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The A’s have made a million and one trades it seems like in the past day. One trade that didn’t occur is apparently one that came close to fruition which was a trade between Arizona and Oakland that would have sent Yoenis Cespedes to the desert in return for Tyler Skaggs, A.J. Pollock, “plus” reported Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.
I am not opposed to the A’s dealing Cespedes when the return would be high. He is immensely talented (.208 ISO, 119 wRC+, quintessential five-tools player) but also has serious flaws (21.5% K%, durability concerns). Last year in his sophomore campaign Cespedes was worth 2.3 WAR (his rookie campaign was worth a hefty 2.9) as he hit to a .240/.294/.442 slash line showing some serious mash with 26 home runs. But he is just one guy and the Dbacks offered two allegedly: A.J. Pollock who last year was cheaper and also was worth more (3.6 WAR largely based upon his defense) with a .269/.322/.409 campaign (98 wRC+) and outstanding defense and strong baserunning and Tyler Skaggs a lefty prospect who struggled in 2013 with a 5.12 ERA and 4.86 FIP in 38 2/3 innings in Arizona with 8.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 1.6 HR/9, and a 4.59 ERA and 3.07 FIP in 104 innings with Reno sporting peripherals of 9.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and 0.4 HR/9. I wouldn’t mind my chances in that trade. It just goes to show that even as the A’s are in win-now mode, it seems that they’re open to any one on their roster to make improvements.
Don’t know if there are even more deals to be made, but the A’s made their third trade in the last 24 hours hooking up with the San Diego Padres to send them outfielder Seth Smith in exchange for righty reliever Luke Gregerson. Last deadline, I suggested the A’s send Michael Choice and a prospect (or Jerry Blevins) to the Padres for Gregerson and Joe Thatcher, today I sort of got that as the A’s got Gregerson and dealt Choice. This specific trade however: wow. A steal.
In Gregerson the A’s get a righty who has appeared in 363 games since his debut in 2009. Going in his age 30 year, he has put together a 9.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in his 347 innings of work for a 2.88 ERA and inline with that 2.94 FIP. He is a groundball guy (47.7%) and has 139 shutdowns to 60 meltdowns in his career mostly comprised of being a set up man. Originally drafted by St. Louis he came to San Diego as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Khalil Greene to Missouri. Only three relievers have thrown more innings since Gregerson entered the league in 2009 (Tyler Clippard, Edward Mujica and Matt Belisle). Among relievers who have thrown more than 200 innings since 2009, Gregerson’s 4.7 WAR rank 20th (out of 108) and his FIP 16th. He is a workhorse who delivers quality innings. With this the A’s bullpen is just loaded with options that their already strong starting pitching only need to give five to six strong innings a night.
To get Gregerson the A’s gave up Smith. While I like Smith and think he is a good ballplayer he clearly preferred hitting in the friendly confines of Coors Field (as a Rockie – doesn’t it seem like it should be Rocky? – he hit .275/.348/.485 compared to the .246/.331/.406 slash line he managed as an Athletic) than at sea level in Oakland. In two seasons with Oakland he was worth 2.3 WAR, clubbing just 22 home runs in 851 trips to the plate, slightly above league average with a 105 wRC+. Most recently in 2013, Bob Melvin found him 410 plate appearances during which he hit .253/.329/.391 with eight home runs for 1.1 WAR.
Great deal for the A’s! Rumor has it the next to be dealt with be Brett Anderson, it’ll be interesting to see where they can go from there. I’d love to see Oakland upgrade at second base, leaving Alberto Callaspo free to be dealt for maybe some organizational depth? It’d seem Detroit would have a need for a third baseman at this juncture, though Callaspo would be solid insurance should Josh Donaldson not be able to repeat his breakout (a likely possibility).
Day of deals continues. The A’s made another move today as they sent Michael Choice and minor league infielder Chris Bostick to the Texas Rangers in exchange for outfielder Craig Gentry and right-handed swingman Josh Lindblom. In reality Bostick and Lindblom are throw-ins in this deal. They aren’t completely inconsequential but in the grand scheme of things this is Choice for Gentry, future for now. Which is why Texas is sort of a strange partner in this trade.
