Prior to the move, which sent Jesse Hahn and No. 18 prospect right-handed pitcher Heat Fillmyer to the Royals, manager Bob Melvin acknowledged his club’s need for another lefty in the bullpen, saying Saturday:
“We’ve got one lefty, you end up using that guy quite a bit … that’s an area that we’re targeting. I’ll tell you what, we made some offers to some guys, we just weren’t able to get them here.”
GM David Forst has filled that need, which he said is something the front office had been working toward all winter. In Buchter, Forst added an arm that covers all areas of need, he said during via conference call:
“His velo has really picked up the last couple years, now averaging 92-93, and he’s been really hard on lefties. He checked a lot of boxes for us, in terms of what we’ve been looking for all offseason.”
Forst would know what improvements Buchter has made in recent years, the 2005 33rd round selection has been fixed in the Athletics’ acquisition crosshairs since they attempted to sign him as a minor league free agent in 2015. The lefty instead chose a move to San Diego where he eventually created a role for himself in the Padres bullpen.
He is happy to have landed in Oakland now, he said in a conference call:
“When you’re traded that obviously means that somebody wants you. … It’s good to be where you’re wanted. I’m not saying that Kansas City did not want me, it’s just that I like the direction that Oakland is heading in.
“I know that (VP of Baseball Operations) Billy Beane said he’s tired of rebuilding and he wants to try to put a team together to win and I feel like I would be happy to be a part of that.”
Now 30, Buchter boasts a career 2.85 ERA in 139 appearances spanning three major league seasons. In 29 games with the Royals in 2017, his first year in the American League, the New Jersey native was lights out, going 1-0 with five holds and eight runs allowed in 27 innings (2.67 ERA). He did so with what he considers an attacking approach which has led to a career first-strike percentage of 57.1 — by comparison, the personification of aggressive pitching Clayton Kershaw brags a career 64.3 first-strike percentage while Liam Hendriks, the best of the returning A’s, carries a 61.9 percent career mark.
Buchter joins Daniel Coulombe as the likely southpaws out of an Oakland bullpen that will feature three new faces..
About the rebuilt bullpen, Forst said:
“I think we’ve done a lot. I think we’ve made our team better, for sure — We checked some boxes. … I really like the group we have.
“It’s a good, deep group. … Hopefully we’ve built enough depth back there that the bullpen will really be a strength for this team throughout 2018.”
“I think the bullpen, they’re setting it up to be a strength — it’s going to be one of the strengths of the team and they’re going to rely on it to win a lot of games. Nowadays, that’s the direction that baseball is heading in: strong bullpens are winning games.”
Moss last played for the A’s in the 2014 Wild Card game, and hit 76 homers with Oakland over three seasons. He suffered through a down 33-year-old season in 2017, slashing .207/.279/.428, but swatted 22 bombs.
At the present, Forst is unsure if there is a spot for the veteran designated hitter on the 25-man roster, though he will have the opportunity to earn such a spot in spring.
That is more than likely could have been said for Hahn, who heads into camp without the benefit of a minor league option and no open slots on the A’s pitching staff. In a conversation with the big right-hander, Forst said he told Hahn that a move to Kansas City, where he could be battling for an Opening Day roster spot, will be beneficial.
Helping those who now displaced, while admirable, is back-burner for the Oakland GM. On the front burner, over very high heat, is continuing to build his young roster into a postseason contender. And Forst has done almost all of what he previously said would be required to do so — adding an outfielder and strengthening the bullpen. What’s left? Forst and Melvin would still like to add a starter, of which several solid candidates remain in the free agent pool.
Asked if he would actively pursue any such addition, Forst said, until the Opening Day roster is written in pen the phone in his office will remain active:
“You never know what opportunities will pop up.”