adam Rosales
3. Steven Tolleson
4. Grant Green

Third base remains an area of concern after Kouzmanoff’s awful first year in Oakland. The A’s picked up Edwin Encarnacion, only to non-tender him three weeks later. Now they have LaRoche as a potential fallback plan, though he’ll almost certainly play regularly in Triple-A initially. Ideally, Cardenas would step up this year and challenge for the spot if Kouzmanoff falters again. … Tolleson was recently bumped from the 40-man roster, but since it looks like he cleared waivers, he’s an insurance policy on the left side of the infield.

Left field
1. Josh Willingham
2. Conor Jackson
3. Ryan Sweeney
4. Hideki Matsui
5. Chris Carter

Center field
1. Coco Crisp
2. Ryan Sweeney
3. David DeJesus
4. Jai Miller
5. Michael Taylor

Right field
1. David DeJesus
2. Ryan Sweeney
3. Michael Taylor
4. Chris Carter
5. Sean Doolittle

Designated hitter
1. Hideki Matsui
2. Josh Willingham
3. Conor Jackson
4. Chris Carter
5. Sean Doolittle

Hit hard by the injury bug so frequently in recent years, A’s GM Billy Beane has focused on building the deepest team he can, and it really shines through in the outfield and the bullpen. As a result of the Willingham and DeJesus additions, Jackson and Sweeney will be fighting for at-bats as reserves, while Carter and Taylor will both head back to Triple-A. Matsui probably won’t see any outfield time aside from interleague play.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.