We knew that as Opening Day drew closer the A’s would be forced to make some difficult decisions when paring down their roster to the requisite 25. Unfortunately you can’t stash everyone on the 15 day DL, so some incredibly tough cuts had to be made. Today, Travis Blackley and Daric Barton were the casualties as both were designated for assignment by the Athletics. Of course it doesn’t automatically mean the organization will lose the players, but they will be exposed to waivers and can elect free agency if they are not claimed. Bottom line, chances are high that we’ve seen the last of Travis Blackley and Daric Barton in an A’s uniform.
Both of these moves resonated throughout the Athletics organization and its fanbase, but for very different reasons. Blackley had become quite the fan favorite since arriving with the A’s last year. His friendly demeanor, his Twitter hashtags, and quite frankly his appeal to the female sector of the fanbase put him atop the list of popular Athletics. What made it most difficult was the fact that he had worked so hard to get back to the major leagues, had been given an opportunity by the Athletics, and truly felt like he had become part of the fabric of this team. And he had. He told Susan Slusser after hearing the news that he had “the A’s imprinted a bit on my DNA.” Oakland had become his home and it’s tough to see him go. Hopefully he will get a chance to pitch in the big leagues somewhere this year, he’s exactly the kind of player that can gel with any team.
Daric Barton has had a much longer journey in Oakland, and certainly much rougher. When he was acquired way back in 2004 in the Mark Mulder trade with the St. Louis Cardinals, he was regarded as one of the top hitters in the minor leagues. The ceiling was thought to be very high for Barton. He never was able to put it together at the major league level though. His 2010 season was unfortunately the abberation in his Athletics career, when he led the American League in walks and seemed to finally become a productive player. After that, injuries derailed his career and when he was healthy he still was unable to produce. He slipped down the first base depth chart, despite his defensive prowess, and now has found himself on the way out. I would be shocked if Barton cleared waivers, and for him a fresh start in a new organization would probably serve him well. I’ve certainly been hard on him, but it was only because the ability is there and he just wasn’t able to bring it out.
The A’s also optioned Jordan Norberto to the minor leagues and claimed pitchers Josh Stinson from the Milwaukee Brewers, and Danny Otero from the New York Yankees. Stinson will report to Double A Midland, Otero to Triple A Sacramento. Today’s moves likely open the door for someone like Hideki Okajima to make the 25 man roster, and Evan Scribner, Mike Ekstrom, and Pedro Figueroa in the mix as well for the final bullpen spot.