Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin (left), executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane (middle) and general manager David Forst (right) announce their contract extensions on Oct. 29, 2018. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

A’s acquire bullpen help with Royals’ Jake Diekman

Oakland Athletics add strong left-handed bullpen arm for a bargain ahead of trade deadline

Updated at 12 a.m.

OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics continue to make moves amid a busy trade deadline season.

The A’s bolstered their shaky bullpen with the addition of Jake Diekman, whom they acquired from the Kansas City Royals for minor-league outfielder Dairon Blanco and minor-league pitcher Ismael Aquino.

The move comes after Oakland acquired starter Homer Bailey from the Royals less than two weeks ago, and, general manager David Forst said, “I haven’t put my phone away.”

Diekman, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, missed nearly a year due to surgeries to allevaite the condition. He’s established the Gut It Out Foundation dedicated to research, education and pediatric care for the condition. his longtime Texas teammate Jurickson Profar told The Examiner that he’s “a good person and a good friend.”

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Bailey said after Saturday’s win over the Texas Rangers. “Great guy, big competitor, throws really hard from the left side, wipeout slider. He’s going to be a great addition to this team, and a great guy in this clubhouse.”

Diekman, 32, joins a bullpen that has gone from being the third-best in all of baseball last season to one that’s had to switch out its closer and primary setup man, as Blake Treinen’s ERA jumped from 0.74 last season to 4.33 this year, and Lou Trivino has had similar issues.

Pursued by multiple teams who need bullpen help, Diekman gives the A’s another left-handed power arm in relief. Though his ERA this year is a career-worst 4.75, he’s holding opponents to a .212 average, and misses a lot of bats. His biggest asset: velocity. His fastball clocks in from 94-98 mph.

The A’s pursued Diekman as a free agent this offseason, and he was part of the trade discussions involving Bailey.

“This time of year, just about everybody is looking to be able to add to their bullpen, so you’re always competing with other teams,” Forst said. “But, I thought we did a good job of staying in communication with Kansas City over the last week, and we happened to get the right package for them.”

Diekman owns a career ERA of 3.87 and strikes out 11.35 batters per nine innings. He’s struck out 63 batters in 41 2/3 innings, and ranks ninth among American League relievers in strikeouts.

Manager Bob Melvin said that the fact that Diekman is tough against right-handers is a plus, and could change how he deploys Ryan Buchter, who can now be used as more of a left-handed specialist earlier in games.

A sinkerballer by trade, Diekman generates a lot of ground balls, and has allowed only three home runs in 48 outings this year. As such, his fielding independent pitching this year is 3.37, meaning he’s been severely hurt by the defense behind him.

With a pair of Gold Glove infielders and another former Gold Glove finalist behind him on the infield, not to mention the Oakland Coliseum’s ample foul ground, he should be an effective add for the A’s, who now trail Houston by eight games in the AL West, and are half a game out of the second American League wild card. In eight games (six innings) pitched at the Coliseum, Diekman has not allowed a single run, and has allowed just three hits and striking out eight.

Diekman, who played seven seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks, was signed by the Royals to a one-year, $2.25 million this offseason, and has a mutual option for next season that would pay him $5.75 million with a $500,000 buyout.

With an open spot on the 40-man roster, the A’s won’t have to make any moves to bring Diekman into the fold, but they will have to make a spot on the 25-man roster. That move has not yet been announced.

Aquino was 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA in 10 games with A’s Gold in the Arizona Rookie League. The 20-year-old Dominican right-hander was signed by Oakland on Dec. 19, 2016, and is 5-4 with a 4.03 ERA in 38 games, including 22 starts, in three professional seasons.

Blanco, 26, is hitting .276 with 13 doubles, 12 triples, seven home runs, 44 RBI and 27 stolen bases with Double-A Midland in his second professional season. The A’s signed the Cuban infielder signed on Dec. 18, 2017, and is a .279 career hitter with 26 doubles, 22 triples, eight home runs, 81 RBI and 49 stolen bases in 160 games.

“We’ve done a good job in the system the last few years, adding both from the draft and international, and obviously Ben Feinstein and his group have given us a lot of players that we’ve been able to move,” Forst said. “You saw in the Kelley deal last year, a couple of young, Latin American arms. This year, two players we signed through our Latin American program. Those players, as they move up the system, they become options for us or assets for other teams.”

The A’s are not done adding as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, but, Forst said, “it takes two sides.”

When asked if he’s had any interesting conversations with former A’s front office executive and current San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi (who has several tradeable bullpen arms), Forst said, “Yes. Next question.”

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