Major League Baseball's non-tender deadline passed on Friday evening, with a number of players being dumped into the free agency pool. The Oakland Athletics aren't expected to be big players in the free agent market, but some of these newly added players will be available on reasonable contracts. If the price is right, it makes sense for the A's to go after a couple of them.
Despite the additions of Abraham Toro and Miguel Andujar, there's a glaring hole on the left side of the A's infield. As currently constructed, some combination of Toro, Andujar, Aledmys Diaz, and Darell Hernaiz are slated to handle the bulk of the innings at short and third base.
Former Reds utility man Nick Senzel was slated to make about $2 million in his final year of arbitration, but the Reds chose to walk away. Senzel has struggled in his major league career. In most of five seasons in Cincinnati, he's hit .239/.302/.369 while playing everywhere on defense except first base and catcher.
It's a common thread that part of the reason for Senzel's struggles is the Reds' inability to find a secure defensive home for him. Part of it is surely Senzel not picking up the slack, but it's inarguable that constantly moving a young player around the diamond with no regard to his ability to play the position is bad for his development.
Senzel played his best defense at second, though he held his own at third. He will find an opportunity somewhere, but the best case scenario for him is finding a team that will utilize him in a singular role, rather than tossing him around the outfield where he doesn't belong. The A's have the capacity to offer infield playing time, and certainly the payroll space to pay him a couple million dollars to find out if he's still a viable player.
The A's are in need of veteran leadership; these guys could help
It may be an unpopular sentiment, but Tyler Soderstrom does not look like a major league catcher. His framing and blocking numbers have been bad and he hasn't hit nearly well enough to warrant playing time over Shea Langeliers.
Former Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings became available on Friday, after Miami chose not to offer him a contract based on his projected $3.5 million in arbitration. Despite not being a great hitter, Stallings is a strong defender.
Stallings had a down year at the plate in 2023, hitting just .191 with 3 homers in 89 games. He was unlucky, posting a career low .249 batting average on balls in play, suggesting some positive regression back toward his career .235 batting average. Stallings would provide some much needed veteran leadership behind the plate, even as a backup behind Langeliers, and it would allow the A's to find a more permanent home for Soderstrom.
Juan Yepez played in the Cardinals organization for years before getting his first taste of the majors in 2022. He had a strong offensive showing in 2022, but followed it up with a lackluster effort this year. In total, he's hit .240/.286/.419 with 14 homers in 104 games.
Yepez was heralded as a slugger in the minors, showing good plate discipline and power. He never got much of a chance in St. Louis due to their crowded roster and his inability to play defense. The defense is a major flaw, to be clear.
Yepez has played at all four corners, though he's most suited to a first base or designated hitter role despite playing most of his minor league career in the outfield corners. The A's have a bit of a jam there, with Brent Rooker, Ryan Noda, and Tyler Soderstrom all fighting for playing time.
However, Yepez will have one option year remaining, which means he could be shuttled back and forth between Oakland and Las Vegas if necessary. Yepez has shown enough skill to find a job somewhere, and his pre-arbitration contract status means he won't command a significant salary. At just 25 years old, he'd be a solid addition to a team looking to add young, cheap talent.