OAKLAND -- Not expecting to be big players in the free-agent market this offseason, the A’s know they will need to get creative in order to fill their needs. One of those avenues presented itself on Thursday.
With several 40-man roster spots available, the A’s made two selections in the Major League portion of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft: outfielder Ka’ai Tom from Cleveland’s farm system and right-hander Dany Jiménez from Toronto. Both players add some much-needed depth for Oakland and will report to Spring Training with a good chance of remaining on the big league roster.
As Rule 5 selections, Tom and Jiménez must remain on the A’s 26-man roster all season or they can be offered back to their respective clubs for $50,000. The selections each came with an initial cost of $100,000 for Oakland.
There was speculation that this year’s Rule 5 Draft could feature fewer selections than in recent years due to the cancelation of the Minor League season in 2020. But the A’s had enough feedback on Tom and Jiménez based on their performances in '19 and participation in the instructional league earlier this year to get a good gauge on each player.
“It was a different process we went through, but we had enough looks at these guys in 2019 and abbreviated looks in the spring before things were shut down,” A’s assistant general manager Dan Feinstein said. “We had objective data from alternate [training] sites. In both Tom and Jiménez's case, they were both in the instructional league just a couple of months ago, so we were confident in the information we had on both of those guys.”
Tom, 26, was a fifth-round Draft pick of the Indians in 2015 out of the University of Kentucky. The left-handed-hitting outfielder split time between Cleveland’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates in '19, slashing .290/.380/.532 with 23 home runs and 86 RBIs over 132 games.
The A’s are most intrigued by Tom’s batted-ball profile. Though he appears to be smaller in stature -- listed at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds -- Tom has racked up plenty of hard-hit balls over his Minor League career. He also gets on base at a high clip, which is something the A’s place an emphasis on, with a career .360 on-base percentage over five Minor League seasons. Combine that with his ability to play all three outfield positions, and the A’s might have a strong candidate to replace veteran outfielder Robbie Grossman, who is currently a free agent following a solid 2020.
“Ka’ai Tom is a strong, compact left-handed hitter with some defensive versatility. He’s played both corners and center field and we’d be comfortable putting him anywhere in the outfield,” Feinstein said. “He’s a patient hitter who makes a lot of hard contact and hits line drives. He’s got enough pull power to occasionally hit a home run, but we’ll expect him to hit the ball hard to all fields.”
Jiménez, 26, was signed by the Blue Jays in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic, briefly reaching the Major Leagues with the Giants as a Rule 5 selection last season. He appeared in just two games then was returned to Toronto. The right-hander split time between Class A Advanced and Double-A in ‘19, posting a 2.59 ERA in 45 appearances with 93 strikeouts and 21 walks over 59 innings.
With a few key pieces from Oakland’s strong bullpen on the free-agent market, such as Liam Hendriks, Jiménez will get a good look in Spring Training. His repertoire is impressive -- a 98 mph fastball to go with a hard slider. Feinstein said that the A’s will also look to make some adjustments to Jiménez's mechanics that they believe could help him advance as a pitcher.
“In Dany’s case it was just about adding a really good arm with a plus fastball to the group who is going to come in and compete for jobs this spring,” Feinstein said. “We liked what we saw in Double-A in 2019 and were able to see him in the instructional league this year. We think there’s a couple of things we can tweak mechanically to help him really take advantage of the stuff he has.”
Oakland also added right-handers Zach Jackson from Toronto and Brett Graves from Miami in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and it lost right-hander Seth Martinez to the Astros. Jackson, 25, posted a 3.97 ERA in 46 relief appearances at Triple-A in 2019. Graves was a '14 Draft pick by the A’s. The 27-year-old righty posted a combined 2.60 ERA in 45 relief outings at Double-A and Triple-A in ‘19.
The additions of Tom and Jiménez left Oakland with 37 players on its 40-man roster.