John Axford

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Video: John Axford discusses 2017 Oscar picks

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Sure, it may feel gimmicky to go around asking players to make predictions for the Academy Awards, but when it comes to the Athletics’ John Axford, he knows what he’s talking about. The right-hander has a proven track record of making near-perfect ballot predictions, getting 14 of 15 winners correct in 2013, 18 of 18 in 2014, 17 of 24 in 2015 and 17 of 24 again in 2016.

With a range of award-worthy films to choose from this year, Axford selected the crowd-pleasing (and record-breaking seven Golden Globe winner) La La Land for Best Picture, Manchester By the Sea‘s Casey Affleck for Best Actor and “the sweetheart of Hollywood,” Emma Stone, for Best Actress.

His full ballot was released to Twitter on Saturday, locking in La La Land for eight total Oscars. Going a perfect 24-for-24 might be a near-impossible feat, but if anyone can pull it off, Axford’s the one to do it.

Sonny Gray was denied insurance coverage for the World Baseball Classic

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The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.

According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.

Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.

While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.

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.