Sports Outside the Beltway

Arbitration Avoided for Four More A’s

Oakland has locked up four more players that were arbitration eligible. Joe Kennedy, Milton Bradley, Kiko Calero and Marco Scutaro are now all signed up for the 2007 season. Here’s a rundown:

Joe Kennedy – $2.8 million

Kennedy comes into 2007 as a top candidate for the #5 spot in the rotation. He’s been effective but not outstanding for the A’s in a relief role since he came over from the Rockies in the Eric Byrnes trade. I’d consider $2.8 million in this market to be very reasonable, even for an arby-eligible player. However, if he doesn’t crack the top five for the rotation, look for Beane to try and trade away one of his surplus #5-type pitchers, such as Kennedy or Brad Halsey.

Milton Bradley – $4.0 million (+ $400,000 in performance bonuses)

Bradley seems to have finally found a home in Oakland. He seems content, and after coming back from an early season injury, hit very well, posting a .284/.370/.457/.827 line until the end of the year. I’d like to see Bradley inked to a 3-4 year deal before the year is out. His largely exaggerated anger baggage will keep his contract value down, but he is a good hitter and a very good defensive outfielder. The best news might be that we get another season of the fantastic Bradley-Swisher celebration dance, which has to be seen; it’s impossible to describe.

Kiko Calero – $1.6 million

Calero was the only Opening Day Oakland reliever to not get injured and not temporarily move to the rotation in 2006. He’s been great since coming over from St. Louis in the Mulder trade. In the two years he’s pitched for Oakland, he’s put up a 3.33 ERA, 119:42 K:BB ratio, and struck out 9.4 per nine inning pitched. While those aren’t top-tier reliever numbers, they’re still very good. His nasty backdoor slider will continue to break over the corner for one more year in Oakland.

Marco Scutaro – $1.55 million

The contribution Marco has made to Oakland can’t really be summarized by statistics alone. And this is coming from a guy who just spent the last two days up to his ears in numbers. Little Papi, as some have taken to calling Scutaro, seems to have that nebulous characteristic that some define as “being clutch”. As much as my sabermetric mind hesitates to buy into it, my traditionalist heart believes it. I’ve seen him come to the plate in late game situtations many, many times and get a bloop single or a double off the wall. More important, perhaps, than his actual performance is that he is so expected to come through that the rest of the team is able to relax and get their jobs done.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other contributions Marco has made to the team. When Mark Ellis went down in 2004, Scutaro played a very good second base all year. The next year, when Bobby “Broken Bones” Crosby went down for an extended amount of time, Scutaro played an above average shortstop. This year, in a reduced role, Scutaro came out of the gate struggling, but chose just the right time to get hot. As Nick Swisher cooled off from his torrid start, Scutaro, hitting just .218 at the time, turned it on. From August 2 to the end of the season, he hit .308/.412/.459/.871 to help the A’s make the push into the playoffs.

I’m glad Scutaro is back. It just wouldn’t be the same without him. I can take the big stars leaving. I liked Zito a lot, but to be honest, I think at this point I’d miss Scutaro more. Perhaps that’s just the bitterness of Zito’s departure talking, though.


So with Kennedy, Calero, Bradley, Scutaro, Antonio Perez and Adam Melhuse signed up, that leaves just three arbitration eligible players left unsigned: Justin Duchscherer, Bobby Kielty and Kirk Saarloos.

Duchscherer is due a big raise (up from $345,000), as he’s been invaluable to the team out of the bullpen. Since moving there in 2004, he’s posted a 2.80 ERA with a 195:60 K:BB ratio. Since 2005 he’s been even better, with a 2.48 ERA and 136:28 K:BB ratio.

Kielty looks like a player with a disappearing career. With Jay Payton gone it would appear that more ABs would flow his way, but it looks as if the Dan Johnson/Mike Piazza 1B/DH position will put Nick Swisher back in the outfield, leaving little room for the Klown. Swisher, Mark Kotsay, Milton Bradley and possibly Ryan Goleski will all likely get time before Kielty. Goleski has to remain on the 25-man roster all season as a Rule V pick, or he goes back to the Indians. With Goleski’s potential and Kielty’s extreme platoon split, I’d guess Kielty may not be around soon.

Kirk Saarloos is an interesting case. He, by all accounts, doesn’t have much “stuff”. He strikes out people at one of the lowest rates in the game, excluding knuckle-ballers, and doesn’t throw hard. His sinker, his best pitch, isn’t anything to write home about. But somehow he manages to pitch very well at times. That’s balanced by a few poor outings, to give him a mid-4.00 ERA and a slot as a 5th/fill-in starter. Insofar as it might be easy to rip the guy for his seeming dearth of MLB frontline talent, I’ve got to admit that I like the guy, and I’m rooting for him. Here’s hoping Los Kirk can find more of what some have called his “pixie dust”; the ability to get people out when they least expect it.

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