Signed OF-R Cody Ross; optioned OF-S Billy Burns to Triple-A Sacramento; designated OF-R Alex Hassan for assignment. [4/8]
Released by the Diamondbacks over the weekend, Ross joined the Athletics as soon as he cleared waivers. It's a need-based relationship, driven by the absences of Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp, the latter of whom is expected to miss two months following elbow surgery. Ross figures to slide into a platoon with Sam Fuld for the time being, as his .299 multi-year True Average suggests he can still offer value against southpaws. Keeping both around once Reddick and Crisp return will get tricky, as Jason Wojciechowski noted, but these situations tend to fix themselves. Or, if you didn't drink your morning depresso: Ross is 34 and coming off a disappointing and injury-riddled season; there's no guarantee he's rosterable come June—due to performance or health reasons—even if he's worth the prorated minimum gamble.
Purchased the contract of 1B-L Allan Dykstra from Triple-A Durham; placed 1B-L James Loney on the 15-day disabled list (oblique); placed RHP Burch Smith on the 60-day disabled list (Tommy John surgery). [4/8]
Loney hits the disabled list for the first time in his big-league career, having strained his oblique during batting practice. With John Jaso sidelined due to a bruised wrist, and Juan Francisco opting for free agency instead of an optional assignment, the Rays had to call upon whomever qualified as Plan D at first base. So enters Dykstra, a former first-round pick who signed a minor-league deal over winter.
Dykstra performed well in his first Triple-A stint, hitting .280/.426/.504 in 439 trips to the plate. That's the good news. The bad news is he did so as a 27-year-old, and as part of a Las Vegas team that included four players with higher OPS in 150-plus plate appearances. (Bobby Abreu, sadly, did not meet the playing-time threshold.) Predictably, scouts are bearish on Dykstra's big-league prospects for the standard Quad-A reasons. Dykstra has plus raw power and shows a willingness to walk, yet his hit tool could play as well-below-average due to suspect bat speed. Likewise, he's not much of an athlete, limiting his defensive range to first base, where he's considered substandard.
The best-case scenario for Dykstra is serving as a bench bat. Even then, the Rays are likely to shed him from the roster once Loney and/or Jaso heals.
Agreed to a four-year extension with 3B-R Josh Harrison worth $27.3 million with two club options that could push the deal's total value to $50.3 million. [4/8]
A surprise extension for one of 2014's surprise players.
Harrison set a new career-high in plate appearances last season, slotting into various positions as the need arose. He finished the year at third base once Pedro Alvarez's throwing troubles became too much to stomach. The additional playing time allowed Harrison to more than double his career home-run and stolen-base totals, all the while posting bests in each of the slash categories.
The problem with Harrison's breakout season is that it didn't feel like a breakout; not a sustainable one, anyway. Harrison improved upon his walk rate and power production, true, but not by great leaps. Additionally, some of his pitch-discipline statistics went the wrong way relative to his 2013 marks including his contact, in-zone, and out-of-zone swing rates.
There's no knocking Harrison's defensive ability or high-energy ways, of course. You just wonder, based on the lack of clear under-the-hood progress, if Harrison is closer to being the new Mark Loretta or Willie Harris—a reserve who enjoys an uncharacteristically good season—than the new Ben Zobrist. In other words, heading forward Harrison could be a contributor, though not one who demands a long-term extension—especially not when the organization has more capable big-league infielders than spots, and when the same organization has limited resources.
Still, the Pirates seem to believe Harrison is worth gaining cost certainty and additional team control over, and that might count for something. With the exception of Jose Tabata (and maybe Charlie Morton), Neal Huntington has done a good job picking players to lock up. The cost is small enough—Zobrist himself received $18 million over four years in 2010—that the Pirates should be okay even if Harrison regresses into an average player.