Oakland A’s: The last wrinkle in the starting rotation

The Oakland A’s have made some major changes to their starting rotation recently, which included the addition of Chicago Cubs pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. However, when a pitcher is added, another is ultimately taken away. In order to make room for Samardzija  and Hammel, the Athletics designated Brad Mills and Tommy Milone for assignment.

Tommy  Milone

Tommy Milone

Sending Mills down to Triple-A was an obvious move. He had purely joined the Oakland A’s starting rotation to fill Drew Pomeranz‘s spot after Pomeranz broke his hand when he punched a chair. Mills pitched fairly well for someone with little MLB experience, and if he continues to work hard in Triple-A, he may find a spot in the bullpen in the next year or two.

Milone was a bigger surprise. Over his past 11 starts, he was 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA. This underrated pitcher definitely supported the tail end of the rotation during the first part of this season and to see him go down to Triple-A was quite a shock.

So, with room made for Samardzija and Hammel in the rotation, it seems as though everything is all fine and dandy. However, Pomeranz still needs to be accounted for. Once he returns from the disabled list, the Athletics are going to need to either make a spot for him in the starting rotation, stick him in the bullpen, or designated him for assignment.

If the Oakland A’s were looking to put Pomeranz back in the starting rotation, the likeliest choice would be to swap him and Jesse Chavez. Even though Chavez recently had a great outing against Bay Area rivals the San Francisco Giants where he pitched six scoreless innings and struck out nine, this is Chavez’s break out year as a starter where as Pomeranz has had more experience as a starting pitcher both from his minor and major league career. Additionally, before Chavez’s most recent start against the Giants, his precision seemed to be lacking for he gave up nine runs over two outings.

Both Chavez and Pomeranz started with the Athletics as long relievers. So, it is possible that Pomeranz could be placed back in the bullpen as he continues to recover from his hand injury. The Athletics are going to critically analyze these two pitchers in order to definitively decide which pitcher could bring the team more success throughout the rest of the season and post-season.  It would definitely be a tough call between Pomeranz and Chavez since both have been pleasant surprises in the starting rotation this season.

[Oakland A’s: Analyzing the Jeff Samardzija trade]

So, if Pomeranz goes to the bullpen, he would probably be the Oakland A’s long reliever, and he would also provide some back up insurance in case one of the starting pitchers went down with an injury. But who would be designated for assignment if Pomeranz joined the bullpen?

Ideally, Jim Johnson would be sent down to Triple-A. Even though Johnson had 50 or more saves in both 2012 and 2013, his performance this year has been terrible. Johnson has been so unsuccessful this season that he has been booed by A’s fans. Johnson is rarely pitching in relief as it is – he hasn’t seen the mound since his last most dreadful outing against the Detroit Tigers on July 2nd – so what is the harm with sticking him in Triple-A once Pomernaz is healthy?

<strong/></a><p class=Dan Otero” width=”178″ height=”269″ /> Dan Otero

But as always, the Oakland A’s are full of surprises. There is always a chance that reliever Dan Otero could be sent to Triple-A even though he has been a reliable reliever for the Athletics with a 1.98 ERA and only allowing 12 earned runs over 54.2 innings pitched. But, due to his inexperience in the big leagues, Otero could be the unfortunate victim of Pomeranz’s return.

Even though Pomeranz did act immaturely by punching a chair after a terrible start back in June, he does have an overall ERA of 2.91 with 48 strikeouts over 55.2 innings pitched. It would be hard to keep him down in Triple-A with all of the success he has brought the A’s this season. It is possible that they send him to Sacramento for a week or two. However, it does not seem likely that he would be there very long if Pomeranz demonstrates that he still has what it takes to be a great starter for Oakland.

It is most likely that Pomeranz will become a relief pitcher again for the Athletics once he returns from the DL. The Oakland A’s front office is probably not too happy with him injuring himself. Additionally, they probably have a soft spot for Chavez since he has been working hard with the Athletics organization to ultimately become a starting pitcher for quite some time now. To see Chavez finally finding success as a starting pitcher on the big stage is probably like a proud parent moment for the Oakland A’s management and staff.

For more Oakland A’s news, rumors, and opinions, visit the team page.

  • Andrew B

    Sam, you made a number of fine points, but one huge error. There is no way the A’s send Dan Otero down to AAA. He is a mainstay in the bullpen, great with runners on base (sinker inducing ground ball outs and double plays) and is very versatile and a favoriet of Bo-Mel. The most interesting thing to look at is of course the near future, but think about next year. If AJ Griffin and Jarrod Parker return from their injuries anywhere close to as good as they were before, the A’s will have an embarrassingly rich staff. They will have to trade a few of them just to realize the value that they possess. They have Gray, Kazmir, Samardzija (the Shark), Jessie Chavez, Hammel (FA), Pomeranz, Milone and then possibly Parker and Griffin next year. That is nine good starters with MLB experience. They need to trade a couple of them. So maube Chase Utley can be pried loose from the Phillies before the trade deadline, and really add to the A’s current lineup.