The Oakland A's added prospects Joey Wendle and Jose Torres to the 40-man roster on Friday, protecting both from the Rule 5 draft. To make room for Wendle and Torres on the roster, the A's designated OF Craig Gentry and LHP Fernando Abad for assignment. The A's also announced the signing of free agent LHP Rich Hill to a one-year contract. To make room for Hill, the A's designated RHP A.J. Griffin for assignment.
Wendle and Torres were the two players we predicted the A's would protect, as both were likely to be selected in the Rule 5 draft if not protected.
Wendle was named to the All-PCL team after a strong campaign with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds that saw him hit .289/.323/.442. Wendle set a franchise record for doubles with 42 and hit .341 after the All-Star break. Unless the A's acquire a middle infielder this off-season, Wendle should enter camp with an opportunity to earn a spot on the A's 2016 roster as the team's second baseman. Wendle was a non-roster invitee to big league spring training last year and spent most of the spring in big league camp.
Torres is further away from being big-league ready, but the left-hander made significant strides in 2015. In his first year as a full-time reliever, Torres posted a 2.56 ERA in 77.1 innings for the A's two full-season A-ball squads. He struck-out 84 and held opposing batters to a .203 average. Torres also threw two scoreless innings in the California League playoffs. His fastball can touch 97 and sits 93 and he has a promising breaking ball. He turned 22 in September.
The A's cut ties with Gentry and Abad after both players suffered through disappointing 2015 seasons. Gentry spent much of the year in Triple-A after getting off to a very slow start with the A's in April. He hit just .120 in 26 games with the A's and hit .256 with a 646 OPS in 101 games with Nashville. Gentry's final option year was used in 2015, so he would have had to remain on the A's 25-man roster all next season or risk being exposed to waivers.
Abad is also out of options. The left-hander was outstanding for the A's in 2014, when he had a 1.57 ERA in 57.1 innings. He struggled some in 2015, posting a 4.15 ERA in 47.2 innings. Opposing batters hit .251 against him in 2015 after batting just .175 against him in 2014. He also allowed 11 homeruns.
The A's officially announced the addition of Hill, who joins the A's on a one-year deal. He takes Griffin's spot in the A's starting pitching depth chart.
Griffin, a 2010 13th-round pick by the A's, had Tommy John surgery in April 2014 and missed that entire season. In 2015, he was expected to join the A's midway through the season, but he suffered a shoulder injury while pitching for Nashville and threw only 14.1 minor league innings before being shutdown for the season. He recently completed his rehab at the A's minor league facility in Mesa and is on a normal off-season program. He can be outrighted to Triple-A if he clears waivers, although he could generate some trade interest if teams believe that he is healthy. Griffin is arbitration-eligible this season. He has a career 3.60 ERA in 282.1 major-league innings.
In other news, MLB.com's Jane Lee reported on Twitter that the A's have invited RHP Ryan Doolittle to big league camp as a non-roster player. Doolittle was a minor league free agent but remains in the organization. He had a 3.32 ERA in 57 innings for Double-A Midland this season despite getting off to a poor start in April.
Doolittle has been a key part of the RockHounds' bullpen the past two seasons as they have won back-to-back league titles. The 27-year-old will be attending his first big league camp.