A's option Esteury Ruiz in odd move that could have big ramifications

Mar 31, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Esteury Ruiz (1) runs the bases
Mar 31, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Esteury Ruiz (1) runs the bases / Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports
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After claiming utility-man Tyler Nevin off waivers on Sunday, the A's had to make room on the 26-man roster for him since he is out of options. The correspoding move was to send down electric outfielder Esteury Ruiz, who set the AL rookie stolen base record last season with 67 swipes.

Overall, Ruiz hit .254 with a .309 on-base percentage and the goal for him this off-season was to work on adding a little power to his stroke, to cut down on strikeouts, and the get on base at a higher clip. That is what the A's front office and coaching staff were looking for from him this season.

So far he has played in three games, received eight plate appearances, and went 3-for-7 with a sacrifice fly, a single, a double, and a triple, as well as a stolen base. He has struck out one time. Outside of J.D. Davis, Ruiz was the team's best hitter according to wRC+ through four games. Davis holds a 271 wRC+ (100 is league average) heading into Monday's game, while Ruiz was at 217.

Due to his performance so far this season which included a 2-for-4 performance with two runs scored, a triple, and a stolen base on Sunday, the fact that he was the centerpiece of the Sean Murphy trade, and that the A's are coming off of a 50-112 season, there is a chance that the Player's Association gets involved here. They have already had issues with the A's low payrolls, and if they feel that the team is manipulating his service time, then there may be a grievance that follows.

Most grievances don't go anywhere.

The A's could argue that it was a roster construction problem, not a Ruiz problem. They had four outfield regulars with Ruiz, JJ Bleday, Seth Brown, and Lawrence Butler, along with Ryan Noda and Brent Rooker as options out there. With Nevin, a right-handed bat, coming in, then they had to send someone from that mix down. Bleday, Noda, Brown, and Butler are all lefties, and Rooker hit 30 home runs last season. Hernaiz could have been an option too, but he just broke camp with the team for his MLB debut and is the only other shortstop option besides Nick Allen. That would be the case that the A's would lay out there.

However, the Player's Association could potentially decide the fate of the Oakland A's in the near future. Right now it looks as though the team will either be playing in Sacramento or Oakland from 2025-27. There has not been a statement from the players saying that they would definitively approve playing in a minor-league facility for three or more seasons while the A's proposed Las Vegas ballpark is built. What if they just say no to playing in any minor league facility? That would make Oakland the only option, and currently The Town is looking for an exclusive one year window to line up an ownership group for an expansion pitch to MLB as part of the terms they've laid out for a lease extension at the Coliseum.

Obviously this action on the part of the Player's Association is all speculation, but it's not too often these days that the players have the power to really make the owners sweat. This past off-season numerous high-profile free agents had to settle for short-term deals, and adding a minor league ballpark to the mix to benefit one of the owner's bottom lines may be the last straw.

We'll see what happens with all of this in the coming days, but there could be more to the Ruiz story coming that initially meets the eye.

As for Nevin, A's manager Mark Kotsay told reporters before Monday's game that he will be primarily be used against left-handers. In 105 career games at the big-league level, Nevin has hit .276 against southpaws with a .344 OBP and a 119 wRC+.

Jason Burke