The Rangers are known to be after a corner outfielder, furthermore they’re known to put power above (at times it seems all else) other attributes players possess. Choice doesn’t really fit either of those bills. In a few years he might, but for a team that just took on a massive contract to get Prince Fielder, that doesn’t seem like a team building for 2016 and beyond. But let’s let Rangers bloggers take that one on. Many view this move as an A’s team seeing the window closing. I don’t view it through that prism as I have had doubts about Choice, who with all those hitches in his swing seems destined to be exposed once he plays MLB regularly. Gentry is a very undervalued ballplayer. The A’s have excelled at using platoons the past few years and find ample playing time for everyone on their roster so even if Gentry isn’t an everyday starter there is plenty of time for him to contribute. Gentry does so in a way different than many, primarily with his speed and with his off the charts defense. He has been worth 35.9 runs above average since 2011 and 12.0 runs above average with his baserunning. He is 56-of-66 on stolen bases in his career (84.8% success rate) and basically rates as an average hitter (96 wRC+). That’s great value. And furthermore the A’s in 2012 and Pirates in 2013 have proven that defense really does win ballgames. To get that sort of player for a hitter with an obvious set of concerns who is supposed to be a power hitter but whose power has yet to develop (14 home runs in Sacramento in 600 plate appearances with just a .143 ISO) is great.
The throw-ins aren’t much to be too concerned about, Bostick was drafted in the 44th round of the amateur draft in 2011 and spent 2013 in Beloit posting a good .282/.354/.452 campaign with 14 home runs in 555 plate appearances for a very good .368 wOBA and 127 wRC+. While his numbers are good, he is a long way off from contributing to the MLB club and commensurate with his 44th round selection was not a marquee prospect, though he was ranked Oakland’s eighth best to end the year by Baseball Prospectus. The A’s meanwhile receive Josh Lindblom, who it appears has options left who could fit into the A’s as a swingman or relief option. A native of West Lafayette, Indiana who went on to play for West Lafayette’s Purdue University, he has played pro ball since his debut with the Dodgers in 2011 before being sent to Philadelphia in the deal that net L.A. Shane Victorino. He moved from Philadelphia to Arlington in the trade that sent Michael Young to the City of Brotherly Love. He has made five MLB starts in his 109 MLB appearances going 132 innings of 3.82 ERA, 4.35 FIP baseball with 8.1 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9 – more than capable numbers. Last year was his roughest at the pro level as he split his time between Texas (31 1/3 innings of 5.46 ERA and 4.42 FIP baseball) and Round Rock (3.08 ERA and 4.24 FIP in 108 innings). He is a flyball pitcher and figures to benefit from pitching in the spacious Coliseum.
I really like this move. I like players like Gentry who are just plain fun to watch. I like that the A’s defense is beyond iron-clad at this point. I wonder if this move portends a deal to shop Coco Crisp who has a lot of value on the market? Wonder if this had come through earlier if Seth Smith would have been tendered a contract too?
The A’s have been involved in trade talks for Brett Anderson. It makes sense. Anderson is young (he will enter his 26 year old season next year) and has shown flashes of brilliance. As I have argued in the past, I question just how much brilliance Anderson has actually shown, but that is neither here nor there. Teams are interested, with reports saying those teams include the very enamored Toronto Blue Jays to other less interested parties in the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners. But late yesterday there was a deal that was pretty confusing to all involved. There is a lot of weirdness to the economics of baseball. Mike Trout has been one of baseball’s best players the past two seasons though you’d never know it from his salary, while Alex Rodriguez‘ salary would make one think he the league leader in something other than New York Post Page Six stories. The A’s signed Scott Kazmir for $22M over the next two years, but one has a very reasonable argument saying that Tim Hudson (signed for $23M over the next two years) is worth more than just $500K a year than Kazmir. But so is the game of baseball. Yet all these deals influence others. One guy gets paid handsomely and another free agent says, well wait a minute, I am just as good if not better so I want that pay too and away we go. Trades have the same effect. The market for starting pitchers is notoriously wacky, but yesterday the Tigers basically gave one of the American League’s best pitchers to the Washington Nationals for nothing.
I will leave it to a Detroit Tigers blog to talk about what they think of the Doug Fister deal, but I have long been a fan of his and thought that Detroit got him in a steal from Seattle, but now Washington has equally ripped off the Tigers in acquiring his arbitration eligible and under team control through 2016 services for former Athletic farmhand Ian Krol, infielder Steve Lombardozzi and the highlight of the package pitching prospect Robbie Ray. This move makes no sense to me at all for the Tigers who are certainly a team with an open window of contention and deep pockets. But why then am I writing about it here on an Oakland A’s focused blog? Because if the A’s want to trade Anderson, what other teams are getting for pitchers means something. Anderson is no Fister, Fister in the past three seasons is ranked ninth in WAR behind David Price and ahead of Cole Hamels. No one is talking about Anderson in those circles. Dave Cameron at Fangraphs highlighted how a comp for Fister is realistically James Shields and look at what he brought back last winter (no less than American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers). But if Fister can be had for this weak haul (Ray projects in many circles as a reliever, Krol was a PTBNL just last offseason and Lombardozzi is at best a utility infielder) what can the A’s hope to get for Anderson? A bag of baseballs? Maybe a golf cart to ferry players from Papago to Phoenix Muni?
