OAKLAND -– The A’s have taken great care this season to develop a surplus of starting pitching depth, which is a key to whatever success they have on the field.
They’ll head into the winter with easily more than five candidates who seem capable of competing for the 2016 rotation. But watching Jesse Chavez struggle in Saturday’s 8-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners brought one point to light as we think ahead to next spring.
The A’s will have the quantity of arms they crave when they report to camp. But it’s fair to say that beyond ace Sonny Gray, no one can be counted on as a “sure thing” on next year’s starting staff as things currently stand.
Jesse Hahn surely put enough of his ability on display to make the A’s feel good about re-installing him in the five-man rotation. But Hahn will be coming off a forearm injury that will have robbed him of most of the final three months of this season. He’ll need to show he’s healthy.
Kendall Graveman, who’s also been lost to what’s likely a season-ending oblique injury, was up and down in his rookie season. He showed enough potential to be in the mix next season, but certainly the sinkerballer needs to develop consistency. The A’s hope Chris Bassitt returns from a shoulder injury in the final weeks of this season, but his body of work is too small to simply plug him in next season with no questions asked.
What a story it will make if either Jarrod Parker or A.J. Griffin makes a full return after what will amount to two full seasons missed. Each underwent Tommy John surgery and then suffered setbacks on the comeback trail. Obviously, their status is extremely tentative.
Others also will be in the competition, including Chavez, who lasted just two-plus innings Saturday and continues giving off mixed signals on whether he’s a long-term piece of the rotation puzzle.
Why bring this all up?
It isn’t to add another layer of pessimism to what’s been a dismal season. It’s to point out that, as theories start forming on what positions the A’s should address with their offseason shopping list, the rotation perhaps needs to be a consideration.
Chavez’s second-half struggles underscore that.
He’s posted a 5.75 ERA over his last 13 starts. For his career, his post All-Star break ERA is 6.02.
Starts such as Saturday’s, when the right-hander walked a career-high five and gave up five runs, lead to the belief that he’s running out of gas late in the season. Bob Melvin said he doesn’t believe that to be the case.
“He was pretty frustrated with today’s game because he felt strong physically,” the A’s manager said. “The ball wasn’t going where he wanted it to, and he probably didn’t have as much on it as we’ve seen from him in the past. But physically, he feels good.”
Chavez, after watching video, said he’s dealing with a problem that’s lingered much of the second half. He’s leaning too far back at the top of his delivery and not creating the momentum he needs as he’s pushing toward the plate.
When that happens, “things tend to go side to side instead of north and south,” Chavez said. “I think that’s what happened today with my changeup. Normally it has good depth and today it was side to side. … There’s always gonna be things to work on, but for something drastic like that to happen, it’s tough to pinpoint when you’re in the heat of battle.”
The A’s will use the final four weeks to continue evaluating starters such as Felix Doubront, Aaron Brooks, Sean Nolin and, they hope, Bassitt. They’ll go into the offseason with no shortage of names to sort through. In fact, their starting depth might be the envy of some other American League clubs.
But most of those names don’t have proven track records, so it won’t be a surprise if the A’s add another option or two over the winter.