Billy Beane has made quite the splash this hot stove season, trading away three of the Oakland Athletics’ 2014 All-Stars in just a matter of days. What did Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, and Jeff Samardzija net the A’s? Aside from 3B Brett Lawrie, mostly unknown prospects hoping to make a name for themselves in Oakland.
Acquired in the Josh Donaldson deal, Sean Nolin is definitely someone the A’s front office are extremely excited about. The 25-year-old is a big lefty with a plus change-up and a deceptive delivery that has made him successful at the minor league level. Beane and company believe he has the potential to slot in at the back end of the starting rotation and contribute immediately. While he has a very high fly-ball rate, pitching in the large O.co Coliseum should help him. He will compete for the No.5 rotation spot during spring training, otherwise he will begin the season at Triple-A Nashville.
Also in the Donaldson deal, the Athletics acquired right-hander Kendall Graveman. Graveman had a breakout 2014 campaign starting the year in Class-A Lansing, maneuvering through 4 different minor league levels, to make his major league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays amassing a 3.86 ERA in 4 2/3 innings. His 1.42 FIP and 0.857 WHIP are all signs that he has the potential to be successful in the major leagues. He is expected to compete for the No.5 rotation spot with Nolin, but many scouts say he is more likely to find success as a relief pitcher. He’ll see time at both the big league roster and Triple-A Nashville, à la Dan Straily.
Franklin Barreto is the “star” of the Donaldson trade. Barreto was brought in to replace the type of high level talent the A’s lost last season in trades (i.e. Addison Russel, Billy McKinney.) He is thought of as an advanced hitter for his age, just 18-years-old, although he has yet to play full season ball. He hit .311/.384/.481 in Low-A Vancouver. Scouts say he does not project as a shortstop and could eventually play in the outfield or second base. That is completely fine with the A’s as their top-prospect Daniel Robertson is also a SS and could be in the majors in as little as a year. The A’s are known for rushing their top prospects, so we could see Barreto in the green and gold as soon as 2017.
Perhaps the most perplexing trade was that of Brandon Moss for Joe Wendle. It seems heavily lopsided which means this deal was most likely a salary dump as Moss was set to make around $7 million in arbitration. In any case, the A’s added Wendle, a left-handed bat with a career BA of .292 and OBP of .357. In 2014, he played in Double-A Akron and will once again start the year in Double-A Midland. Wendle can play both 2B and 3B. The A’s front office see him as an overlooked prospect with talent.
Coming to Oakland in the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox, Marcus Semien will have the best opportunity of any prospect to win a starting job. The bay area native and Cal alumnus is expected to grab the starting shortstop position as the A’s have no one else in their system ready for the big leagues. In 64 games for the White Sox, Semien hit .234/.300/.372 playing mostly 3B. Semien is versatile in that he can play SS, 3B, and some OF as well. Barring a horrible spring training, the everyday shortstop position will be his.
25-year-old Chris Bassitt was also involved in the Samardzija deal. After suffering a broken arm, Bassitt returned to the minors pitching better than he had before the broken arm. He pitched well enough to earn a promotion to the big club. He was able to put up a 3.94 ERA and a 3.33 FIP in 5 starts and one relief appearance. Ironically, his best start came against the Oakland A’s where he pitched six strong innings allowing only one run on 5 hits. His biggest knocks are that he walks a lot of batters and has only one strong pitch, a fastball. He will serve as more pitching depth at Triple-A Nashville.
Another acquisition in the White Sox deal is Catcher Josh Phegley. The A’s are currently stacked at the catcher position with all-star Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt, and John Jaso all currently on the 25-man roster. Phegley will serve as more depth in Triple-A. He does not hit for average but has potential for some big power numbers.
The last prospect the A’s got in the White Sox deal is the intriguing Rangel Ravelo. The 22-year-old can play 3B and 1B and has hit for average at every level he has played in. As a 1B, Ravelo has shined defensively. While he won’t hit for power, he does fit the Oakland mold for a high OBP. The A’s will probably start him at Double-A Midland, but won’t hesitate to promote him to Triple-A if he can continue his great hitting and plate approach.
Whether you agree or disagree with the trades GM Billy Beane has made, this farm system looks and feels replenished compared to the way it was about a week ago. Even with all their big names gone, Oakland feels it still has a chance to compete. With the big money off the books, the Athletics will have money to make a splash elsewhere if they choose. In 2012, Beane traded away All-Stars Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey. The decreased payroll gave him enough money to make a surprise bid at Yoenis Cespedes and what ensued was 3 straight playoff appearences. The moral of the story is, anything can happen in Billy Beane’s world.