Yesterday morning’s deal was classic Billy Beane: Scott Kazmir, a recent reclamation project, could have probably net $12M or so on a one-year deal despite his high risk. Beane doubled down and convinced him to come to Oakland (which despite being a competitive team still requires some degree of convincing) and gave him two years $22M. Kazmir got less than he would’ve on a one-year but has $22M to sit and ruminate over through 2015. Great move. That is what made this evening’s move a bit more perplexing. Beane and the A’s are known as staunch believers (as am I) in the principle that relievers are largely interchangeable and thus not worth spending a ton of money on. That is why Grant Balfour‘s resigning was never considered a possibility even as he pitched what we all knew to be his final game against Detroit in Game Five of the ALDS.
So why did the A’s just go out and get a closer who is set to earn over $10M in arbitration for 2014? The Orioles who were contemplating non-tendering Jim Johnson, instead dealt him to the A’s at the last minute for second baseman Jemile Weeks. Weeks’ tenure with the A’s is well-documented by me, who has not been a fan. After a breakout rookie year in 2011 where he hit .303/.340/.421 for 1.7 WAR in 97 games and 437 trips to the plate, he slumped big time in 2012 before finally spending the majority of 2013 back in Sacramento. His 2011 year, I long argued was an illusion built upon luck. His .350 BABIP fueled his .303 batting average and hid his terrible 4.8% BB%. Sure enough in 2012 with the BABIP down to .256 (a number that was to me indicative of just a bad approach and weakly hit balls as someone with his speed should be able to muster at the very least a league average BABIP catching breaks on infield ground balls others wouldn’t) he slumped to .221/.305/.304 in 511 trips to the plate that were painful as a fan to watch. Apparently that too was the case for the A’s brass as they opted to go with virtually any and everyone else at second base in 2013 with Weeks only seeing eight games and nine plate appearances in Oakland (.111/.111/.111 for what it is worth with five of those nine trips resulting in a strikeout) and putting up a strong but nothing to write home about .271/.376/.369 in 614 plate appearances in Sacramento. To say Weeks will be missed by me is false. I didn’t think he fit well, he had speed but didn’t use it well, couldn’t get on base, wasn’t anything to write home about in the field. I felt psychologically he was all over the place and maybe then a change of scenery will do him well. But despite ridding of a player I felt had little utility, I am still not thrilled with this trade that net the A’s an All Star who finished seventh in Cy Young voting just two years ago.
Johnson comes to the A’s having spent the past two seasons as the Orioles closer. After accumulating 21 saves between 2008 and 2011, the surprising 2012 O’s went with Johnson as closer and he delivered with an MLB-leading 51 saves despite strange for a closer peripherals (5.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and 0.4 HR/9 for a 3.25 FIP to matc his 2.49 ERA). Last year he followed it up with a tied for MLB-best 50 saves, an improved 7.2 K/9 though slightly worse 2.3 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 for a 2.94 ERA and 3.45 FIP. For me a more important metric is shutdowns and meltdowns and here Johnson has been stellar the past two years with an MLB leading 86 shutdowns, to just 15 meltdowns. Johnson is undoubtedly good, but did the A’s really need to part with Weeks (who could’ve been dealt elsewhere) to acquire someone so expensive? Is Johnson at $10M really that much better than Balfour potentially on a two-year $20M or so contract? Is Johnson furthermore even really necessary at all when the A’s have been rumored to be chasing Nelson Cruz? Isn’t this also just more money that could’ve been used to bring Tim Hudson (who I still think was the best realistic pitching option) to Oakland? Or even instead signing Phil Hughes to a deal comparable to the one he received from Minnesota (three-years for $24M)? Johnson is good, he makes the A’s better and the A’s win this trade. But as far as value given the A’s limited resources was this the real place to hone in on is what I question.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this move is a precursor to something else. Perhaps it is quintessential Beane. The A’s hold on to the American League’s best closer by several metrics (101 saves the past two seasons, 86 shutdowns) and then when the inevitable injury comes in Spring Training or a team finds out that their closer by committee or Bruce Rendon plan won’t work out for them, the A’s cash in big. Maybe that is in the cards? Who knows. Otherwise this deal is presently a bit of a head-scratcher to me.
