With Jason Hammel skipping a start and either Kyle Blanks or Craig Gentry returning, the Athletics can spare a reliever until a few days before Hammel's next start on August 26. Read on to see how the A's could manage past that date.
The Oakland Athletics optioned reliever Dan Otero to the Sacramento River Cats ahead of the likely activation of either Kyle Blanks or Craig Gentry from their rehabilitation assignment, (confirmed by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle). Optioning Otero spares the Athletics from being forced to release one of their trade acquisitions. Even if not recalled before the initial August 31 postseason eligibility deadline, Otero can still be made eligible because Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, both postseason-eligible players, will still be on the disabled list at the end of the year.
The only postition players the A's can send on optional assignment without trouble are John Jaso, Josh Reddick, Andy Parrino, Eric Sogard, Derek Norris, Nate Freiman, and Stephen Vogt. The only pitchers the A's can option out are Sonny Gray, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, and Otero. If Gentry is being activated, none of those players are serious candidates for demotion. If Blanks is being activated, Freiman could have been sent to Sacramento instead.
Hammel is on turn to start on August 26 against the Houston Astros. At that point, the A's will be down to a six-man bullpen and will remain so unless the A's perform other roster maneuvers. Susan Slusser earlier today noted that the A's were considering recalling Drew Pomeranz to start against the Angels on August 31 or instead start Jesse Chavez in a spot start, pushing Jason Hammel to September 1 against Seattle. Of course, one wonders who falls off the roster to make room for Pomeranz to make his return.
Wacky roster maneuvering
There is a rather curious maneuver the A's could perform in order to bring a reliever other than Otero to the bullpen a few days before September roster expansion or give room for Pomeranz to be added to the roster. Usually, a player sent to the minor leagues on optional assignment must remain with their minor league team for at least 10 days. Thus, Otero could only return not earlier than August 31 unless someone got hurt.
However, if the minor league team's season (including any postseason) ends before those 10 days are up, then the 10-day rule does not apply. Gray could be sent to the minor leagues after his start on August 27. Which team, however? The Sacramento River Cats, Midland Rockhounds, and Stockton Ports are all on pace to earn berths in their league postseasons. Gray could be assigned to the Beloit Snappers, the A's Low-A club in Wisconsin, whose season will end after their game on September 1. If Pomeranz pushes Jason Hammel's start to September 1 against Seattle, Sonny Gray would be on turn to start on September 2 anyway and could be recalled ahead of that game.
You would probably only see something like this if the bullpen situation looked really bad after Hammel's start on August 26 and Gray's start on August 27. This would also pretty much lock the A's into adding Sonny Gray and Dan Otero as the replacements for Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin for the ALDS and beyond. However, for any potential one-game Wild Card game, Sonny's spot can be opened up to the rest of the organization.
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