A’s most recent free agent signings just don’t add up

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY /

Beginning on Tuesday night the A’s started making a little offseason noise, which they continued on Thursday, adding two new players to their team.

This may seem like a good thing at first, but the two players that the Oakland Athletics added this week don’t exactly fill the needs of the ball club.

It’s just hard to see why they chose to add third baseman Trevor Plouffe and reliever Santiago Casilla, to their roster when neither fills a big need for the ball club.

The A’s added former Minnesota Twins’ third baseman  Plouffe on a one-year deal worth $5 million on Tuesday.

The contract is still pending a physical for Plouffe, who was limited to just 84 games last season due to three injuries that required three separate stints on the disabled list: a strained right intercostal muscle in April, a broken left rib in June and a season-ending injury to his left oblique muscle in early September.

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Also, a fact that shouldn’t be forgotten about Plouffe is that the reason he was granted free agency. He was not tendered a contract in back in December by the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins were the worst team in the baseball last season, losing a whopping 103 games. To say that any of this is a good sign for Plouffe would be wrong.

Plouffe isn’t a bad player, having hit double digits in home runs in five of his seven seasons with Minnesota and is an a decent defender at third.

It’s true that the Athletics could use help in the infield but with shortstop and first base covered, their real need is at second base.

Susan Slusser, however tweeted shortly after the report by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal about the signing of Plouffe, that Plouffe would get the most time at third base with youngster Ryon Healy moving over to play some time at first base and also as the team’s designated hitter.

Third base has belonged to Ryon Healy, who will now be entering his sophomore season, since being brought up from Double-A Midland last July. He immediately stepped into the A’s everyday role at third base, displacing Danny Valencia.

Healy impressed during his 72 games at the hot corner, winning American League Rookie of the Month last September.

Healy was the A’s best hitter from the moment he was called up and an adequate defender at third, a position he did not play much of in the minors. He even showed defensive improvement at the season continued.

With the team not exactly looking to compete this season, why would they take time away from Healy at third base?

While it is true that prospect Matt Chapman might push Healy over to first base when he’s called up to the majors, it just doesn’t make sense to take playing time away from Healy at this point, making the signing of Plouffe completely baffling – at least to me.

Oakland Athletics
Jul 22, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Ryon Healy (48) celebrates after a walk-off win on hit by Oakland Athletics left fielder Coco Crisp (not shown) against the Tampa Bay Rays in the thirteen inning at O.co Coliseum. Oakland won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

Healy hit 13 home runs in 72 games to Plouffe’s 12 in 84 games and the two are not that far apart with their defensive metrics either.

It’s slightly irritating, along with being confusing that the Athletics would want to take playing time away from Healy. It’s a bad idea however you look at it.

Thursday the Oakland Athletics made an addition to their bullpen, a player who came up with the Athletics, and was most recently the San Francisco Giants’ closer, Santiago Casilla. Although, it is true that he was removed from the closer’s position midway through last season.

Signed by the A’s as an amatuer free agent in 2000 under the name of Jairo Garcia, he made his big league debut in 2004. He pitched just 5.2 innings that season, while allowing eight runs and posting a 12.71 ERA. The following season he returned under his real name Santiago Casilla, pitching just 3.00 innings but allowing just one run and putting up a much more acceptable 3.00 ERA.

Those are extremely small sample sizes, of course, but over his six seasons with Oakland he was inconsistent. His best year coming in 2008 in which he posted a 3.93 ERA over 50 innings. Overall, during his time with Oakland, Casilla (or Garcia) put up what one might call some disappointing numbers.

In five seasons with Oakland, Casilla posted a 5.11 ERA out of the bullpen, along with a 1.58 WHIP, a 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.73 strikeout to walk ratio. Let’s just say that many of us were not upset to see him sign with the Giants in 2010.

Casilla’s numbers  while pitching in the National League were surprisingly much better. Prior to being made the team’s full-time closer (although he did earn 25 saves in 2012 and another 19 in 2014), Casilla put up the best numbers of his career.

Over his first five seasons in San Francisco, Casilla posted a 2.10 ERA over 278.2 innings. He saved 54 games blowing 13 of them but posted a bit better 2.12 strikeout to walk ratio and the same 7.7 K’s per nine innings.

Oakland Athletics
August 4, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Ryan Dull (66) throws in the tenth inning against Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Upon becoming the closer, Casilla couldn’t seem to retire batters in the final inning, and yet, despite outcries from the team’s fans on Twitter, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy continually put Casilla in to pitch in these high stress situations.

Part of his success in San Francisco could have been the pitcher friendly confines of AT&T Park as opposed to the hitter-friendly Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in Oakland.

Part of it could have been overall maturity, although he was already through his 28-year-old season when he left Oakland in 2008.

Either way, signing Casilla to a two-year $11 million deal doesn’t seem like a good move for the A’s, especially if part of Casilla’s success had to do with pitching in a pitcher’s park.

It doesn’t look quite so bad, however, knowing that he isn’t coming to Oakland to be the new closer. That position will likely be held by veteran Ryan Madson or even perhaps one of the team’s best rookies in 2016, Ryan Dull.

Still the A’s also have Sean Doolittle and John Axford in the bullpen along with Liam Hendriks and now, potentially, Daniel Coulombe or Zach Neal. Hendriks posted a decent 3.76 ERA for the A’s last season but did end up averaging 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings while allowing just 1.9 walks per nine over 64.2 innings pitched.

Coulombe and Neal were both rookies in 2016 and

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the numbers they put up were average.

Adding Casilla is still highly perplexing. Regardless of who takes the last two spots in the bullpen, the only left-hander in the group is Doolittle who is fantastic when he is healthy, but has spent much of the past two seasons on the disabled list.

Yes, the Athletics could bring up a lefty from Triple-A if Doolittle were to be injured but why sign Casilla, another right-hander, who has characteristically not pitched well at the Coliseum, to a two-year deal? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Neither of these signings make much sense. The A’s do not need help at the hot corner with Healy there and Chapman on his way up. There is no sense in taking away much needed playing time and at-bats from someone like Healy, who could be a potential superstar player in the future, while the team knows that they are unlikely to contend in 2017.

Similarly, why bring back a pitcher who historically did not pitch well at your home ballpark and would be adding another right-hander to a bullpen already stocked with righties? And for two years? Personally, I just don’t see the logic.

Apparently the A’s do because with the exception of Plouffe’s physical, these deals area already done. Still the question of “why?” is left hanging in the air.

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