As the Oakland A's get ready to square off with the Angels of Anaheim for first place in the AL West…
Oakland A's Transaction Log: Kennedy Inks
The A's had eight arbitration-eligible players and they maintained their control over seven of them, choosing only to non-tender utilityman Hiram Bocachica. Bocachica, who had a very strong spring training before breaking his wrist on the last day of camp in 2005, was a September call-up with the A's this past season. Despite not having a long major league resume, Bocachica had earned enough service time to become arbitration-eligible. By non-tendering Bocachica, the A's have removed him from the 40-man roster and he is now a free agent.
Bocachica could still return to the A's. Oakland obviously had some interest in keeping him, as they could have removed him from the 40-man roster much earlier in the off-season if he wasn't a part of their plans. The A's could still come to terms with Bocachica, likely with a split or minor league contract and an invitation to spring training. He would be in competition for a spot on the A's bench with Freddie Bynum, Matt Watson, Andrew Beattie and Charles Thomas if he returned to Oakland.
The A's did come to terms with left-handed pitcher Joe Kennedy on Monday, thus avoiding arbitration with the former Tampa Bay Devil Ray and Colorado Rockie. Kennedy will make $2.4 million in 2005. As the A's roster is currently constituted, Kennedy will serve as the A's lefty-specialist out of the bullpen and as an emergency starter. However, getting Kennedy signed to a reasonable deal (in this market, anyway) at this early stage may make it easier to deal him to a team looking for a back of the rotation starter. Kennedy could also slide into the A's rotation if another A's starter is moved.
Oakland did offer arbitration to second baseman Mark Ellis, catcher Adam Melhuse, outfielders Milton Bradley and Bobby Kielty and relievers Juan Cruz and Kiko Calero. All of those moves were "no-brainers" with, perhaps, the exception of Cruz, who made $750,000 in 2005 and is somewhat of a long-shot to make the team out of spring training. The A's must feel that they can move Cruz or that he has made progress since his disastrous turn with the team in 2005, as he will have to make at least 80% of his 2005 salary. Cruz is currently pitching for Licey in the Dominican Winter League and he is continuing to tantalize with his talents and struggle with his control (9 IP, 5 BB, 10K).
The A's also renewed a number of contracts for their non-arbitration eligible players. 40-man roster players Joe Blanton, Jeremy Brown, Freddie Bynum, Justin Duchscherer, Ron Flores, Jairo Garcia, Chad Gaudin, Javier Herrera, Dan Johnson, Shane Komine, Chris Mabeus, Dan Meyer, Antonio Perez, John Rheinecker, Mike Rouse, Kirk Saarloos, Marco Scutaro, Huston Street, Nick Swisher, Charles Thomas and Matt Watson all had their contracts renewed for the 2006 season.
A's Ink Another Northern League Hurler
The A's purchased the contract of right-hander Brandon Culp on Monday from the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the Northern League (Independent). Culp was dominating for the RedHawks in 2005, posting a 14-0 record with a 2.60 ERA in 20 starts. He struck out 70 and walked 46 in 117.2 innings. He held opposing batters to a .230 BAA and was named the Northern League Pitcher of the Year.
Culp was part of a remarkable RedHawks team that went 68-27 during the regular season. The A's have signed two RedHawks in recent years, hurlers Nick Mattioni (2004) and Nick Brannon (2005). Both spent the majority of the 2005 season in AA-Midland, helping the Rockhounds win the Texas League Championship. The A's also signed Adam Johnson (San Diego Surf Dogs) and Keith Dunn (Les Capitales de Quebec) out of the Independent Leagues in 2005.
Culp has five years of minor league baseball experience, the majority of which came in the Cincinnati Reds organization. He was drafted by the Reds in the 26th round of the 2000 draft and spent most of his Reds' career as a reliever. He has a career 3.33 ERA in 370.2 minor league innings. In 2002, Culp starred for the Stockton Ports (then part of the Reds' chain), going 5-3 with a 2.50 ERA in 35 games (8 starts). He struck out 104 in 100.2 innings.
Culp is a big-bodied pitcher (6'6'', 240 LB) with three pitches (fastball, slider and forkball/split-finger). He is an alumnus of Jacksonville State University. Culp will likely be a part of the Midland or Sacramento bullpen in 2006.
A's Sign Mac Suzuki?
Numerous Japanese media outlets have reported that former major league pitcher Mac Suzuki has signed a minor league contract with Oakland with an invitation to spring training. The news has not been confirmed by any stateside media outlets. Suzuki was last in the major leagues in 2002 with Kansas City and has spent the last three seasons with the Orix BlueWave in Japan.
Suzuki began his career as a celebrated Japanese prospect signed by the Seattle Mariners at age 17. He made one appearance at age 21 with the Mariners in 1996 and then spent the 1997 and parts of the 1998 seasons with the Mariners' AAA squad in Tacoma. He had six appearances with Seattle in 1998. From 1998-2001, Suzuki was in the major leagues, spending time with Seattle, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Colorado. Suzuki has a career 16-31 record with a 5.72 ERA in 465.2 major league innings.
Suzuki, now 30, struggled in Japan in 2005, posting a 7.23 ERA. He was released by Orix at the end of the season. Suzuki is currently playing for the Escogido Lions in the Dominican Winter League. The Lions are being managed by Oakland coach Bob Geren, who may have recommended Suzuki to the A's, if, in fact, the A's did sign the right-hander. Suzuki currently has a 4.85 ERA for the Lions and appeared in a game on Sunday, allowing one run on three hits in 1.2 innings.
Dotel Signs With New York Yankees
Foxsports.com reported on Tuesday that former A's closer Octavio Dotel has signed a one-year, incentive-laden contract with the Yankees. Dotel's deal is reportedly worth a guaranteed $2 million and can be worth as much as $5.25 million if he meets his incentives. Dotel underwent Tommy John surgery last June. He was acquired by the A's in May 2004 in a three-team deal with Kansas City and Houston.
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