Oakland Athletics’ Top Free Agent Targets for 2016

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Aug 4, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo (59) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the ninth inning at PNC Park. The Cubs won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Dambrauskas: If the A’s are looking to plug in an immediate need through free agency, then relief pitching is the most obvious position in need. The front office will probably at least consider Antonio Bastardo, who is coming off of a banner year with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is a valuable asset because he is capable of stifling both left and right-handed batters, and he summarily mowed over multiple batters per relief appearance this season.

His success this season will force his next team to pay him more than the $3.1 million that Pittsburgh gave him for 2015, but the A’s should be able to bring him in for less than the whopping $8.3 million that brought Tyler Clippard to Oakland in 2015.

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Evan Giddings: Over his last three seasons, Neal Cotts has posted a 2.93 ERA, while tossing 168.2 innings. His strikeout per nine innings (SO9) over that period stands at 9.2 and his WHIP hovers just above 1.1, both respectable. His fastball command is excellent and devastating slider allows his to tackle both right-handed and left-handed batters. Despite being a little more effective against lefties this season (.168 average), he has still held his own versus righties (.264). One other plus has been his durability, making at least 50+ appearances the last two seasons and on pace to easily break that this year (48). With the A’s troubles keeping pitchers healthy, he could be a nice staple. He wouldn’t be a project either because you know exactly what your getting, which is not something Oakland’s bullpen has had for a long time.

The reason Cotts has somehow flown under the radar pitching while for the Texas Rangers and now for the Brew Crew is likely because in 2009, he underwent Tommy John Surgery and it took him four years just to make it back to the bigs. Although he is making $3 million on a one-year contract, his age is likely going to deter many teams, making it easier for the A’s to take a chance. The last dependable (not named Doolittle) lefty out of the pen I can point to was Craig Breslow (maybe Jerry Blevins), and Cotts could have a similar kind of impact.

Next: Free Agent Targets: Starting Pitchers