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A’s Send Ronald Herrera to San Diego as PTBNL

May 29, 2014

Well, this comes as a bit of a surprise. The A’s completed the trade for Kyle Blanks today by sending A-ball right-hander Ronald Herrera to San Diego. Herrera, who was ranked as the A’s 16th best prospect in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook is someone that has the makings of a big league starter as per scouts. Herrera was signed out of Venezuela and this year was slinging pitches for the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League putting up a 3.38 ERA and 4.68 FIP in 50 2/3 innings across nine starts. His numbers were backed by 6.2 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9.

For what it is worth, Blanks has looked alright since moving up the coast to Oakland. In six games in the green and gold he has put together a .286/.375/.500 slash line in 16 plate appearances for 0.1 WAR with a .388 wOBA and 152 wRC+. Despite those good numbers, six games a season does not make, and Herrera coupled with Jake Goebbert (who has struggled to a .170/.273/.340 slash line in 55 plate appearances for an anemic .278 wOBA and 59 wRC+ for El Paso) seems an awful lot to pay for a failed prospect who has bounced back and forth between the pros, Triple-A and disabled list. Herrera is far away from the pros and plenty could go wrong yet – and we aren’t hoping for that – and perhaps Blanks blossoms into the bonafide star he once seemed destined to become, but right now it is looking overpayish and a little too much “win now” from Billy Beane for my tastes.

A’s Claim Jeff Francis Off Waivers

May 18, 2014

An interesting move was made by Billy Beane and the Athletics brass today as they claimed lefty-Canadian hurler Jeff Francis off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. Francis will immediately join the Oakland bullpen as a long man, though I can see him inhabiting the role Travis Blackley held a few years back going from pen to rotation as needed. Francis had only one start in Cincinnati this season, a five inning outing during which he struck out four, walked no one, and allowed a home run and three earned runs getting the loss against the visiting San Diego Padres last Thursday. Prior to that he had spent the season with the Louisville Bats of the International League, tossing eight starts and 48 2/3 innings worth of 8.3 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 baseball for a 3.33 ERA and 3.08 FIP.

In his career which began in 2004, Francis has thrown 1,254 innings mostly in the thin air of Denver, posting a 4.94 ERA (4.39 FIP likes him a bit more) with 6.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9 and a 44.6% GB%. He has appeared in 229 games, only 12 of them not being starts and all but one of those relief appearances coming in 2013. It’ll be somewhat uncharted territory, but basically this is where he best fits the needs of the A’s and hopefully he can pull it together – thus far his relief appearances have been a struggle results-wise with a 7.09 ERA though his peripherals have garnered him a far superior 2.92 FIP.

Joe Savery will be sent to Sacramento to make room on the 25-man roster, while Jake Elmore‘s placement on the 60-day disabled list clears a 40-man roster spot for Francis. I like the move, its cost effective as Francis’ contract is so miniscule as to not be found anywhere (he signed an MiLB deal with Cincinnati in the offseason so it wasn’t worth a ton) and with pitchers dropping like flies one can never have enough depth, especially ones with the experience he has had. Also Francis has always most pitched in terrible parks for pitchers so I think his career numbers mark a more worst-case scenario for what he can do.

Daric Barton Clears Waivers

May 17, 2014

Did anyone expect anything else? Really? Anyone?

Blanks Deal Brokered; Barton Bounced

May 15, 2014

They say where there is smoke there is fire, and alas again today that is true – especially in San Diego, I suppose. The rumors of a Kyle Blanks to Oakland deal today came to fruition as Billy Beane sent the Friars for Jake Goebbert along with the ever so famous PTBNL or cash considerations. To make room on both the 25 and 40-man rosters the A’s designated first baseman Daric Barton, potentially – though unlikely – ending his tenure with the club.

As discussed the other day, the A’s don’t get a heck of a lot in Blanks. Once considered to be a top prospect injuries have been blamed for his lack of MLB success though it could just as well be he wasn’t as good as everyone presumed. For the platoon-happy and multi-use happy A’s Blanks offers the ability to play both the outfield and first base. I talked about Blanks’ career numbers yesterday, so this season he has seen very limited action with the Padres going 2-for-10 in eleven trips to the plate, but has hit .265/.364/.651 with a .422 wOBA and 153 wRC+ in 99 plate appearances with the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas – including belting nine dingers. Blanks could be yet another example of the A’s taking someone off the scrap heap and turning garbage to gold a la, Brandon McCarthy, Jesse Chavez and Blanks’ platoon mate Brandon Moss so who knows what to expect?

