Ranking the Athletics 5 Biggest Trades of the Offseason (So Far)

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Let me start by saying that there is no such thing as “done making moves” for Billy Beane. Even if everyone in the organization thinks the roster is set for opening day, he could make a blockbuster move at any time if he sees a deal he likes.

So for now, this is just my take on the biggest moves that he’s made so far. Note that this is my opinion about the best value received for the value given up, and I’ve only included the big name trades in this article because they include the most talent being shipped back and forth. Therefore even though I liked some of the smaller moves (like the Mark Canha trade) this list only includes the blockbusters.

5. 1B/OF Brandon Moss traded to Cleveland for 2B Joe Wendle

For my full take on why this wasn’t the best time to trade Moss, check out my article that I wrote the day before the trade. Basically, Moss is coming off of a down year, and giving him time to rebuild his value before trading him would have increased the chances of a better return for him.

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In that article, I said, “Unless Beane is completely blown away by an offer from a desperate team, he should hold off on trading Moss this offseason.” I wouldn’t consider just Joe Wendle as being blown away. Wendle hit .250 in AA last year in an injury-riddled season. He did have a much better year when healthy in 2013 in A+ ball, hitting .295 with 16 home runs.

I understand why the A’s would want to target Wendle as a potential buy-low candidate, but with this deal they sold-low on Moss and bought-low on Wendle. One of the things that I love about Beane is he normally tries to get multiple prospects for his all-stars, but his failure to do that here could be a problem down the line.

One possible rationale for this trade is that Beane and the A’s know something about Moss that we don’t. Maybe his injuries are more serious than we thought, or (this is just complete speculation) he didn’t get along with Melvin or Beane for whatever reason. Other than that, this trade is the hardest one to justify so far.

4. C/DH John Jaso, SS Daniel Robertson, OF Boog Powell and $1.5 million traded to Tampa Bay for SS Yunel Escobar and 2B/OF Ben Zobrist

There’s no doubt that this trade makes the 2015 A’s a better team, but these rankings are based on the best return for the value given up. In this deal, the A’s acquired two players in their 30s, one with just one year left on his contract (Zobrist) and one who showed significant regression last year (Escobar).

Zobrist should fit in with this year’s team very well, but the A’s may not be able to re-sign him this offseason and he may not be worth a qualifying offer. He makes the team better in 2015, but at a steep price in the team’s top prospect.

Escobar has been consistently meh at the plate for the last three years. His OPS has stayed in the mid to high .600s with about seven home runs and five steals. Defensively (the advanced metrics are still iffy) but his dWAR in 2012 was 2.3, in 2013 it was 1.4 and last year it dropped all the way to -1.6. That’s a HUGE drop, and even if the metrics aren’t perfect it’s clear he regressed defensively last year. Maybe the A’s think they can bring his 2012 version back, but that regression scares me.

For the record, I don’t hate trading away top prospects if the right deal presents itself. I liked the Samardzija deal even though I think Addison Russell is going to be a superstar. That deal gave the A’s plenty of value exactly when they needed it. This one gives them Zobrist and a 32-year old question mark. I would have preferred a deal without Escobar or Robertson, and maybe a lesser prospect like Renato Nunez instead. Nunez, Powell and Jaso for a year of Zobrist would have been as far as I would go.

I don’t hate this trade, but it seems to be a high price to give up to improve the team for only this year. Robertson may end up being a bust and Escobar could turn it around this year, but Zobrist’s expiring contracts and the uncertainty surrounding Escobar worry me.

3. P Jeff Samardzija and P Michael Ynoa traded to Chicago for INF Marcus Semien, C Josh Phegley, P Chris Bassitt and 1B/3B Rangel Ravelo

This move was probably the least surprising move of this exciting offseason. Samardzija was entering the final year of arbitration and would have cost the team about $9.5 million before becoming a free agent at the end of the season. Considering that, this is a pretty solid return for him and Ynoa.

Semien should have the biggest impact on this year’s A’s team. Now with the addition of Zobrist, Semien is set to become the “Zobrist-lite.” He’ll probably play all over the infield and maybe some outfield this year. Last year the 24-year-old split time between AAA and the White Sox, playing mostly second base and third base, while playing more shortstop in AAA. He had an .881 OPS and 15 home runs in AAA, but struggled more at the big league level hitting .231 in 64 games.

