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Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?

Yankees set to activate Giancarlo Stanton on Tuesday

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Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton is set to return from the injured list on Tuesday, manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Sunday. The timing coincides well with the addition of Edwin Encarnación, who was acquired from the Mariners on Saturday evening and is expected to be active and available for the Yankees as soon as Monday night.

The Yankees have every reason to hope that Stanton will be able to return to his usual 30+ homer, 4.0+ fWAR self as he works his way back to a full-time role this season. (Fueling some of that hope: Four home runs in 10 PA at High-A Tampa during his latest stretch of rehab games.) Undoubtedly, they’re still prepared to play it safe with the 29-year-old, who has already suffered significant shoulder, biceps, and calf injuries and has not appeared in a major-league game since March 31. Through the Yankees’ first three games of 2019, he went 2-for-15 with a pair of singles, seven walks, and four strikeouts.

With Encarnación slotting into a DH/first base role, Stanton is expected to spend the bulk of his playing time in the left field corner. That may cause a bit of a logjam in the outfield, as Brett Gardner took over that spot in Stanton’s absence and will likely be forced into a backup role once Aaron Judge returns from the IL — but for now, Boone says, he “still expects Gardy to play a lot.”