The A’s have made what is likely their big offseason signing for the 2013-14 offseason when they agreed to a two-year $22M deal with lefty Scott Kazmir previously of the Cleveland Indians. Kazmir was of course once a very highly heralded prospect and pitched well early in his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, then a loss of velocity saw some scary results before he resurrected his career last year in Cleveland. In comparison to some of the other contracts being handed out, this deal doesn’t seem terrible, but given that the A’s were beaten by their cross bay rival Giants by just one-million to sign Tim Hudson this deal seems a little less fortunate.
This deal will entirely hinge on which Kazmir the A’s get. Do they get the 2013 Kazmir who pitched 158 innings across 29 starts for a 4.04 ERA, 3.51 FIP and 2.5 WAR backed by 9.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9? Or do they get the 2010 and 2011 Kazmir who for the Angels combined to earn -1.3 WAR care of reduced velocity and a mere 5.5 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 and 1.5 HR/9 adding to a 6.17 ERA and 5.96 FIP in an equal 29 starts across 151 2/3 innings? While Hudson likely represented a degree of risk given his age and recent injury, Kazmir represents risk in that he has been all over the place All Star in 2006 and 2008 to not pitching anywhere in 2012. For his career Kazmir has thrown to a 4.16 ERA (4.06 FIP) with 8.8 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 so if he stays near equal the A’s should get good value from the deal. However as noted Kazmir has been either a meteoric star or crash-burn failure. Today it was also announced that the A’s will be tendering a contract to Daric Barton which represents one-million that perhaps could’ve persuaded Hudson to choose the eastern side of the Bay as opposed to the West.
The other thing this deal represents is clearly the end of the A’s relationship with Bartolo Colon. While there could be a surprise in there, Colon’s camp obviously feels he can garner a multi-year deal and this move makes it seem like they must be asking for more than $11.5M a season. Kazmir will be turning 30, so if he is in fact “fixed” he is in his prime, whereas Colon’s advanced age brings up a few more concerns. While I had questioned Colon’s durability, he proved me wrong in his two years with the A’s, time and time again making a low-strikeout, pinpoint control pitch-to-contact method work. He will be missed.
Kazmir has the potential to be a signing akin to the deal that landed Brandon McCarthy. Whereas McCarthy “clicked” in Oakland, Kazmir “re-clicked” I suppose you could call it, in Cleveland. McCarthy wasn’t someone to count on for 30 starts a year but he was good when he was out there. Likewise, Kazmir has some durability concerns but if he can be good when out there the A’s depth can help them a great deal. The A’s now have seven starters for their starting rotation still, so it’d be interesting to see if they deal one (Brett Anderson the most likely candidate), or if they keep their depth (remember last year the Dodgers seemed to have way too many capable starters and yet ended up plucking from the Albuquerque Isotopes lineup numerous times throughout the summer). High upside deal that won’t sink a franchise, typical Billy Beane, no complaints here.
The A’s signed Nick Punto today to a one-year contract worth $2.75M that includes a vesting option for 2015 also worth $2.75M. The option is really complicated so I am just going to quote Susan Slusser’s report from the San Francisco Chronicle where she explains,
“[Punto's] 2015 option for the same amount vests in complicated fashion, all centered around days on the active roster. Some specific injuries would count for more days, some less. The short explanation: if Punto spends less than 30 days on the DL next year, his option for 2015 kicks in. It also could vest with more days on the DL, depending on the reasons. He did not land on the DL at any point last season, but has 11 DL stays in his career, including three in 2011.”
While there are thoughts that this move might portend some truth to the Jed Lowrie to St. Louis rumors, the A’s insist it isn’t the case and I frankly believe them. Punto is uber-versatile with 358 career games at third, 356 at second base, 320 at shortstop, 11 in the outfield, and five at first base. This is really useful for teams with playoff aspirations as the A’s proved 2012 was not a fluke with their second straight division crown. In 2013 with the NL West champion Dodgers, Punto hit .255/.328/.327 with a .296 wOBA and 90 wRC+, a plus defender helped him reach 1.9 WAR making his value last year $9.3M. While Punto is aging, he will be 36 for the 2014 season, he has been worth at least $2M every year since 2004 and over $2.75M every year save three (2004, 2007 and 2012) in that period. Punto provides a great insurance plan at numerous positions for the A’s in 2014 and also gives Oakland more options. While people will argue his production doesn’t justify offsetting Eric Sogard who also has shown some versatility, I think there is a great deal of utility in having a veteran on a young club and Punto provides that as well. This is a small signing, but I think that this is a solid one for Billy Beane and the A’s.