The move is really little risk because as oft-discussed one can really not do much than what Barton has put up the past few seasons. This year was no different as Barton is DFA’d sitting with a .158/.234/.175 slash line good for a .197 wOBA and 19 wRC+ in his 64 2014 plate appearances. Barton’s lauded defense has again not been “laudful” and overall he has been worth -0.5 WAR this year, important in a tight division and disastrous for someone with such little playing time. Giving up Goebbert is of little consequence as he is an aging prospect (if he could even be considered that any longer) and came to the A’s from Houston in exchange for Travis Blackley when the A’s found themselves with too many pitchers and too few roster spots last April. Goebbert put up solid numbers in Sacramento (.257/.371/.514 with a .382 wOBA and 127 wRC+ including six home runs in 132 plate appearances) but not enough to squeeze his way onto the A’s 40-man roster and therefore not really into the picture for the A’s yet this year – if he ever were to be considered for such a role.

Could this be the end of the road for Barton? I doubt it. Last year he went through the DFA process twice, surviving each time and this year he seems destined to do the same. The market for defensive underperformers with zero power and little ability to hit for average isn’t what it used to be.

A’s Interested in Kyle Blanks?

May 13, 2014

The A’s are interested in San Diego Padres first baseman Kyle Blanks according to CSNBayArea’s Joe Stiglich saying,

The A’s have shown interest in trading for San Diego Padres first baseman/outfielder Kyle Blanks, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CSN California.”

I like the idea. Daric Barton has been a disappointment – how long has it been since that wasn’t the case? – hitting a scant .143/.222/.161 good for a stellar 12 wRC+ and .186 wOBA in his 63 trips to the plate. Of course his defense saves him right? Nope. Not this year and combined with anemic hitting and piss-poor fielding he has been worth a grand total of -0.6 WAR in 2014. That means since his one good season (2010) he has been worth – ready for it? -0.1 WAR. Yes, he has been worse than a replacement player, so maybe it is time to think about replacing him?

Blanks isn’t anything spectacular but he is intriguing enough and during that same period he has been worth 1.1 WAR making him better than Barton at least. Blanks (28.89 PA/HR) has a little more pop than Barton (69.47 PA/HR) despite their similar career HR numbers (28 for Blanks and 30 for Barton). In his career Blanks has hit .228/.310/.401 with just a 8.8% BB% and 30.0% K%, but this isn’t about finding a new starting first baseman it is about building depth. Blanks can play the outfield and first base and can also be stashed at Sacramento. There is no value to Barton anymore who went cast off last year and DFA’d each time ended up passing through waivers unclaimed. I can’t imagine the market for him has advanced since last year and even if it did who cares?

Blanks isn’t the answer but there is more to him to be interested in than in Barton so if the asking price weren’t high I think a change of scenery could do both of these players some good.

Reviewing the Gio Gonzalez Trade

May 12, 2014

With the end of this weekend’s series sweep against the visiting Nats and in particularly spoiling Gio’s Oakland return, it seems a good time to revisit his trade to Washington. At the end of the day this trade may be more about Derek Norris or Tommy Milone (in fairness, neither seem particularly likely) but I think it is fair to call it “The Gio Gonzalez Trade”. It was December 23, 2011 and the A’s sent Gio and MiLB player Robert Gilliam to Washington in exchange for A.J. Cole, Milone, Norris and Brad PeacockBaseball America most coveted Peacock at the time, and Milone who has seen the most action as an Athletic was least loved by that publication.

At the time despite Gio being one of my favorite players in Oakland, I lauded the return writing,

“This move should be exciting for all A’s fans. While there are many who are upset over the rebuilding and claim that this rebuilding demonstrates a lack of a “commitment to winning” which I see on all corners of the internet discussion, this move is a clear an unmistakable sign of a rebuild being done the right way as these four players are all people who can contribute in the very near future to a very high caliber club.”

While I stand by that comment, I don’t stand by my closing comment of,

“2012 will most definitely not be a banner year for the A’s, but the future is indeed looking much brighter for the Oakland A’s, Christmas has come early.”

The A’s did raise a banner in 2012 and in 2013. Didn’t see that coming. But how has this deal in particular worked out and how responsible was this deal for getting the A’s there. I don’t really care what happens to the Nats but here is what they’ve received from Gio Gonzalez in two-plus seasons in DC: 72 starts, 442 2/3 innings, a 14th-best in MLB during that time (for pitchers) 8.9 WAR, a 3.21 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9. Not too shabby. The Nats? 203 wins to just 158 losses and clearly Gio is a big part of that. They have one division championship coming in 2012 (with a very disappointing playoff finish to St. Louis, largely aided by a bizarre decision to bench their best pitcher though that is an issue for a Nats blog to tackle – and they did), despite a disappointing 2013 they still won 86 games and finished second.

