Three weeks ago Brian Fuentes was Oakland’s closer, but that went terribly before he quickly gave way to rookie Ryan Cook in the role and today the A’s designated Fuentes for assignment.
He’s likely to clear waivers because no team wants to take on the remainder of his $5 million salary for this season or $500,000 buyout of a $6.5 million option for next season, although it’s possible the A’s might be able to find a taker via trade if they eat basically all the money.
Fuentes was largely a bust for the A’s after signing a two-year, $10.5 million deal as a free agent, clashing with Bob Geren before the manager was fired and posting a 4.64 ERA in 83 innings overall. He never had traditional closer stuff, instead relying a lot on a deceptive delivery, and at age 36 he may simply be finished as more than a sixth- or seventh-inning guy.
Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.
Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.
To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.