Oakland Athletics Add Another to Rotation Mix

The Oakland Athletics are going full steam ahead with Frankie Montas as a candidate for a back-of-the-rotation spot.

When you hear of a pitcher that can reach triple digits and has an injury history, you’ll likely think late inning reliever. Well, the Oakland Athletics are heading in a different direction according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. After missing nearly all of last year and making a cameo in the Arizona Fall League, the A’s will be taking it easy with Montas, but consider him a dark horse candidate for the fifth spot.

Montas was acquired with fellow, and more likely, rotation candidate Jharel Cotton and minor leaguer Grant Holmes. The trio currently comprise the A’s 4-5-6 prospects according to Baseball America.

Oakland’s rotation will have some upside in 2017, with the hope being that ace Sonny Gray returns to his Cy Young caliber form, while Sean Manaea continues to develop into a solid number two behind Gray, and Kendall Graveman continues to provide useful innings. Behind that trio things become a little more cloudy, which could open up a spot for Montas. Further helping his cause is the injury to fringe candidate Daniel Mengden which will keep him out of action for a few more weeks.

The two frontrunners for the last two spots in the rotation at the moment have to be Cotton, who was impressive in his five start stint in the big leagues last season, and Andrew Triggs, whom Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs is fairly high on. Cotton held a 2.15 ERA (3.76 FIP) and possesses a devastating change, while Triggs held a 2.81 ERA (2.68 FIP). Neither starter topped 30 innings last year, so there will be a lot left to prove this spring.

Outside of those five, manager Bob Melvin could come to consider Jesse Hahn and his curve, Chris Bassitt once he’s recovered from Tommy John, offseason addition Paul Blackburn from the Danny Valencia deal, or even Ross Detwiler who is a non-roster invitee.

The rotation isn’t quite set in stone, but Gray, Manaea, Graveman, Cotton and Triggs are the five that the A’s would presumably like to go with, barring injury. With Bassitt on the shelf for a few more months, Montas could have the inside track on what would amount to the sixth spot if he can remain healthy. However, if everyone stays healthy and productive, Montas could be lethal in a long relief type role.

In his brief stint in the AFL he totaled 17 innings and a 0.53 ERA, allowing just seven hits in that span. The one hangup was that he also walked eight batters, so he’ll definitely have to work on his control just a bit because that low hit rate isn’t going to last very long in the majors.

As a middle relief option out of the bullpen, Montas’ velocity would play up in short spurts and could help him get some extra outs as he develops. It’s smart to keep him stretched out for now, given the upside that he presents and the need for another starter that may arise down the road, but once the rotation is set and has its depth back, Montas in the bullpen just makes too much sense.