On Friday, the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays traded pitchers, exchanging A’s veteran Jesse Chavez for right-hander Liam Hendriks.
The Chavez rumors have been fast and furious over the last few days, especially after the acquisition of free agent left-hander Rich Hill. Chavez, who was set to become a free agent after the 2016 season, was a hot commodity given his success with the A’s.
Chavez had never had an ERA below 4.00 until he arrived in Oakland. In 2013, he made 35 appearances and finished with a 3.92 ERA, and he pitched even better after becoming a starter in 2014. Chavez made 21 starts in 32 games, finishing the year with 136 strikeouts and a 3.45 ERA.
This is a good move for the Oakland A’s. Hendriks is under team control for the next four seasons, and he’s coming off of an excellent season. Last year, he pitched in 58 games for the Jays, and he maintained a 2.92 ERA while striking out 71 batters.
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Hendriks is just 26 years old, and he’s made changes over the last few seasons that have resulted in what should be permanent improvements. Most notably, his velocity increased, which has led to more strikeouts and a decrease in the rate at which batters make contact.
Hendriks fixes a major problem with the Athletics’ roster – the bullpen. Last season, the A’s had one of the worst relief corps in the major league, and Friday’s deal gives them the opportunity to improve it considerably. While Hendriks has started in the past, and is entirely capable of being a starter in the future, his success is largely the result of last year’s move to the bullpen.
Although the trade might not seem like a big deal – swapping a reliever-turned-starter for a starter-turned-reliever – this is actually a brilliant move. Chavez wasn’t going to fetch more, even the A’s had withheld him until the trade deadline or waited to see if a team would be desperate for starters as the off-season drew to a close. Hendriks is a solid return, and he should give Sean Doolittle a reliable set-up man to count on in what was a very tumultuous bullpen last season.
Hopefully there will be more trades to come, but addressing the biggest need of the off-season was a good way to begin.