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Athletics Notes: Stripling, Wood, Montas, Waldichuk, Bullpen

The Athletics’ offseason has been dominated by news about their planned move to Las Vegas, including the still-ongoing question of where exactly the team is going to play during the three-year gap between the end of their lease at the Oakland Coliseum and the opening of their new ballpark in Vegas in 2028.  These issues have naturally influenced the front office’s roster-building endeavors, as GM David Forst told reporters (including The Comeback’s Jessica Kleinschmidt and The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea) that the A’s have been targeting free agents on one-year contracts, in part due to the uncertainty over where the team will be playing beyond the 2024 campaign.

One of those one-year offers was finalized this week, when Alex Wood was signed to a one-year, $8.5MM deal.  The pitching additions continued when Ross Stripling was acquired in a trade with the Giants, and Forst confirmed that both Stripling and Wood will be deployed as starting pitchers heading into Spring Training.  The two veterans have worked as starters, relievers, and swingmen during their careers (including as recently as 2023 when they both played for San Francisco), but Forst noted that such seasoned starters are “exactly what we need with a relatively young and inexperienced starting pitching staff….We’ve seen what happens when you get a little overwhelmed with inexperience and we started last season with five rookie starters, and it didn’t go well.”

Forst said the A’s started discussing signing Wood and making a Stripling trade with the Giants back during the GM Meetings in November.  Plenty of other arms received consideration on the free agent and trade markets, and MLB.com’s Martin Gallegos reports that longtime former Athletic Frankie Montas was of interest before Montas signed a one-year, $16MM deal with the Reds.  Montas posted a 3.70 ERA over 537 2/3 innings with Oakland from 2017-22, but the righty has been plagued by injuries and under-performance since the A’s dealt Montas to the Yankees at the 2022 trade deadline.

The Oakland rotation now consists of Wood, Stripling, JP Sears, Paul Blackburn, and then a host of candidates vying for the fifth starter’s job.  It remains to be seen if Ken Waldichuk will be part of this competition, as Forst said Waldichuk has yet to begin throwing and won’t do so for at least two weeks.

Waldichuk will see a doctor next week to figure out a throwing schedule in the next step of the southpaw’s ongoing attempts to recover from a strained flexor tendon and sprained UCL in his throwing arm.  The injuries emerged right at the very end of the 2023 season, and Forst’s update was the first on Waldichuk since the A’s revealed in early December that the left-hander was pursuing a non-surgical rehab plan that included both a Tenex procedure and a PRP injection.  Even if Waldichuk gets the green light to start throwing relatively soon, he’ll obviously still need a lot of ramp-up time to make up for the lost offseason work, and Waldichuk seems like a lock to begin the season on the injured list.

Waldichuk’s had a 5.36 ERA in his second MLB season, and his 141 innings ranked second among all A’s pitchers last year.  The additions of Stripling and Wood will hopefully more than make up for those innings should Waldichuk miss a significant amount of time, but the Athletics figure to keep looking for more lower-cost pitching prior to Opening Day.  Forst didn’t exactly close the door on more rotation candidates, but noted that the A’s are particularly looking at the relief market.

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