Projecting the Athletics' rotation after the Alex Wood signing

How Alex Wood's signing impacts the Oakland Athletics' starting rotation
Aug 19, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Alex Wood (57) throws a pitch
Aug 19, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Alex Wood (57) throws a pitch / Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
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The Oakland Athletics have reportedly signed left-handed pitcher Alex Wood to a major league contract. As of this morning, the deal is still pending a physical and the contract terms are unknown.

Wood had a bit of an off year overall for the Giants in 2023. He struggled in his time as a starter, but was much improved when the Giants shifted him to the bullpen amid performance and injury issues.

He threw 97.2 innings last year, with just a touch over half of those coming as a reliever. Despite posting a 6.08 ERA in his 12 starts, he pitched to a mark of 2.68 out of the bullpen. He walked far fewer batters after the move and did a much better job limiting homers and hard contact.

Wood has never been much of a strikeout pitcher. His strikeout rates peaked in the low-20% range and his mark of 17.2% in 2023 was a career low. He also doesn't throw particularly hard anymore. The 91.5 mph average velocity on his four-seamer puts him in the 15th percentile across the league.

Despite the collapse risk, Wood has still been an effective pitcher for the Giants since signing with them before the 2021 season. He topped 130 innings in both 2021 and 2022, posting a FIP of 3.62 in 52 starts during those years.

If he can recreate some of that success, it would be a solid boost for an Athletics team lacking in pitching depth.

As it stands, JP Sears and Paul Blackburn will assuredly be in the opening day rotation. Luis Medina is out of minor league options so unless the team wants to DFA him, which seems unlikely, he'll get an opportunity to build off his 2023 season.

Ken Waldichuk should be penciled into the rotation as well. However, the lefty underwent elbow surgery back in November to fix a ligament issue. The A's have not provided much in the way of health updates for him and at the moment, his status for the start of spring training is unknown.

Joe Boyle had an impressive three starts for the Athletics after his late-season call-up. It's possible that he'll end up in the opening day rotation if he pitches well during the spring.

One of Boyle or Osvaldo Bido is likely the odd man out at the moment. Signed by the A's earlier this offseason, Bido pitched to a 4.10 FIP in 50.2 innings for the Pirates in 2023. He has a mid-90's fastball and a good slider, but the changeup hasn't been a successful pitch for him.

Similar to Boyle, the error bars on Bido are wide. He could be an effective part of the rotation all season, or he could be DFA'd before June.

Outside of that, there are a few depth guys who likely start the year in the minors, barring further injuries. Freddy Tarnok, Hogan Harris, Joey Estes, and Adrian Martinez will compete for back-end rotation spots in the spring but likely won't be on the opening day roster. Rule 5 pick Mitch Spence is also in this conversation, but is most likely to serve as a reliever to start the year.

Overall, the Wood signing could be a positive one for the A's. It's a decent buy-low opportunity that could pay dividends if he regains his form from 2021-2022. If he's pitching well heading into the trade deadline, he could be a name to watch, assuming the A's don't surprise us and sign him to a long-term deal.

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