By Jason Wojciechowski on April 22, 2012 at 9:30 AM
In lieu of actually watching baseball games, I have read about them on the internet. I have also read about transactions.
First, the A's lost Brandon Allen on waivers three days ago as the Rays put in a claim. (Maybe other teams did as well, but the Rays won him.) This is too bad in a sense, because it would have been neat if Allen had cleared and the A's had been able to send him to Sacramento, but that was also something of a long shot, even at this point in the season. (This point being a time when many teams have settled into their roster situations.) But really, much as Allen's power is tantalizing, he's still a strikeout machine who can't be counted on to walk as often in the majors as he did in AAA, and if he's only going to have an o.k. walk rate instead of a stellar one, his OBP won't be high enough to make him an asset. Could Allen still turn into Carlos Pena? Sure. Why not? Is there any real point in waiting around to see when there are guys on the roster who also have upside? Not really. It's not like the A's are choosing Casey Kotchman over Allen.
Second, filling the 40-man roster spot created when Allen left the team, the A's claimed Australian reliever Rich Thompson from the Angels. Thompson has only made brief appearances in the majors most years, but he threw 54 solid innings in 2011, coming out just below league average in FRA (Baseball Prospectus's basic pitcher rate stat, which adjusts for park, defense, batted ball distribution, and sequencing). He turns 28 in July, and there's really no reason to get either upset or excited about this move. He could be useful. He could be bad. He makes less than $500k either way.
To make room for Thompson, the A's optioned out Neil Wagner, who had just come up for Andrew Carignan. Wagner also has the possibility of being good, but let's not forget that he's already 28 himself, so it's not like Oakland is optioning out the hot prospect to clear space for a grizzled veteran. Plus, they still have Wagner, and bullpen pitchers get hurt. A lot. Wagner will surely be back at some point, whether it's because Jordan Norberto gets hurt or Grant Balfour gets traded or Fautino De Los Santos gets sent down to Sacramento because he stops being able to throw strikes.
In fact, timing might have been the key thing that cost Wagner. Graham Godfrey was sent to Sacramento after his weak start against Cleveland (five innings, five walks) on the 20th, and by all indications, Jarrod Parker will be called up to make a start the next time the rotation turns over. To replace Godfrey on the roster, the A's went with another reliever, calling up Pedro Figueroa, the lefty who missed 2011 after Tommy John surgery. Had this all happened a day earlier, perhaps the A's would have just kept Wagner on the roster, but they could not recall Wagner for Godfrey because of the ten-day rule that requires that a player sent to the minors not be immediately recalled unless he is replacing a major-leaguer who goes on the Disabled List.
Figueroa is presumably not long for this world -- as a consequence of missing 2011, he has a grand total of seven innings at AAA, so I'd guess that he's the most likely cut when Parker is called up a few days hence. The A's had to bring up somebody they could use rather than let Godfrey waste a roster spot, and Figueroa was the only reliever on the 40-man not named Andrew Carignan or Sean Doolittle. I suppose they could have brought Collin Cowgill back for another four days, but he's started three of the four River Cats games since he was optioned, so the A's might not want to interrupt his groove. (Such as it is. He hasn't really hit anything yet.)