Kevin Kouzmanoff thought “where do I fit?” while A’s pursued other third basemen

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Last offseason the A’s acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff from the Padres in the hopes he’d be their long-term answer at third base, but after a career-worst season that saw him hit just .247 with a measly .679 OPS the team claimed Edwin Encarnacion off waivers and made a big offer to free agent Adrian Beltre.

Oakland eventually non-tendered Encarnacion and Beltre signed an $80 million deal with the Rangers, but the team’s pursuit of other third basemen left Kouzmanoff with a bruised ego and questions about his future with the A’s.

Here’s some of what Kouzmanoff told Jane Lee of MLB.com about the situation:

I knew the A’s had some money to spend. Beltre’s a good ballplayer, and he was in high demand. There I am kind of sitting off to the side thinking, “Where do I fit? Obviously, the A’s don’t really like me that much at third base if they’re trying to get another third baseman.” But at the same time, I’m also realizing it’s just business, and if they can lock someone down for a certain number of years, an All-Star third baseman who can hit 25 to 30 home runs in the Coliseum, then I really have no say in it.

I think if they were happy with me at third base, they wouldn’t consider going out and getting someone else. I knew for sure that if they were going to get Beltre that I was gone. I’m still here, though, and I want to do the best I can. I’ve worked hard this offseason. I’m hitting baseballs, trying to get faster, getting in good shape. I want to prove to them that I can play third base just as good as anybody else. I feel great.

All things considered Kouzmanoff has handled the situation pretty well, and made it clear to Lee that he was as disappointed as anyone with his performance last season. Oakland may have missed out on Beltre and decided against keeping Encarnacion, but if Kouzmanoff doesn’t bounce back significantly this season they’ll likely cut him loose next winter regardless of the other options at third base. He’s due for a raise to $4-5 million via arbitration this year and would be even more expensive in 2012.

Phillies sign Francisco Liriano and Neil Walker to minor league deals

Francisco Liriano
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Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.

Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.

Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.