John Axford

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 08:  Santiago Casilla #46 of the San Francisco Giants pitches in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 8, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Report: Athletics close to signing Santiago Casilla to a two-year deal

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Update (7:54 PM EST): MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that the two-year deal is for $11 million with another $3 million available in performance bonuses.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports is reporting that the Athletics are close to completing a two-year contract with free agent reliever Santiago Casilla.

Casilla, 36, was originally signed by the A’s as an amateur free agent in 2000 and stayed with the club through 2009. He spent the last seven seasons with the Giants. 2016 was arguably his toughest season as a Giant, finishing with a 3.57 ERA, 31 saves, and a 65/19 K/BB ratio.

The Athletics have lots of ninth-inning options as Casilla joins a cast that includes Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and John Axford.

2016 Preview: Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Associated Press
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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2016 season. Next up: The Oakland Athletics. 

The A’s were poised to win the 2014 Wild Card game before they got all Kansas City Royal’d. We’ve all since learned how #Relentless the Royals are, but the Athletics were their first high-profile victim. It’s all gone downhill for Oakland since then.

OK, that’s overstating things. But 2015 was a disaster for Oakland. They were particularly bad in one-run games last year, suggesting that they were, perhaps, better than their 94 losses suggested (and, indeed, their Pythagorean record was a significantly better 77-85). In order to fix that Billy Beane and new GM David Forst completely remade the bullpen, getting rid of everyone of note apart from Sean Doolittle and bringing in Ryan Madson, Liam Hendriks, John Axford and Mark Rzepczynski. Bullpens being what they are (i.e. unpredictable) this could either be a significant improvement or, well, not, but it’s definitely an attempt to fix a problem area. Given the talent acquired, the pen should be better.

The lineup was pretty lackluster last year and they may have actually been worse than their rank in runs scored — ninth in the AL — suggests given some decent luck with runners in scoring position. There have been changes here as well, with the addition of Khris Davis, who slugged 27 homers last year for Milwaukee. Davis does not a walk a ton and his overall value is dependent on how many of his non-homers find holes in the infield, but the pop is a welcome addition. Beyond him: no great shakes but no real problem areas either. There is some nice upside potential from Billy Burns and Marcus Semien. It could be a good, consistent offense, even if it’s not a particularly scary one.

Sonny Gray leads the rotation and he’s a Cy Young candidate. After him it’s a lot like the offense: nothing spectacular, nothing terrible, though a bit more potential for downside than the lineup has. Rich Hill caught lightning in a bottle for four starts in Boston. Spring is a time for optimism so I suppose we can forgive A’s fans from thinking that’s indicative of something for a 36-year-old, but he’s been pretty bad this spring. The A’s rotation may be a work in progress all year, in fact. Jesse Hahn is probably starting the season in Nashville. Henderson Alvarez and Sean Manaea may be back/up at some point. Felix Doubront — thought to be in the ready reserves early in the offseason — could break camp in the rotation. Lots of arms but beyond Gray not much certainty.

It’s hard to get excited about the Athletics’ upside. They should be a better team than last year simply by improving their luck, improving their bullpen, bringing in Davis and seeing some young(ish) players mature a bit, but there do not appear to be any impact players here. It doesn’t feel like a team that has much if any chance to put a scare into Houston or Texas. Or, for that matter, Anaheim.

Prediction: Fourth place, AL West.

John Axford offers up his Oscars predictions

John Axford
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Update (2/29/16 at 12:03 AM EST): Axford went 8-for-11 in predictions. He missed Best Picture (Spotlight), Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance), and Best Original Song (“Writing’s on the Wall”). Still, not too shabby.

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Athletics reliever John Axford has garnered a reputation as a seer when it comes to predicting Oscar winners. Last year, he offered his picks at The Player’s Tribune and we’ve covered his dominance in years past as well.

Axford is back with his latest picks, via ABC News:

  • Best Picture: The Revenant
  • Actor – Leading: Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Actress – Leading: Brie Larson
  • Actor – Supporting: Sylvester Stallone
  • Actress – Supporting: Alicia Vikander
  • Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
  • Cinematography: The Revenant
  • Original Screenplay: Spotlight
  • Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
  • Animated Feature: Inside Out
  • Original Song: “Til It Happens to You”

The Oscars will be aired on Sunday, so we’ll have to wait until then to see how he does.

As for baseball, Axford is coming off of a 2015 season in which he saved 25 games, posted a 4.20 ERA, and compiled a 62/32 K/BB ratio over 55 2/3 innings for the Rockies. The 32-year-old signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Athletics in December.