A’s explain surprising roster decision just five games into season after demoting Esteury Ruiz

Written by on April 3, 2024

Five games into the new season, the Oakland Athletics are 1-4, and they’ve looked even worse than that record would lead you to believe. They’ve committed 13 errors, six more than any other team, and they’ve allowed 11 stolen bases, two more than any other team. At the ownership level, the A’s have no interest in fielding a competitive team, and it shows on the field.

Prior to Monday’s loss to the Boston Red Sox (BOS 9, OAK 0), the Athletics somewhat surprisingly optioned outfielder Esteury Ruiz to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for waiver claim Tyler Nevin. Ruiz was the centerpiece in last offseason’s Sean Murphy trade and he was off to a hot start this season, going 3 for 7 with a double and a triple. He also led the AL with 63 steals in 2023.

Here’s what A’s GM David Forst said about the decision to demote Ruiz (via MLB.com):

“We talked about Esty a couple of times during the spring,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “Where he fits in the lineup, on this team, and the importance of him playing every day. Seeing through the first four games, that wasn’t going to happen here.”

“Cutting down on strikeouts and getting on base are things that we talked to him about all last season,” Forst said. “He did make some good adjustments this spring. We saw an improvement in his exit velocity and some better at-bats. But the reality is, to use his skills, he needs to get on base. … He needs to be able to do that on a consistent basis. I’m hoping with him leading off every day in Triple-A, it’s not a long stay for him down there.”

Ruiz, 25, did not have an especially strong 2023 season despite the gaudy stolen base total. He authored a .254/.309/.345 batting line that was 12% below average once adjusted for ballpark. Also, despite his speed, Ruiz rated poorly in the outfield, registering minus-13 defensive runs saved. According to Baseball Reference’s calculations, he was a minus-0.1 WAR player in 2023.

Truth be told, Ruiz was not a lock to make the Opening Day roster this season. Miguel Andujar hurt his knee in spring training and needed surgery, which opened a roster spot for Ruiz. It wasn’t until claiming Nevin that the A’s had a viable alternative for that roster spot. The hot start to 2024 is nice, but ultimately, sending Ruiz to Triple-A for further development is not outlandish.

Oakland acquired Ruiz from the Milwaukee Brewers as the headliner in the three-team Murphy trade with the Atlanta Braves, and, to date, that trade has been a complete dud for the A’s. They received five players in the deal:

In addition to Murphy, the Athletics also gave up righty Joel Payamps in that trade, and Payamps emerged as one of the game’s top relievers with the Brewers in 2023. He threw 70 2/3 innings with 77 strikeouts and a 2.55 ERA, and is a trusted late-inning arm. Murphy is an All-Star at the game’s most demanding position. For him and Payamps, the A’s didn’t get much at all.

This, unfortunately, is nothing new. The Matt Chapman and Matt Olson trades didn’t net the A’s any significant pieces — there is still a chance catcher Shea Langeliers (Olson trade) can develop into a mainstay — and their farm system ranks as one of the worst in the game despite the firesale. MLB.com ranks the system 25th in baseball. Baseball America ranks them 25th as well.

After all their trades, the Athletics should have more young talent than they do. It’s bad enough owner John Fisher has completely abdicated his responsibilities as a steward of an MLB franchise, but the front office has also whiffed on far too many trades lately. Perhaps Ruiz returns as a better player on the other side of the demotion. Right now, this looks like another A’s miss.

The post A’s explain surprising roster decision just five games into season after demoting Esteury Ruiz first appeared on CBS Sports.


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