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Addison Russell Rumors
Jim Bowden of ESPN talked to Athletics general manager Billy Beane for the latest edition of his “GM’s Office” video blog, and the two discussed a number of trade-related topics, including a fairly in-depth breakdown of the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel blockbuster (video links). While the entire interview is well worth watching (and is only about 10 minutes total), here are some highlights from their conversation…
- Beane first reached out to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein about a month ago because he felt there was a lot of value to striking early, especially if the A’s were going to be aggressive with their prospect package, which they clearly were.
- The Cubs were initially looking to split Samardzija and Hammel in different trades, but trade talks picked up steam when the A’s decided that they wanted both players. After a dormant period, things came together quickly in a matter of 24 to 36 hours, says Beane. He added that he and Epstein discussed some one for one swaps on each pitcher that obviously didn’t pan out.
- That Samardzija is under control through 2015 was “critical,” said Beane, noting that he’s excited about the added depth that the 2015 roster will have with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin returning from injury.
- On what motivated him to make the trade, he offered the following: “I’ll be honest with you, I happen to think the Angels and the Mariners right behind us are two of the better teams in all of the game and they happen to sit in our division. So the narrative that this was a ‘postseason move,’ I think was a bit presumptuous.” He went on to say that winning the division is Oakland’s priority and stressed the dangers of getting involved in a one-game Wild Card playoff. “If you had a one-game playoff and you’re the Wild Card, one of the guys you might be facing is that guy up in Seattle, and that’s not a good situation to be in.” Beane, of course, is referring to Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
- Bowden asked if the A’s would have made this deal had Parker not gone down with Tommy John surgery in Spring Training, Beane thought out loud before concluding that he and his staff probably would not have had to make this deal had Parker been healthy.
- Beane offered high praise for prospect Billy McKinney but even higher praise for Addison Russell, listing him alongside Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada as one of the best position prospects he’s ever had. The emergence of minor league shortstop Daniel Robertson, whom the A’s selected 21 picks after Russell, made it easier to part with Russell, though it was still difficult for Oakland.
- Asked if this was the best team he’s ever constructed, Beane said he couldn’t judge that at this point and offered praise for his assistant GMs as well. One element of which Beane is very proud is that 23 of the 25 players on the Athletics’ roster were acquired via trade — a very different method of construction from the 2001 “Moneyball” A’s.
- Asked if the A’s are done or would pursue trades for second basemen, Beane grinned as he replied: “Well, you know, there’s a lot of time left, Jim. … Whether you have needs or not, you have to take advantage of the environment. … This is a time that everybody comes to the table. And whether you’re actively pursuing something specific, you want to be a part of the conversation. … I don’t want to say we’re done. … The short answer is: I hope we’re active still.”
The Blue Jays and Padres continue to discuss a Chase Headley trade, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. His colleague Ken Rosenthal adds that some within the Jays organization think that the team’s most acute need is a hitter, rather than a starting pitcher. In late June, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Blue Jays had interest in Headley and that the Padres would be willing to deal him. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- The Cubs dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel early in the trading season, and for a package based around a position player, because Addison Russell was too good to pass on, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes. “There was no pitcher available even close to the caliber of player that Addison Russell is,” says team president Theo Epstein.
- The Cubs now have a top-notch collection of hitting prospects, but don’t have nearly as much pitching. They believe, however, that they can use that to their advantage, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. It’s hard to find hitters in today’s low-offense environment, and the Cubs have plenty of them. “If you look at the way the game is going, the batter-pitcher dynamic has shifted in recent years dramatically in favor of the pitcher,” says Epstein. “So there are more effective pitchers out there right now than there are position players.” The Cubs also feel they can compensate for their lack of pitching by acquiring a top-of-the-rotation starter within the next couple of years. Epstein also seems to allude to the possibility that the Cubs will make trades for pitching in the future.
- A pair of Rockies are making their 2014 debuts with rookie-level Grand Junction, Patti Arnold of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Former Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, who’s working his way back from an elbow injury, pitched a scoreless inning today, striking out one and walking one. Also, Kyle Freeland, the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft, will make his pro debut on Wednesday.
- The Diamondbacks placed now-Yankees pitcher Brandon McCarthy on waivers six to eight weeks ago, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. That means anyone could have claimed him and assumed the remainder of his $9MM salary for 2014. No one bit.
- Red Sox first-round pick Michael Kopech will be represented by MVP Sports Group, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets.
JULY 5: The Cubs have officially announced (via Twitter) the trade confirming the team will receive a player to be named later as part of the deal. The A’s meanwhile tweeted the final piece will either be the PTBNL or cash.
JULY 4: The Athletics have agreed to acquire pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Top prospect Addison Russell is heading to Chicago in the deal. Fellow prospect Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily will also go to the Cubs, reports ESPN.com’s Keith Law (via Twitter).
Though initial reports indicated that another team could be involved, the final deal is a two-way swap, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Talks were said to be serious earlier tonight, per reports from Rosenthal and Morosi. There are conflicting reports as to the final piece of the deal (if any): Law (Twitter link), Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) have reported that a PTBNL or cash will go to the Cubs, while Morosi tweets that no additional piece is involved.
