The Oakland Athletics have agreed to terms with left-handed pitcher Jake Diekman on a two-year contract through the 2021 season with a club option for 2022.
The move is the latest in a flurry at the tender deadline, by which teams have to decide whether or not to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players or let them become free agents.
Before the deadline, the A’s had non-tendered former All-Star closer Blake Treinen, catcher Josh Phegley and left-hander Ryan Buchter, but bringing back Diekman allows the club to retain a veteran, left-handed power arm in the back end of the bullpen.
The hard-throwing Diekman was acquired by Oakland from Kansas City on July 27, 2019. After going 0-6 with a 4.75 ERA in 48 relief appearances with the Royals, Diekman appeared in 28 games for Oakland, going 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA, but did not have his contract option for 2020 exercised following the season. His new contract will be worth $7.5 million according to a report by Jon Heyman of the MLB Network, though it’s not clear if that’s the value of the two guaranteed years, or if it includes the option year.
Diekman, 32, held the opposition to a .215 batting average and struck out 84 while surrendering just three home runs in 62.0 innings, and has the ability to get both left-handers and right-handers out. He is 15-22 with a 3.90 ERA and 467 strikeouts in 374.0 innings over 441 appearances in eight seasons in the Major Leagues.
Treinen, 31, began the season as the A’s closer, but posted a 6.14 ERA over a 19-game stretch from April 28 to June 20 before going on the injured list with a strained right shoulder. He was reinstated July 3, but posted a 6.17 ERA in the 27 games following his return, finishing 6-5 with 16 saves, five blown saves and a 4.91 ERA in 57 relief appearances on the season. He now becomes an intriguing option for teams looking for relief help on the open market. When he was on, he was one of the best closers in the game, going 9-2 with a 0.78 ERA in 80 1/3 innings with 38 saves in 2018.
All other players not already signed for 2020 were tendered contracts, including the A’s seven remaining arbitration eligible players: pitcher Chris Bassitt, outfielder Mark Canha, outfielder Robbie Grossman, Liam Hendriks (who became the closer after Treinen went down), left-handed starter Sean Manaea, utility man Chad Pinder and Gold Glove shortstop and MVP finalist Marcus Semien.
On Monday, the A’s traded second baseman Jurickson Profar — who they acquired after Matt Olson broke his hamate last March — to the San Diego Padres for catcher Austin Allen. Profar was likely to be non-tendered by Monday’s 8 p.m. ET deadline, and the move clears the way for several middle infielders in the system, including Sheldon Neuse, Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo, though Barreto and Mateo (another of Oakland’s top prospects, and a Triple-A All-Star at short) could be trade bait.
Allen, a left-handed hitter, batted .330 with 21 homers in 67 games at Triple-A last season, and could back up Sean Murphy, the A’s top prospect who made his debut last season.
The A’s also agreed to minor league deals with right-handed pitcher Jordan Weems and outfielder Dillon Thomas, who will get invites to spring training.
Weems, 27, combined to go 0-3 with eight saves and a 4.37 ERA in 41 games with Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in the Boston Red Sox organization last year. He struck out 69 batters in 55 2/3 innings and surrendered just two home runs. The right-hander was originally selected by the Red Sox in the third round of the 2011 draft as a catcher, and hit .207 with three home runs and 81 RBI in 305 games from 2011-16. He transitioned to pitcher in 2016 and is 13-8 with a 3.87 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 200.0 innings in 127 appearances over the last four years.
Thomas, 26, spent the entire 2019 season with Double-A Biloxi in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, batting .265 with 13 home runs, 71 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 131 games. He started 90 games in right field, 28 in center field and also appeared in one game in left field. The left-handed hitter was originally a fourth round pick of Colorado in 2011 and is a .261 career hitter with 37 home runs, 278 RBI and 96 stolen bases in 645 games in nine seasons as a minor leaguer.