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Winter Meetings Day Three: Gio, Breslow, Cahill, Bailey and Willingham

December 7, 2011

On a day that David Forst must’ve taken the wheel because Billy Beane has returned to Oakland, the by far number one source of Oakland A’s trade rumor gossip all day has been Gio Gonzalez. The 26-year-old, left-handed ace of Oakland’s staff but up a 3.12 ERA with a 3.64 FIP and 3.5 WAR with 8.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 202 innings in 2011. Solid numbers, but you’d think he was the greatest pitcher on the planet from the amount of buzz surrounding him today. It began overnight when the Tigers and then Phillies were in on him. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweeted that,

“Tigers asked on Gio, did not like price. Offer had to start with [Jacob] Turner, and more”

Turner was the top prospect in Detroit’s system as per Baseball America for 2011. He spent 2011 travelling around Lake Erie, spending time in Erie, Toledo and Detroit. In 12 2/3 innings of MLB work he posted an 8.53 ERA with a 6.03 FIP, decidedly different results from Double-A Erie where he spent the bulk of his season with the SeaWolves posting a 3.48 ERA with a 3.68 FIP in 113 2/3 innings of work while managing 7.1 K/9 to only 2.5 BB/9. James Schmehl of MLive.com wrote about the “and more” Knobler mentioned writing,

“Beane could also be intrigued by a few other names, including left-hander Casey Crosby and outfielders Ryan Raburn and Andy Dirks — but he’s not a dummy. Beane wants the big names in return — preferably high-ceiling prospects with little big league experience — and only Turner and [Nick] Castellanos fit that mold.”

Castellanos, a third-baseman, being Detroit’s #2 ranked prospect (.365 wOBA, with a .312/.367/.436 slashline at Single-A West Michigan), Crosby being their #6 ranked prospect, a Double-A pitcher this past season with Erie where he struggled with control (5.3 BB/9) en route to an ugly 4.10 ERA and 4.32 FIP, whereas Raburn and Dirks both spent time with the big league club. Raburn played in 121 games for the Tigers posting a wOBA of .314 to go along with 1.2 WAR. He hit .256/.297/.432 with 14 home runs, while playing all three outfield positions, so while not the guy I’d center a deal around he would be a decent throw-in with the likes of Turner and Castellanos. Dirks meanwhile, split his time between Detroit and Toledo in his first MLB season, putting up 0.4 WAR with a .308 wOBA, with a .251/.296/.406 slash line he has however been a force in the minors. That is a big package, even if you exclude Crosby, Raburn and Dirks from discussion which makes it easy to see why Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers would balk.

The Phillies also checked in with the A’s braintrust and rumors from Jim Bowden of ESPNxmRadio circulated that,

“Phillies – A’s discussed a Domonic Brown-for-Gio Gonzalez package deal”

The package probably referred to another A’s left-handed as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted,

“#Phillies interest in Gio Gonzalez is confirmed. There also is some buzz about #Athletics reliever Craig Breslow.”

While Domonic Brown is well-regarded and also has been in the mix of trade rumors coming out of Philadelphia for a while, the 24-year-old outfielder would fill an immediate need for the A’s who are desperate for outfield help. However, if you are looking at a three-year timeframe for a rebuild Brown makes less sense though it seems he’d only be approaching arbitration eligibility then potentially at a time when he could be locked up for a longer-term deal. Also it is breathtakingly shocking that a team like Philadelphia with their pitching riches would focus on a Gio Gonzalez when they still have significant holes to address. I would not be surprised to see a deal materialize between the clubs but would expect it to center around Breslow instead, something that likely would not net Brown who hit .245/.333/.391 with five home runs in 210 plate appearances for the 2011 National League East Champions being worth an even 0.0 WAR. The A’s didn’t seem that in love with Brown anyhow reported Joe Stiglich of the Contra Costa Times who tweeted,

“I’m told #Athletics #Phillies talks about Gio were brief. Domonic Brown was discussed, not enough as centerpiece in A’s eyes.”

There were plenty more Gio Gonzalez rumors, that gave us some insight into just how much of a haul the A’s are asking for in return. Bob Klapsich of the Bergen Record tweeted that,

“Told #A’s asked #Yankees for either [Manny] Banuelos or [Dellin] Betances, plus [Jesus] Montero for Gio Gonzalez. Not happening.”

Those three represent the Yankees (as per Baseball America) fourth, third and first ranked prospects. Banuelos split 2011 between Trenton and Scranton struggling with his control (4.9 BB/9) while K’ing a hole bunch (8.7 K/9) with a combined 3.75 ERA in 129 2/3 innings. Betances also spent time in Trenton and Scranton but also appeared in pinstripes for an entire 2 2/3 innings of 6.8 K/9, 20.3 BB/9 innings of work giving him a funny (and of course this is only due to small sample sizes) 6.75 ERA, 9.40 FIP and 11.28 xFIP. He was solid in Trenton (9.8 K/9, 3.70 FIP in 105 1/3 innings) and less so in Scranton (11.6 K/9 but 6.4 BB/9 and a 4.15 FIP in 21 innings). Montero meanwhile, would give the A’s the versatility to trade Kurt Suzuki, though he is a questionable defensive backstop, spent 18 games with 69 plate appearances in New York, being worth 0.6 WAR as he slugged four home runs, and posted a .421 wOBA. In Scranton he posted a .356 wOBA smashing 18 home runs in 463 plate appearances. This would be a great deal for Oakland, but again the high-asking price seems to be scaring off even Brian Cashman and the Yankees, who seem reluctant to deal any of the three players asked for.

