With all of the moves that the A’s have made this offseason, everyone knows that at least one player will come out of nowhere to put together a productive season. The question is just who that will be.
The Taylor Thompson waiver claim from the White Sox in early November was probably forgotten by most A’s fans, since so many trades involving many more big-name players have followed. However the A’s have had to make lots of room on the 40-man roster, and Thompson has made the cut every time.
The A’s chose to keep Thompson on the 40-man roster over Nick Punto, Fernando Rodriguez, Andy Parrino, Jorge De Leon, Josh Lindblom, Kyle Blanks and Andrew Brown, who were all designated for assignment after Thompson was claimed.
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Thompson has a lovely 10.13 career major league ERA, but the A’s still chose to keep him over multiple other players with major league experience. Why?
For starters, that ERA is only over the course of 5 games. In AAA last year with the White Sox organization, Thompson had a 2.14 ERA over 39 games, with a 10.4 K/9. Thompson throws a mid-90s fastball, a hard slider and a splitter, the perfect repertoire for a big league reliever.
His problem over his career has been control. He has averaged 3.6 BB/9 over his minor league career, and had 29 walks in 39 games last year. Hard fastball, slider, good strikeouts, but struggled with walks. Which A’s player does that sound like?
Well if you could guess from the title, it’s Ryan Cook! Cook averaged a strikeout per inning last year, but, like Thompson he struggled with walks, with 4.0 BB/9 last year.
I feel like Cook gets more hate from A’s fans than he deserves. Don’t get me wrong he has definitely blown some games over the last three years, but overall he’s been solid as a middle reliever. I wouldn’t put him in the closer role, even with Doolittle out, but the A’s have enough bullpen depth to let him be the 6th or 7th inning guy.
Over the last three years in Oakland, he’s been a very productive reliever, with a 2.77 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 9.3 K/9. It’s hard to find another reliever who’s the fourth or fifth best on his team with those kinds of numbers. That speaks to the excellent depth of the A’s bullpen, which is already paying dividends with Doolittle sidelined.
Cook, like Thompson, seemed like an afterthought when he was acquired (Cook came over with Jarrod Parker in the Trevor Cahill trade in 2011). Cook was supposed to be a throw-in in the trade, but he was the A’s only all-star in 2012.
Maybe Billy Beane and the A’s knew that Cook could do that when they acquired him, or maybe they just got lucky. However it seems like they have confidence that Thompson can be a contributor in the not-too-distant future.
I’m not saying Thompson is going to be an all-star this year (no Warriors fans, not THAT Thompson), but he could come up in June or July and give the bullpen a solid boost. The big right-hander is under team control through 2021, and he’s not even arbitration eligible until 2018, meaning he’ll be dirt cheap for the next three years. That’s just the way the A’s like ‘em.
He’ll have to work on his control, but he has the tools to succeed. All he needs is the opportunity.