Phegley should also get a lot of playing time this year, splitting time with Stephen Vogt at catcher. He should step in nicely for the departed Derek Norris. The former first-round pick hit 23 home runs in AAA last year and threw out 44 percent of baserunners. He only played in 11 big-league games last year, and he should get a much bigger opportunity to prove himself in Oakland this year.

Bassitt will have to fight for a job out of spring training, but he’s in the conversation to start the year as the number five starter or as the long reliever. If he doesn’t make the opening day roster, he’ll be a nice organization depth player in Nashville. Ravelo is probably at least a year away from the big leagues, but he had an .859 OPS in AA last year and he’s just 22 years old.

Ynoa was highly touted as a future superstar when the A’s signed him as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic for $4.25 million, but Tommy John surgery and other injuries have plagued his minor league career. He’s never played above A+ ball, where he struggled mightily last year. He’s still just 23 years old, so it’s worth a shot for the White Sox to see if he can turn his career around.

This trade accomplished what the Moss trade failed to do. Beane sold high on his all-star, and got four quality players in return. Considering how saturated the pitching market is, the fact that he got four players for one year of Samardzija is excellent.

2. 3B Josh Donaldson traded to Toronto for 3B/2B Brett Lawrie, P Sean Nolin, P Kendall Graveman and SS Franklin Barreto

I almost switched this one with the Samardzija deal, but this return is so amazing that it (barely) beat out the Samardzija trade for the number two spot. I think Lawrie is an excellent buy-low by Beane–he’s only 24 and playing off of the artificial turf might help cut down on his injuries. The step down from Donaldson may not be as big as people initially thought; I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit 25 home runs next year.

Nolin and Graveman are in the same boat as Bassitt, which gives the A’s an abundance of young arms. Even if they don’t trade one of them, having pitching depth is key to both short-term and long-term success. Pitchers seem to get hurt more than any other position, so having extra MLB-caliber arms at AAA is key over the course of 162 games.

Barreto might end up being the best player in this deal (Donaldson included). I wrote an article about his upside a few days ago. He is also what allowed the A’s to part with Robertson in the Zobrist/Escobar deal, so his influence can already be felt indirectly on the 2015 A’s.

Even though many fans were sad to see Donaldson go, he would have been very expensive to keep through his arbitration years, and at 29 years old he may have reached his peak. For this 4-for-1 deal, I’m completely okay with seeing him leave, and hopefully Lawrie performs well enough to make the fans think he’s just a tatted up Donaldson.

1. C Derek Norris and P Seth Streich traded to San Diego for P Jesse Hahn and P R.J. Alvarez

This trade was not considered quite the same blockbuster as the others on this list, but Norris was an all-star last year, so it can make it on the biggest trades list.

Norris is a nice platoon catcher, and even though he needs to work on his defense a little, he’s still relatively competent behind the plate. Also he’s only 25 so he still has room to be coached. At his heart though, I think we’ve seen his ceiling at the plate–he can hit lefties well with a little pop, but he’s not an everyday player on a contending team.

The reason this trade is number one, though, is because of Hahn. Hahn had a 3.07 ERA last year in 14 games (12 starts) and his 3.40 FIP shows that probably wasn’t a fluke. His 8.6 K/9 is excellent for a starting pitcher, and he could be the A’s number two pitcher this year behind Sonny Gray.

And that’s not all. R.J. Alvarez put together a microscopic 1.25 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in AA last year. The 23-year-old also had success in a brief September big-league stint. He’ll probably start the year in AAA, but he could be called up for bullpen help in the middle of the year.

So for a platoon catcher, the A’s got an MLB-ready starting pitcher and their potential set-up man of the future. It feels like this trade was just a flat-out robbery by the A’s. They’ll easily fill Norris’ spot with Phegley in a platoon with Vogt, and they provided a huge boost to their pitching staff.

What do you think about this list? Rank the trades for yourself and let me know in the comment section or @mattmcsports27 on Twitter.

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