When a team is a seller at the non-waiver trade deadline, like the Oakland Athletics were this year, it’s expected for the team to lose a few high-profile players in exchange for young prospects that can help them build for a stronger 2017 season and beyond.
The A’s were most definitely sellers, but they didn’t make quite as many trades as experts and fans had speculated about. One of the just two trades that they did make was a big one, but not surprising one.
The A’s had been unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension for right fielder Josh Reddick and did not intend on giving an extension to starting left-hander Rich Hill, both of whom will be free agents at the end of the season. So when they traded them to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday morning in exchange for three pitching prospects, it was a somewhat uneventful trade deadline for Oakland and the A’s fans.
The team also made an earlier trade that was less impactful, trading outfielder Billy Burns, who had recently been optioned to Triple-A Nashville to the Kansas City Royals for an outfield prospect from the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate in Omaha, Brett Eibner.
Even though the team traded three players and got four in return, there is always one main question that needs to be asked at this point in the season. That question is, “Is the team better off now than they were at this time last week?”
Trading high-profile players like Reddick and Hill, the first reaction is no, technically they are not currently a better team than they were last Monday, but they may now be better set for future seasons than they were before.
Josh Reddick had been a staple for the A’s since he came over from the Boston Red Sox in 2012. He won a Gold Glove, hit 32 homers and drove in 85 runs for the Athletics that season, finishing 16th in the MVP voting. He helped lead the A’s from being a team predicted to lose 100 games to a team that won 97 and the AL West on the final day of the season.
Even though Reddick spent a lot of the next two seasons either on the disabled list or trying to play with an ailing wrist, he became a leader in the clubhouse by being outgoing and fun. He brought a lot of heart to the team, starting the now-traditional double-pies to the face of each player who got the walk-off hit.
In 2015, Reddick finally shook his wrist issue and hit 20 homers while batting .272 and driving in 77 runs for the Athletics. He started this season off on a tear, having what still could be a career year for the 29-year-old. He spent time on the disabled list after breaking his hand while stealing second base. He returned and picked up where he left off. He was traded to the Dodgers batting .296 with eight homers and 28 RBI, numbers which would be higher had he not missed a full month of play.
Losing a player and a leader like Reddick doesn’t help the A’s right now. Neither does losing starter Rich Hill. While the 36-year-old Hill spent time on the disabled list with a groin strain and is currently on the DL nursing a blister on his middle finger, he performed spectacularly when healthy. With all of the Athletics’ pitching injuries and ace Sonny Gray having an off-year, Hill was the one pitcher in the starting rotation who performed like the true ace of the A’s 2016 rotation.
Losing both those players may not help the A’s in the short-term, but they received a very nice return from the Dodgers in the form of three right-handed pitching prospects, Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes and Jharel Cotton.
Montas, 23, made his big league debut last season with the Chicago White Sox, making seven appearances, finishing two games and starting two. He ended up 0-2 with a 4.80 ERA. He began this season in Triple-A in the Dodgers organization. Montas profiles more as a reliever and potential closer being that he can get his fastball up to 100 MPH. Last season he struck out an average of 12.5 batters per nine innings, notching 20 strikeouts over 15 innings, but he also allowed 5.4 walks per nine innings so his command could’ve used a little work.
However, in the minors this season Montas posted a 2.38 ERA in 11.1 innings. His strikeout percentage stayed high and he dropped his walk rate to 1.6 walks per nine innings. One thing the A’s will have to worry about with Montas is keeping him healthy. He’s struggled with health issues, which is the reason for the small number of innings pitched in 2016.
The A’s also received reliever Jharel Cotton. Cotton, 24, was a 20th-round pick by the Dodgers in the 2012 draft. Over the past four-and-a-half seasons, he worked his way through LA’s minor league system, ultimately ending up in Triple-A in 2015. This season he’s been with the Dodger’s Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City.
Cotton has been both a starter and a reliever and his ERA has bounced around all over the place, leaving him with a 3.77 mark over his brief career. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings have remained consistently-high throughout his time in the minors, averaging out at 10.2, and his number of walks per nine innings pitched has remained fairly low, averaging out at 2.7.
Holmes, 20, was the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2014 and is a top-100 rated prospect by Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. He’s only pitched as high as Advanced Class-A, but he’s been as good as promised. He’s 16-11 over his three professional seasons with a career 3.61 ERA. Holmes profiles as a number three or four starter and is the prize of the group.
While this pack of prospects looks good on paper, it’s impossible to say how they will look, perhaps as soon as September or in Holmes’ case what could be two seasons from now, in the big leagues.
If they turn out as advertised and remain healthy, the Athletics may be set for quite sometime. They already have a bevy of rookie starters and now they’ll have pitchers to call-up to their bullpen.
To say that the A’s are a better team than they were last week would be a false statement, but the most they could’ve have gotten from Hill and Reddick would have been two future first-round draft picks, but that is only if they extended qualifying offers to both players. That scenario would have been highly unlikely as this year’s qualifying offers are over the $16 million mark and the A’s don’t have the budget to sign players to one-year deals worth that much money.
Overall, they made the right moves in trading Hill and Reddick. They’ve gotten three good, young players, taking what is likely a second consecutive losing season and getting quite a bit of talent to build the future of the club on.