The A’s meanwhile have received from Milone 63 starts (65 total games), with a 3.98 ERA, 4.16 FIP in 382 innings of work with 6.7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 1.3 HR/9, good for 4.2 WAR. Better numbers than I’d have guessed and while they aren’t lights out like Gio Gonzalez if this were a one-for-one trade one could argue the A’s wouldn’t have been creamed in it especially given the disparity in pay between the two. But the A’s didn’t just get Milone, they got Norris whom they still have. Norris meanwhile has put up 3.7 WAR hitting .249/.337/.414 with 20 HRs in 630 plate appearances with a .332 wOBA and 112 wRC+. Milone and Norris are the only ones left in Oakland from the deal and combine for 7.9 WAR, one win short of Gio’s 8.9. But again, the A’s didn’t just get Milone and Norris…

They also got Brad Peacock, and while he did nothing with Oakland at the MLB level, he was a key part of the trade that net Jed Lowrie (4.5 WAR since coming to Oakland). Again though, that’s not all, Cole whom the A’s sent back to DC, also helped the A’s net John Jaso good for 1.8 WAR. So even if you divide the contributions from Jaso and Lowrie since it wasn’t Cole and Peacock exclusively who net them for the A’s, the A’s still look to come out ahead. Four players always offer more opportunity to shine than does one (just the law of numbers) but the A’s picked four good ones in what they either brought to Oakland on the field or in trades.

The A’s shouldn’t and don’t regret this deal, and if you think head to head is the best way to measure things, Norris took Gio deep twice. Enough said. Oh and for those curious, Gilliam, the throw-in, he is in Harrisburg sporting a 5.09 ERA and 6.03 FIP in 17 2/3 innings of work for the Senators. Don’t think he will change the calculus of this trade.

A’s Ink Sean Doolittle to a Five-Year Extension

April 18, 2014

Well that was odd news. Sean Doolittle has signed what is being called a five-year extension – though really it should be viewed as a four year extension as it runs through 2018 – with the A’s. Financial terms have not been released yet, but it will be interesting to see how much it is for before really going in-depth on any analysis. The fascinating thing is, I could not recall ever seeing a reliever get a five-year extension like this, and if you view it as a four-year extension there are only three other examples, Craig Kimbrel with the Braves, Joe Nathan way back in 2008 with the Twins and also in 2008 Manny Corpas with the Rockies. Kimbrel and Nathan of course were somewhat established closers and in 2007 with the Rockies’ run to the World Series Corpas was their shut down man in the pen tallying 19 saves and five more in the playoffs. So for Doolittle, not a closer, to get this sort of a deal is uncharted territory.

The A’s often are an organization that goes into uncharted territory, so in that sense this deal is not surprising. I’ve long felt that while closers are replaceable, good relievers are not. (Basically, I believe the very act of getting the final three outs, or “most important outs” or however you want to deem them can go to a variety of relievers. But pitchers who are good in the bullpen are necessary and a good eighth inning guy in my mind can be a good ninth inning guy and vice versa.) And Doolittle, who for a while I advocated the A’s bumping off their 40-man roster when he was a failed first base prospect, has been electric since making his debut as a pitcher in 2012 where I got to see his first appearance with the Stockton Ports in Lake Elsinore. He of course rocketed up the system and landed in Oakland by June 5th of that year. In his career the 6’3 southpaw owns a 3.10 ERA, bettered by a 2.56 FIP, though most noteworthy of course is his 9.3 K/9 against just 1.7 BB/9 and a slim 0.7 HR/9 in his 125 innings on the hill. Important to me for relievers he has 56 shutdowns to just 17 meltdowns, despite coming into games with a relatively high gmLI in his career at 1.46 (good for 21st out of 251 pitchers with at least 125 innings pitched since 2012).

Doolittle has only five saves in his career but is the type who one could see occupying a traditional closing role in the future. While this deal might be a hedge against him getting a lot of saves and artificially improving his market as that still is viewed as a go-to stat for reliever quality, I like the idea of adding on a cost-controlled reliever for the long term. Shortening ballgames is a very valuable proposition and Billy Beane is saying that at least through 2018 he’d like to shorten games by an inning. The deal also includes option years of 2019 and 2020 so Doolittle could be in Oakland for quite some time.

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