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Jerry Blevins Sent to Washington

December 11, 2013

The A’s made yet another trade, this time sending left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins to Washington in exchange for outfield prospect Billy Burns (who it turns out was the Nationals MiLB Player of the Year). This deal sort of accomplished the goal that yesterday’s Brett Anderson trade didn’t, of getting good prospects to replenish the largely devoid of talent upper levels of the A’s system. Burns, who was ranked the Nats’ 26th best prospect by Baseball America in their 2013 Prospect Handbook filled that need. The handbook described him by saying he had,

“limited offensive upside, but his speed and tablesetting skills give him a chance to be an extra outfielder in the majors”.

Blevins had a productive 2013 with Oakland, throwing 60 innings of 7.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9 baseball for a 3.15 ERA and 3.88 FIP. I don’t find WAR to be entirely instructive regarding relievers (it was 0.3), but shutdowns and meltdowns I do and his nine shutdowns to ten meltdowns reflect mostly on how Bob Melvin used Blevins, which was seldom when games were truly in the clutch and more often than not when the A’s were losing (the A’s record in games Blevins pitched in was 26-41 a far cry from their .593 winning percentage as a club). Blevins is a curious choice for Washington given he has a reverse platoon split with righties hitting just .190/.267/.314 against him in 2013 to lefties who managed a .253/.299/.442 clip, so their desire to get a left-handed pitcher and settle on someone like Blevins is akin to their having a desire to have a pitcher with brown hair, purely superficial. In his career he does have a favorable split against left-handed batters (.224/.278/.358) but again not so dramatic as to really consider him a lefty-specialist (righties in his career manage a .240/.326/.385 slash line). But that is Washington’s concern. In his career, spent entirely at the big league level with Oakland, he has thrown 267 innings of relief across 281 games managing 8.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 for a 3.30 ERA and 3.88 FIP. He was a good pitcher for his limited role and he will be missed though with the plethora of options the A’s have – including from the left-side alone – in the bullpen he was replaceable, and my guess is his role is potentially eaten up by new acquisition Drew Pomeranz who the A’s apparently were impressed by in his limited time in the relief role (a 0.00 ERA and 1.25 FIP in just five innings of 10.8 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 0.0 HR/9 baseball).

In this deal the A’s acquired the aforementioned Burns who spent 2013 mostly with the Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League but also with the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League. He is an on-base machine with a combined .425 OBP in 540 plate appearances in 2013, where he hit a combined .315/.425/.383 with zero home runs and 74 stolen bases (to just seven caught stealing) in his 121 game combined performance. For his MiLB career, he has appeared at the plate 1,155 times accumulating a .312/.421/.379 slash line, and just one home run (way back in 2011 with the Auburn Doubledays of the NY-Penn League) and an impressive 125 stolen bases with just 17 times being nabbed. Should he reach the majors it is pretty obvious how he would be employed by a franchise such as Oakland.

But as I wrote, in this deal the A’s acquired Burns but in many ways this deal can be looked at as one combination of two trades the Washington Nationals and Oakland A’s have engaged in this off-season. Their acquisition of Fernando Abad in exchange for John Wooten back on November 25th essentially had Oakland send over a MiLB guy to acquire a lefty-reliever in Abad. If you did straight up Blevins for Abad, the A’s in Abad get a pitcher with a little less experience and with overall worse career numbers. If you look solely at Abad’s 2013 campaign in Davey Johnson‘s bullpen, he appeared in 39 games and 37 2/3 innings of 7.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 baseball for a 3.35 ERA and 3.26 FIP being worth an equal 0.3 WAR to Blevins while posting three shutdowns to five meltdowns. Like Blevins, Johnson used Abad in losing games with the Nats record in games in which he appeared by a dismal 9-30 well off the pace of their .531 winning percentage. Despite being nominally cheaper than Blevins, I’d like Blevins’ track record far more for what amounts to be two very similar pitchers (Abad too had a reverse platoon in 2013, despite a career normal platoon split).

If you talk Wooten straight up for Burns (the two prospects sent back and forth in these two deals), I think Oakland comes out ahead with Burns having an unconventional set of skills, versus Wooten’s standard and unimpressive MiLB totals (his 2013 spent at Beloit featured an impressive 20 home runs but part of a less impressive .257/.333/.430, .351 wOBA and 115 wRC+ package). All in all, I question the necessity of this trade, the one to acquire Abad seemed to portend a team looking to deal other arms, but if this was all the A’s had hoped to achieve, it seems sort of underwhelming. However, the A’s did do a good job of inserting some talent into Midland and/or Sacramento’s lineups so that counts as a win in my books. Best of luck to Blevins in Washington, he is if not an outstanding pitcher a certain grade-A good guy.

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