A's release Jason Giambi

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Earlier this week MLB.com beat writer Mychael Urban speculated that the A’s were debating cutting Jason Giambi loose after manager Bob Geren danced around a question about why they were delaying activating him from the disabled list. Turns out Urban was right on the money, because Oakland released Giambi this afternoon.
The move makes sense from an on-field standpoint, because a last-place team in full-on rebuilding mode has no real need for a 38-year-old who hit .193 with a career-low .697 OPS in 83 games prior to landing on the DL, but it was still probably a tough decision for Billy Beane and company given Giambi’s amazing, MVP-winning run in Oakland from 1995-2001.
In a perfect world Giambi would’ve returned to Oakland for one more season and hit .250 with a bunch of homers and walks while the team hung in contention into September, but the A’s playoff chances basically vanished in May, Giambi looks to be more or less washed up, and the team is better off cycling through young players with an toward the future.
Giambi should be able to latch on somewhere as a part-time player or bench bat if he wants to keep going, because 11 homers, 14 doubles, and 50 walks in 328 plate appearances show that he still has a little something left in the tank. However, his days of being an everyday player are almost surely over and given the aging sluggers who’ve struggled to find work recently it wouldn’t be shocking if this is the end of the line.
Giambi is one of 12 players to appear in over 1,000 games for the A’s since the team moved to Oakland in 1968 and during that time he’s the franchise’s only .300 hitter while also ranking first in OPS, second in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, third in doubles, fifth in homers and walks, sixth in RBIs, eighth in runs, and ninth in hits.

Six of seven players decline $17.9 million qualifying offers

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Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one of seven eligible players to accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer. Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Patrick Corbin, Yasmani Grandal, and Dallas Keuchel each rejected his, officially making them free agents. Teams that had their QO’s rejected will recoup a draft pick once the player signs elsewhere.

That Harper rejected his QO comes as no surprise, as he is expected to strike perhaps the largest free agent contract in baseball history. Though the free agent market has been less lucrative lately than in previous years, the combination of Harper’s elite talent and his age — he’s only 26 years old — makes him a primary target for more than a handful of teams. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals, so that would seem to be a baseline.

It is also not surprising that Kimbrel, 30, turned down his QO from the Red Sox. Despite a so-so showing during a championship run, Kimbrel is still young and talented enough to land another lucrative contract on the free agent market.

Keuchel bet on himself in turning down the Astros’ QO. He’s been solid since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, owning a 3.77 ERA across 83 starts over the last three seasons. However, he turns 31 years old at the beginning of 2019, and his already mediocre strikeout rate declined even further this past season, so there may be some skepticism about his ability to perform over the course of a multi-year deal. Keuchel will still get one eventually, but his market may be slower to develop.

Pollock, soon 31 as well, will be the outfielder most coveted once Harper is off the market. When he’s healthy, he’s a dynamic five-tool player. However, Pollock hasn’t played in more than 113 games in a season since 2015, so that may be a red flag. Pollock ended 2018 batting .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 460 plate appearances while playing above-average defense according to various defensive metrics.

Grandal, 30, could’ve gone either way with his QO, but ultimately chose to decline. He had a disappointing postseason, both offensively and defensively. Given how humans are prone to recency bias, it stood to reason that his October performance could have hurt his market. The catching position, however, is rather weak and Grandal stands out in a market that is otherwise focused on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Grandal did swat 24 home runs with an .815 OPS in 140 games for the Dodgers this past season.

Corbin, 29, was the most obvious QO decline after Harper. The lefty is coming off of a career year, finishing with a 3.15 ERA and a 246/48 K/BB ratio in exactly 200 innings. Corbin is the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees have been seriously linked with Corbin even before the season ended.

Ryu likely chose to accept his QO because of his age and injury history. It would have been a gamble to pursue a multi-year deal. He did, however, make 15 starts during the regular season to the tune of a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 15 walks in 82 1/3 innings. Those are great numbers. And most clubs would have been smart enough to look beyond his 5.21 ERA in the postseason, which has more to do with a leaky bullpen than his own personal failings. Still, it’s hard to fault Ryu for playing it safe and taking the guaranteed $17.9 million for one year.