Athletics log small trade with White Sox to bolster bullpen depth

The Oakland Athletics have acquired pitching prospect Alex Speas from the White Sox
Los Angeles Dodgers v Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Dodgers v Texas Rangers / Aiden Shertzer/Texas Rangers/GettyImages

The Oakland Athletics have traded for RHP Alex Speas, sending cash considerations to the Chicago White Sox in return. Speas was immediately assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas where he will serve in a bullpen depth role.

In a corresponding move, the Athletics designated RHP Zach Jackson for assignment in order to create space on the 40-man for Speas.

Speas is an interesting pickup for the A's. He had mixed results last year while pitching in the Rangers' system. He threw 58.2 innings across three levels, including 2 innings in the majors. In Double-A, Speas posted a 0.84 ERA in 28 innings. In the same number of innings at Triple-A, he pitched to a 5.40 mark.

The primary point of optimism is the strikeout rate. Speas has regularly punched out 35% of hitters across all minor league levels, despite posting double digit walk rates along the way.

Entering the year, FanGraphs had Speas as the White Sox 13th ranked prospect. It's curious that they'd trade him for cash alone but Speas' upside is as an effective bullpen arm and those guys grow on trees these days.

To use an A's reference point, Speas has a similar profile to Joe Boyle. He's a tall guy who throws close to 100 mph with a cutter and a slider that kind of blend together to create a mid-tier secondary offering.

His biggest issue is that he can't control his pitches. Speas has posted unsustainably high walk rates throughout his career and it's unclear if he'll ever realize his full potential. The A's haven't exactly been pitching whisperers so we'll have to wait and see.

A's DFA Zach Jackson after pitching to a 2.86 ERA between 2022-2023

Zach Jackson getting designated for assignment is a strange choice. He was effective in the major leagues the past two years, posting a 2.86 ERA with a matching 2.86 FIP in 66 combined innings. Like Speas, Jackson has a habit of walking too many guys but he did strike out 31.9% of hitters while he was in Oakland.

Jackson was sent to Triple-A to start the year in order to get Michael Kelly and Austin Adams into the major league bullpen. Adams has yet to allow a run in four outings but Kelly has been bad, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings.

At best, it feels like a lateral move from Jackson to Speas and at worst, it feels like giving up on an effective major league reliever to get a potentially effective major league reliever.

This probably could've been solved by adding Miguel Andujar to the 60-day IL. Andujar will be out for the next several weeks after undergoing knee surgery. It's unlikely that his timeline puts him back in the lineup before June, so it's unclear why David Forst chose to give up a useful player when he didn't have to.

To be clear, Jackson isn't an All-Star. But he has proven to be a useful player and the A's aren't exactly brimming with those types of guys. Hopefully Speas can find a way to solve his control problems and become a solid option for the A's in Oakland this year.