Oakland Athletics’ Top Free Agent Targets for 2016

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Jun 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Darren O’Day (56) pitches during the ninth inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore Orioles defeated New York Yankees 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Harris: The free agent I would go after would be Darren O’Day. My choice will likely be the least sexy of the bunch, so let me explain. The A’s are rarely big spenders when it comes to free agents. When it comes to signing a free agent bat or starting pitcher, you will be hard-pressed to find a player who falls in the realm that the A’s are comfortable spending unless there is a significant amount of risk involved. The most obvious example would be Billy Butler who received a 3-year $30 million contract which would have been a bargain for the 2012 version that hit .313 with 29 HR’s but overpriced for the .251 average and 15 HR’s that we received.

Oakland’s greatest need going into 2015 is to strengthen their bullpen that gave up the most runs in the American League and the 2nd most in all of the majors. Since I do not believe that either Sean Doolittle or Drew Pomeranz will be going anywhere, the A’s greatest bullpen need is a right-handed pitcher and the best of the bunch available is Darren O’Day. The submariner with a nasty slider has put up phenomenal numbers in Baltimore since being acquired by them in 2012; sporting an ERA under 2.00 in each of the last 2 seasons and striking out 11.3 per 9 innings while being named to the All-Star team last year.

2012 BAL 7 1 2.28 69 0 67.0 49 17 17 6 14 2 69 2.96 0.940
2013 BAL 5 3 2.18 68 2 62.0 47 16 15 7 15 1 59 3.58 1.000
2014 BAL 5 2 1.70 68 4 68.2 42 14 13 6 19 4 73 3.32 0.888
2015 ★ BAL 6 2 1.52 68 6 65.1 47 13 11 5 14 1 82 2.49 0.934

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Katrina Putnam: The quickest way for the A’s to improve is to get bullpen help. That’s why they should go after Ryan Madson of the Royals, who will be a free agent after this season. Madson hadn’t pitched in three years before taking a minor league deal with Kansas City this season, but he made the most of it. In 63.1 innings, he struck out 58 batters and finished the year with a 2.13 ERA.

That’s nothing new for Madson. Before his Tommy John surgery in Spring Training of 2012, he was consistently outstanding for the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2011, he replaced Brad Lidge as the closer and saved 32 games, all while maintaining a 2.37 ERA. The A’s would be smart to take advantage of any discount that remains on Madson, because he could be the shutdown setup man that Oakland needs. With all of those one-run games and extra-inning losses, the bullpen should definitely be the priority.

Next: Free Agent Targets: More Bullpen Arms