Billy Butler talks about conditioning and the Athletics’ bad chemistry

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A’s DH Billy Butler appeared at whatever Caravan/FanFest/Magical Mystery Tour the A’s, like every other team, have in January. There were a number of issues on the table, but the two that stuck out were his conditioning and the A’s team chemistry, as reported by John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the conditioning, Butler was pretty frank and honest about life, the universe and his physique. Rather than peddle Best Shape of His Life stuff like a lot of bigger guys coming off of a bad season might, he notes that (a) he is who he is and he’s never exactly been mistaken with the Bryce Harpers and Andrew McCutchens of the world; and (b) when you’re a big dude, no one ever asks you about your conditioning when you’re coming off of a big season. Both of those things are true.

More interesting are his comments about the Athletics’ chemistry:

Beyond all the losing, the A’s had a clubhouse-chemistry problem, and Butler acknowledged it Sunday, saying, “To say we had a bad clubhouse was accurate.

“You see there’s definitely people who are not here anymore that were part of the issue.”

For the record, the Athletics traded away Jesse Chavez, Brett Lawrie, Drew Pomeranz and Arnold Leon this offseason. Ike Davis is a free agent they’re likely not bringing back. Given that relief pitchers and swingmen/fifth starters tend not to rate very high on the clubhouse totem pole, my guess would be that Butler is talking about Lawrie here, who was criticized by some folks in Toronto. It’s worth noting, however, that Butler immediately went on to say that chemistry is always going to suffer when you’re losing 94 games because losing makes guys unhappy.

Which makes me think that even if Lawrie is a less-than-fabulous clubhouse guy, if the A’s lose 94 games again, there will be someone else who is none too happy in that clubhouse come September.

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.