By the time the regular season came to a close, the Oakland Athletics had the worst bullpen in the MLB. Not only was their closer injured for the majority of the season, but the relief staff could not hang on to leads and regularly imploded throughout the 162 games the A’s played in this year. Because of their unsuccessful season, the A’s need to completely overhaul their bullpen if they want to contend in 2016.
Without having to make any trades or acquisitions, one thing that will help the team next year is the fact that closer Sean Doolittle will be completely healthy. With him anchoring the ninth inning, the rest of the relievers will have more defined roles thus providing stability in the bullpen. However, there are some other changes Oakland could make to improve the pen overall.
Who should the A’s keep?
The Athletics should obviously keep Doolittle. Throughout the last month of the season, he showed that he stuff is still powerful despite dealing with an injuring for most of the year. Oakland should also consider keeping Drew Pomeranz. He proved this season that he is more reliable out of the bullpen than as a starting pitcher. Additionally, the A’s did consider him for the closer role once Tyler Clippard was traded, which indicates they have faith in Pomeranz’s ability to pitch in high pressure situations. However, his health will definitely be a factor since it was recently announced that he has to undergo surgery on his shoulder this offseason.
The Athletics should also make sure the Pat Venditte stays in the bullpen for the 2016 season. Venditte, more widely known as the A’s switch pitcher, was one of the most consistent relievers for the team this season. He proved that he actually had talent and that his ability to pitch effectively with both arms was not a circus act.
Lastly, even though he is young, the A’s will definitely be considering Ryan Dull for a full time position in Oakland’s bullpen. Dull was the September call-up that impressed everyone. Even though he let up some runs in his last couple of outings, Dull pitch 11 consecutive scoreless innings for the Athletics in his first appearance in the Majors.
Who needs to go?
Unfortunately, because of their poor performances this season, some relievers do need to go or head back down to Triple-A in 2016. Some of them are fan favorites, but these changes need to happen in order to make the team better. One of those would be Dan Otero. Otero was great for the Athletics in 2013 and 2014. However, he completely imploded this season. He was not consistent and his ERA jumped from 2.28 in 2014 to 6.75 this season. Additionally, Otero was never projected to be an eighth inning set up man or a closer, so it would not hurt the A’s to lose him
Another reliever on the chopping block is R.J. Alvarez. Alvarez pitched 35 innings in the Minors in 2015 and 20 with Oakland. Sadly, both his numbers with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds and with the Athletics were not so great. Alvarez had a 4.11 ERA with the Sounds and a 9.90 with the A’s. Despite showing promise the past few season in Triple-A, his progress has digressed and he should not be a part of the A’s 2016 bullpen.
Lastly, Fernando Abad needs to go. Abad was a great left specialist for Oakland last season, but this year he faltered. The A’s need a strong lefty in the bullpen, and Abad will just not cut it for next season.
What needs to change?
Oakland needs more consistent relievers. This season, the bullpen was wildly inconsistent. One night they would shut down the opposing team, and then the next game the bullpen would give up the lead in the eighth or ninth inning. The A’s may not need the hardest throwing relievers out there, but they do need some that are consistent on a day-to-day basis.
The Athletics also need a designated eighth inning set-up man. That was what Clippard was suppose to be before Doolittle incurred his injury. With an assigned closer and set-up man, the bullpen will be able to get into a rhythm that could hopefully help propel them through the entire season. Also, the additional designated role will provide extra stability among the relief staff.
The A’s can definitely keep some of the relievers they have now on their roster, but they do need to bring in some new blood. Dull’s emergence during September was quite refreshing and the Athletics need some new arms in the bullpen. Besides the addition of Tyler Clippard last offseason in order to replace Luke Gregerson, the relief staff barely changed from 2014 to 2015. It is time to switch it up in order to help them find their mojo for the 2016 season!