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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.

Brett Anderson Sent to Colorado

December 10, 2013

The A’s finally did what they had pledged to do and have sent left-handed pitcher and 2013 Opening Day starter Brett Anderson packing to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for former top prospect southpaw Drew Pomeranz and right-handed MiLB pitcher Chris Jensen (the A’s also are sending cash to Colorado). The rumors of Anderson being on the move had been around a while, and with so many left-handed pitchers already on the MLB roster, if Anderson wasn’t about to secure a rotation spot, it seemed likely the A’s might look to save some cash and deal him. I, for one, am less than thrilled about the return.

Though I have been highly critical of the praise heaped upon Anderson, he is very young and if he can stay healthy (a huge if) has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter. I certainly did not expect the haul that a David Price would receive, or anything near what a very durable James Shields got last year, but to me this is sort of like getting a whole bunch of nothing. For all the talk from me of Anderson not having much of a track record and the assessment of him being more on potential than results, no one could be more similar in that description than Pomeranz. Pomeranz, the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Indians out of Ole Miss (where his $2.65M signing bonus represented the largest of any college pitcher in that year’s draft), was the centerpiece of the trade that brought Ubaldo Jimenez to the shores of Lake Erie. The 25-year-old Pomeranz didn’t deliver the return the Rockies front office was hoping for as his entire MLB career was spent with Colorado and in three years he mustered together 30 starts in 34 appearances for a 5.20 ERA in 136 2/3 innings with a kinder 4.78 FIP care of 7.6 K/9, 4.6 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9. Last year was particularly dreadful in Denver for him as he went four starts and also had all four of his MLB relief appearances across 21 2/3 innings of 7.9 K/9, 7.9 BB/9 and 1.7 HR/9 baseball for an awful 6.23 ERA well in line with his 6.46 FIP. In Colorado Springs, Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate he fared better with a 4.20 ERA and healthy 3.13 FIP backed by 10.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 85 2/3 innings of work. While he has pitched well in MiLB ball, MiLB and MLB ball are different and it is about time the results began to translate.

Anderson has not been brilliant either, his career has spanned five seasons in Oakland during which he has made just 73 starts and pitched a mere 450 2/3 innings. He has put up a respectable 3.81 ERA with a slightly better 3.56 FIP. He has a solid 7.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. The biggest issue for Oakland, and now the Colorado Rockies is that he has pitched just 450 2/3 innings in these five seasons mostly due to how brittle he is. Unlike Pomeranz whose ERA and FIP agree, Anderson’s in 2013 (his worst MLB year) disagree quite strongly as he posted an awful 6.04 ERA, his FIP much higher at 3.85 as he was clearly the victim of an irregularly high .359 BABIP and abysmal 61.5% strand rate, with 9.3 K/9 and a career worst 4.2 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 in his 44 2/3 innings on the hill. But there is a lot that needs to be reconciled between Anderson’s proven ability to pitch and lack of proven ability to stay healthy and Pomeranz’ thus far proven inability to perform and that person is not the throw-in Jensen.

Jensen has made no prospects lists. Jensen was drafted out of the University of San Diego in the 6th round of the 2011 draft by Colorado. He began his professional career with the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Northwest League moving up a level each season before spending last year with the Modesto Nuts of the Cal League. In his MLB career he has thrown to a 4.22 ERA, with 7.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9 in 334 2/3 innings all of his 61 appearances being starts. Last year with Modesto he threw to a 4.55 ERA in 152 1/3 innings posting peripherals of 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 for a better but not really eye-popping 3.56 FIP.

The purpose of this trade isn’t entirely clear unless viewed solely as a salary dump, where the A’s could recoup some talent in return. To me Anderson was worth more, especially compared to the hauls that both Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez net the A’s. Anderson shouldn’t be on par with them by any means, but Cahill certainly wasn’t worthy of an ace-like starter yet got one, and Gonzalez returned many useful pieces. The A’s biggest need in my mind was perhaps a middle infield upgrade allowing the A’s to move Alberto Callaspo (a far better salary dump prospect to me than that of Anderson) or a deal that would net the A’s some prospects that maybe we high risk but that could be used to replenish a farm system that is very weak in its highest levels. This trade did neither. In trading one 25-year old lefty for another, the A’s merely changed the risk from good with injury to simply a risk of can this guy pitch at the MLB level? Furthermore, if he can the A’s don’t really have any clear destination for him with an already full rotation. Remember also, the A’s didn’t need to trade Anderson. His $8M salary wasn’t gumming up the works, and if they felt as though it was the A’s could have waited until the inevitable Spring Training injury made some team overpay (in fairness Billy Beane may have been afraid of a Spring Training injury befalling Anderson himself which wouldn’t be the most of the mark proposition ever) or waited for a better deal than the one they received. Can’t say I am a fan of this deal, but Pomeranz has a past that made him one of the most sought after prospects in the game, and here is hoping Beane has found his diamond in the rough in the mold of Brandon Moss. Problem is more often than not these deals turn into another Andy LaRoche.

Hisashi Iwakuma and What Might’ve Been

December 9, 2013

It was just over three years ago (three years, three days to be exact) that the A’s failed to reach an agreement with Hisashi Iwakuma who they won the posting rights to with a $19.1M bid. Iwakuma was rumored to be asking for a deal comparable to Barry Zito‘s with the Giants (seven years and $126M). The A’s were obviously never going to do that. Coupled with the posting fee that would’ve represented a total commitment of $145M or an average annual value (assuming a seven-year contract) of $20.7M. Oakland was looking to spend $3-5M a year. Iwakuma returned to Japan, the Mariners signed him as a free-agent the next season following in the footsteps of other Japanese stars like Ichiro Suzuki, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Kenji Johjima. After a 0.5 WAR rookie season, he put together a sterling 4.5 WAR 2013, with 33 starts and 219 2/3 innings of 7.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 baseball for a 2.66 ERA and 3.44 FIP making an All Star team while finishing third in American League Cy Young voting.

The A’s shouldn’t have signed him at all for the amount he was seeking back then (he clearly revised downward his expectations the following offseason he was on the market) and its a good thing they didn’t as despite the fact he would’ve earned his salary in 2013, he thus far has been worth a total of $23.7M and the A’s would’ve already paid him over $55M under his terms between salary and posting fee. But you wonder if Iwakuma who earned $1.5M in 2012 and then $6.5M this past season (he is also set to earn $6.5M in 2014 and Seattle has a $7M option for 2015) is happy with his decision. For $5M a year, a number the A’s felt comfortable with, the A’s likely still go on to achieve their success, perhaps even get further with such a strong pitcher supporting the efforts. In the past two seasons the A’s have gone a combined 190-134 while the Mariners have gone a lowly 146-178. Wonder if Iwakuma has regrets?

A’s and DBacks Discussed Cespedes

December 4, 2013

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.

A’s Steal Luke Gregerson from Padres

December 3, 2013

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).

A’s Send Michael Choice to Texas for Craig Gentry

December 3, 2013

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?

What Doug Fister Means to the A’s Continuing Employment of Brett Anderson

December 3, 2013

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?

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