The Diamondbacks inquired on Gio as well. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported that,

“#DBacks on [Trevor] Cahill as well as Gio…. Would need to give [Tyler] Skaggs for Gio not Cahill.”

Skaggs, and you may be noticing a theme here now was Arizona’s number three rated prospect going into 2012 in the recently released Top 10 from Baseball America. He split his time between Visalia and Mobile posting a combined 2.96 ERA with an electric 11.3 K/9 to only 2.8 BB/9 for a great 4.04 K/BB. Skaggs was a first-round draft pick of the Angels who was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Dan Haren to Anaheim.  While Gonzalez would require Skaggs, Rosenthal notes that Cahill would not. I find it hard to imagine that the A’s would deal both Gonzalez and Cahill in the same offseason (stranger things have happened and early word on a move to San Jose could prompt such a bold decision) and anticipate that given his greater value if one of the two were gone it would be Gonzalez and not the more inconsistent and less-awe-inspiring Cahill.

Yet another tale of the A’s asking too much came from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News who wrote on his blog,

“According to multiple sources, the Rangers are among the teams that have inquired with Oakland about left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

The Rangers met with Oakland officials on Tuesday and first brought up the possibility of trading for reliever Andrew Bailey. The A’s, sources said, asked for LHP Martin Perez, 3B Mike Olt and SS Leury Garcia. The Rangers quickly moved on.

The conversation about Gonzalez, however, seems to have more legs. If the Rangers are going to surrender a package of prized prospects, they would prefer a starter over a reliever.

The A’s, according to sources, would like to sort out the Bailey situation first before getting more serious about dealing Gonzalez.”

Perez was as per Baseball America the Rangers’ number one prospect going into this season. The lefty who will be just 21 this April split 2011 between Frisco and Round Rock posting a combined 4.33 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. However that is a bit misleading as his numbers at Triple-A Round Rock were adversely effected by a high BABIP (.385) and low strand rate (62.5%) that caused his Triple-A ERA to swell to 6.43 despite a much lower 3.98 FIP better inline with the 3.46 FIP posted in Double-A Frisco. Olt, the Rangers’ number seven prospect, was someone I got to see play this summer with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (I caught them when watching a Potomac Nationals game). He spent most of his season with the Pelicans hitting .267/.387/.504 with 14 home runs in 292 plate appearances. He has great plate discipline thus far with a career MiLB .386 OBP. Garcia the shortstop and fifteenth ranked Rangers prospect, was a teammate of Olt’s playing his entire season with Myrtle Beach where he posted a .256/.306/.342 slash line with three home runs. I like Perez a lot – who wouldn’t – and getting a good power pitching lefty back for a power-pitching lefty is great and I also am enamored of Olt, but to me trading a guy like Gonzalez to Texas would require a steeper price than other clubs given that you will be facing them so many times going forward. Need to blown away to do this sort of deal within the division.

The Blue Jays and Nationals were two other teams that have been talking about Gonzalez but we have yet to see any specific proposals there, but in more Bailey news, early this morning details also emerged from the rumored meeting between the A’s and the Red Sox the closer. Peter Gammons of MLB.com tweeted,

“A’s considering Boston pitch for Andrew Bailey. [Josh] Reddick, not [Jed] Lowrie, prospects”

The great Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe highlighted in an article exactly what the prospect(s) the A’s might seek are, writing,

“The Red Sox already have discussed a deal with the A’s for Andrew Bailey, but right now the price appears high, with Oakland seeking prospects such as third baseman Will Middlebrooks that Boston is hesitant to deal.”

The Red Sox who have either graduated or traded away a lot of their farm system in recent years, are reluctant to deal Middlebrooks who in a season split between Lowell, Portland and Pawtucket hit .285/.328/.506 with 23 home runs in 472 plate appearances. The exact type of bat the A’s would covet. I really like the idea of any deal with the Red Sox just because of the similar philosophies of the organizations, I feel that the Red Sox players offer the style the A’s would be more likely to seek. Of course, when dealing with similarly minded organizations that value things in a similar manner, trades can be tougher to come by. Regardless, Buster Olney of ESPN.com argued that Cafardo was incorrect tweeting,

“Source familiar with OAK’s Bailey talks with Boston say they’re not that far along, and that Athletics have not asked for Will Middlebrooks.”

In the midst of all this wheeling and dealing today is also the deadline for players to accept or reject their arbitration offers. The A’s had two arbitration eligible players, David DeJesus whose signing with the Cubs guarantees the A’s receive draft pick compensation, and Josh Willingham. Today Willingham rejected the A’s offer of arbitration as was expected netting the A’s two compensatory picks.

That is it for now in another Gio packed news day. It is interesting that the A’s seem very interested in third basemen (Castellanos, Olt, Middlebrooks), could be coincidental or could mean that the A’s do not view Scott Sizemore as a viable long-term option (I presently am indifferent to Sizemore, love his OBP and think he has a lot of potential but also don’t feel he has earned an untouchable status or the starting job for x-number of years just yet).

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