Andrew Bailey was shut down in September and underwent “cleanup surgery” to remove bone chips from his elbow, but Jane Lee of MLB.com reports that the A’s closer has been cleared to resume throwing.
For now he’s throwing from 60 feet, but the plan is for Bailey to stretch things out to 120 feet by the time pitchers and catchers report for spring training in mid-February, leaving him enough time to be ready for Opening Day.
Last season the A’s led the league in ERA and ranked 11th in runs scored while finishing 81-81, but after adding Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, and David DeJesus to the lineup they look like potential contenders again in the AL West. For that to happen they’ll likely need a healthy Bailey, as he’s thrown 132 innings with a 1.70 ERA in his first two seasons.
Now that the A’s have reportedly pulled themselves out of the bidding for Adrian Beltre the Angels are the presumed front-runners for the free agent third baseman, but T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com speculates that the Rangers will remain in the mix “long enough to drive up the price at the expense of the Angels.”
There were rumblings during the winter meetings that Texas could potentially sign Beltre and either pursue a Michael Young trade or move him to designated hitter while not re-signing Vladimir Guerrero, but Sullivan notes that the Rangers “don’t seem to be keen on paying him $70 million over five years” and that likely wouldn’t be enough to sign Beltre anyway.
Last week the Angels were said to have offered $70 million for five years, while the A’s reportedly offered Beltre a five-year deal worth $64 million early in the offseason before getting frustrated with the negotiations and dropping out. Few other teams have been linked to him publicly, which is uncharacteristic for a Scott Boras client.
Rich Harden’s one-year, $1.5 million contract with the A’s became official yesterday and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that he’ll compete for a rotation spot in spring training, with a spot in the bullpen looming as the fallback option.
Harden indicated that he’d prefer to remain a starter, but told Slusser that he’s not against the idea of moving to the bullpen if necessary: “When I have pitched out of the bullpen I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve always wanted to do it sometime in my career, so I’m not opposed to it.”
Harden has essentially never been healthy as a starter, going on the disabled list nine times in eight seasons and throwing more than 150 innings just once during that time, so it would make sense to see if shorter outings as a reliever could keep him off the DL and perhaps even give his velocity a boost after his fastball lost some zip over the past few seasons.
He went 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA and 75/62 K/BB ratio in 92 innings spread over 18 starts and two reliefs outings for the Rangers, marking the first time Harden’s performance has slipped significantly along with his annual injuries.
Minnesota won the exclusive negotiating rights to Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a $5.3 million bid and eventually signed the Japanese infielder to a three-year, $9.25 million contract, and this afternoon general manager Bill Smith revealed that the Twins also finished runner-up in the bidding for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.
In an interview with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey on 1500-ESPN radio, Smith explained that the Twins bid $7.7 million for the negotiating rights to Iwakuma. Oakland blew that number out of the water with their winning $19.1 million bid, but then the A’s were unable to work out a contract with Iwakuma and he returned to Japan angry.
Based on Iwakuma’s reported asking price it seems likely that the Twins also would have balked at his demands, but had the posting fee been $7.7 million instead of $19.1 million it’s possible he would have asked for significantly less money and/or the Twins would have had more room in the total budget for the acquisition to offer him a palatable contract.
Whatever the case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Iwakuma is up for bid again next offseason.
When the A’s opted against calling up Travis Buck from Triple-A in September the writing was on the wall for his departure from Oakland, and sure enough the former first-round pick was non-tendered a few weeks ago.
Buck made it to the majors less than two years after the A’s picked him in the first round out of Arizona State and hit .288 with an .850 OPS in 82 games as a 23-year-old rookie in 2007, but he’s spent more time on the disabled list than the field since then while hitting .215 in a grand total of just 88 games in the past three seasons.
Buck will try to resurrect his career in Cleveland after signing a minor-league contract with the Indians and at 27 years old there’s still plenty of time for him to turn things around, but his numbers at Triple-A haven’t even been particularly impressive during the past two seasons and Buck’s lack of power figured to keep him from becoming a star even before all the injuries did him in.