Athletics avoid arbitration with three of four key players

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Friday the Athletics came to terms with three key players, thus avoiding arbitration hearings that would have been scheduled to take place sometime in February.

Starting pitcher Sonny Gray, catcher Stephen Vogt and reliever Liam Hendriks each agreed to terms for the 2017 season with the Oakland Athletics.

Gray, who just over a season ago, finished third in the American League Cy Young Award race, had a difficult year in 2016.

After being called up in the middle of July in 2013, Gray had been nothing but stellar for the A’s, until coming to a rather abrupt halt in his fifth start of the 2016 season on April 27 against the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander at Comerica Park. It was a rematch of the 2013 American League Division Series and most fans were hoping for repeat performances by both pitchers.

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However, even though Gray only allowed four runs, he did so in just two innings while having thrown 65 pitches before being taken out of the game. His season did not recover afterwards.

He spent two separate stints on the disabled list and ended the season with a 5-11 record and a 5.69 ERA over 22 starts. This came after him having back to back 14-win seasons and made his career ERA jump from 2.88 to 3.42.

Rumor has it that Gray will be traded sometime mid-season if he brings his stock back up by pitching the way he had during his first two and a half seasons in the big leagues. There is also a chance that the 27-year-old could be looking at an extension if things turn around for him in 2017.

Vogt, 32, played in a career-high 137 games in the 2016 season. He batted .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI.  He had career high totals in hits with 123, doubles with 30 and extra base hits with 46. He was also named to the American League All-Star team for the second straight season.

Vogt is an important aspect of the team both on and off the field, where he is always the team leader. It was also important for the A’s to avoid any unpleasant arbitration hearings with Vogt as he will be the one to groom rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell to one day succeed him behind the plate.

Vogt is very good at controlling the game and working with young pitching – two abilities Maxwell will need to lead the future Oakland Athletics. It is assumed by most that Maxwell will get the most time behind the plate in ’17, with Vogt taking time at less taxing positions like first base, the outfield and at the designated hitter position.

Hendriks had a rough start to the 2016 season, his first in Oakland. Upon coming over in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays Hendriks posted an 8.27 ERA in just 11 games before going on the disabled list in early May, diagnosed with a strained right triceps muscle.

Oakland Athletics
Apr 5, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Liam Hendriks (31) pitches the ball against the Chicago White Sox during the seventh inning at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

Luckily it was just the injury that was plaguing Hendriks. Upon his return from the DL in June he posted a 2,23 ERA over 42 appearances during the rest of the regular season.

All three players were needed to return to the Athletics in 2017 and with those contracts taken care of for at least the next year, the only arbitration eligible player the A’s have left to negotiate with is left fielder Khris Davis.

The team still has plenty of time to negotiate a salary with Davis, who hit 42 home runs last season and it’s unlikely that the negotiations will have to go into an arbitration hearing.

Since the now vice president of baseball operations, Billy Beane, took over as general manager of the A’s in 1997 the team has gone into arbitration hearings just three times and prevailed over the players in each instance.

The team is hopeful that they will not have to do so a fourth time as they should be able to work out a suitable contract with Davis in the coming weeks.

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