The free-agent feeding frenzy that occupies the Major League Baseball ticker in the offseason has begun, and while countless pieces of journalism will predict just where studs like Zack Greinke will land, the Oakland Athletics made a few under-the-radar moves on Friday. They traded Jesse Chavez to the Toronto Blue Jays, and they signed Rich Hill to a one-year deal.
That’s right: Welcome to the MLB offseason, where the wealthiest teams chase down the expensive players … and the poorer teams resort to taking chances on 35-year-old lefties with 4.54 career ERAs. Thanks, Bud Selig: Your lasting legacy of economic disparity and PED tolerance will never be forgotten in places like Boston and San Francisco—or, for that matter, Oakland and Tampa Bay.
Sadly, to sign Hill, the A’s designated former starting-pitching stalwart A.J. Griffin for assignment. That’s one arm from the back-to-back American League West division champs of 2012 and 2013 we won’t be seeing back in Oakland anytime soon. Whither Jarrod Parker?
Who is Rich Hill? In an 11-year MLB career with six teams, he’s compiled a 26-23 record with that aforementioned 4.54 ERA. His only season of note came in 2007 with the Chicago Cubs, when Hill posted an 11-8 record and a 3.92 ERA for the North Siders. Since then, he’s won just nine MLB games.
On the bright side, Hill did toss a complete game shutout in 2015 for the Boston Red Sox, and the Oakland organization will be gambling that his arm and shoulder have the strength to get through a 162-game season in 2016. It’s a low-risk, high-reward signing for the A’s, of course, but still: This is the current status of the most competitive MLB team the Bay Area has ever seen.
So while the wealthiest teams in MLB chase Zack Greinke, the A’s get Rich Hill. Remember this next season when we hear once again just how America’s pastime is so wonderful. After all, what could be more American than a theme of “the rich getting richer”? Apple pie in the face after a walk-off win at the O.co Coliseum? We’re not sure.
In the other big move of the day, Oakland acquired right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks from the Blue Jays in exchange for right-handed pitcher Chavez. Here’s what the A’s had to say about their newest bullpen addition:
“Hendriks was 5-0 with a 2.92 ERA in 58 relief appearances with Toronto last year. He struck out 71 batters in 64.2 innings and walked just 11 while yielding three home runs. The 26-year-old right-hander ranked fourth among American League relievers in strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.45) and eighth in fewest walks per nine innings (1.53). He allowed a .240 opponents batting average, including .207 against right-handed hitters.”
That sounds like a welcome addition to a pathetic Oakland bullpen, as evidently the A’s confidence in Hill enabled them to trade Chavez—a good guy who has pitched decently enough in the rotation over the past two seasons when needed. But as the Oakland public-relations gang noted in their release on the trade, “[t]he 32-year-old right-hander now has a 3.72 career ERA before the break compared to 5.97 after the break.” The A’s now will let Chavez build his endurance in Canada.
Who knows what the Oakland roster will look like come Spring Training, but what we do know is that these are the kinds of sleep-inducing transactions that will dot the A’s offseason. There will be no Zack Greinke signings, no Yoenis Cespedes reunions and no big dollars spent. Welcome to another year of Oakland Athletics baseball, folks: It’s hard to complain about the eight playoff spots in the last 16 seasons, but it still sort of sucks that the team is so crippled by MLB economics.