The swap represents an aggressive move from an Oakland team that has paced the rest of the league all year long, but which had questions in its rotation and has often been stymied in the postseason. While the club has cruised to a league-best .616 winning percentage, backed by a +129 run differential that is far and away the best in baseball, it is being chased by two clubs (the Angels and Mariners) that rank 2nd and 3rd in the game in run differential. In Samardzija and Hammel, GM Billy Beane filled two rotation needs in one stroke. The former promises to add another top-of-the-rotation arm to the staff, both this year and next, while the latter will provide depth and solid innings as a reasonably-priced rental. Even better for the small-budget A’s, neither player will break the bank. And the team with the best record in the game arguably now firmly stands as the favorite to prevail in the American League.
Samardzija will add to the top of a rotation that has delivered a stellar 3.34 ERA, but which owns peripherals (3.90 FIP, 3.84 xFIP) that paint a somewhat different picture. More importantly, perhaps, are the question marks that accompany the team’s top three hurlers: staff ace Sonny Gray is up to 111 innings but has never thrown more than 182 1/3 in a season as a pro; the emergent Jesse Chavez (103 innings) is about to pass his career high in innings pitched; and Scott Kazmir has a well-documented injury history. Samardzija is earning a modest $5.35MM in his second (and second-to-last) season of arbitration eligibility. Though his excellent 2.83 ERA (8.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 52.5% groundball rate) through 108 frames will warrant a significant raise next year, he surely projects to deliver significant excess value over his contract. While a run at an extension seems unlikely from Oakland, the team could always flip him next year if circumstances warrant or ultimately make him a qualifying offer.
Hammel, meanwhile, is a sturdy option to bolster the Oakland staff down the stretch. Looking further down the line at the club’s prior options, Tommy Milone has a relatively low ceiling and has outperformed his peripherals this year, Dan Straily‘s minor league numbers largely match the ones that got him demoted (and ultimately dealt), Drew Pomeranz is injured, and Josh Lindblom has just six big league starts to his credit at age 27. Signed to a one-year, $6MM contract entering the season, Hammel owns a solid 2.98 ERA in 102 2/3 frames. Since joining the Cubs, he has returned to striking out better than eight batters per nine, as he did in his excellent 2012 campaign. Unlike that season, however, when Hammel registered a 53.2% groundball rate while walking 3.2 per nine, his success in 2014 has come from limiting the walk (1.84 BB/9) even as his percentage of grounders has dropped to 40.5%. He was probably the most attractive, mid-level, pure rental arm available.
On the other side of the equation, by combining their two top trade chips, the Cubs managed to pick up one of the game’s truly elite prospects in Russell. Many will question the “need” for another shortstop for a club that already has Starlin Castro (and his long-term extension) at the major league level with two top-100 prospects (Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara) in the upper minors. But president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer will gladly add the top-end prospect piece now and figure out any logjams in the future. (If all of those players work out, of course, top-100 middle infielders make for useful trade chips — as this very deal demonstrates.)
The other two pieces in the deal also hold value for Chicago. McKinney, 19, was taken 24th overall in last year’s amateur draft. He owns a .241/.330/.400 line in 333 plate appearances this year at High-A. Of course, while he was widely considered the club’s second-best prospect, he is a ways from the big leagues and does not appear on any league-wide top-100 lists.
Straily, 25, is a bounceback candidate who could provide innings for the Cubs rotation in the near future, though he is headed to Triple-A to start. After logging 152 1/3 innings of 3.96 ERA ball last year (with 7.3 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 and a 36.4% groundball rate), Straily struggled to a 4.93 mark in his first 38 1/3 frames in 2014. In spite of largely equivalent peripherals, a tendency to the long ball sidetracked the righty. Since being demoted, he has posted good strikeout numbers at Triple-A (as he has in the past), but has nevertheless scuffled to a 4.71 earned run average through 63 frames to date.
From a broader perspective, this deal takes two prime starting pitching targets out of play for the rest of the market. And it delivers them to a club that might not ultimately have made such significant additions. The many clubs angling for rotation pieces will now have less readily available stock to pursue, which could raise the price for the top remaining arms.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Cubs and Athletics are in serious discussions regarding a major swap that would deliver Chicago starters Jason Hammel “and/or” Jeff Samardzija to Oakland, report Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Top Oakland prospect Addison Russell has been discussed, according to the report.
Needless to say, a deal involving both Hammel and Samardzija would represent a stunning early turn in the market. The pair of Cubs hurlers has long been rumored to be among the best arms likely to change hands over the summer. But both were expected to have many suitors, some (but not all) of which would likely overlap.
Though Hammel is expected to bring back some value, there is little doubt that Russell would only be involved if Samardzija was also on his way to Oakland. The 20-year-old shortstop is far and away the A’s best-regarded prospect, with a wide consensus that he is one of the twenty best pre-MLB players in the game. ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link) ranked him as the third-best overall prospect coming into the season, lauding his outstanding across-the-board tools, projectable power, elite hands and arm at short, and overall feel for the game.
Indeed, it is arguable that Russell would be too great a return even for Samardzija. On the other hand, it is difficult to see the A’s landing Samardzija (or any other starter at or above his level) without including Russell. The fall-off in the A’s system comes fairly quickly. Billy McKinney is the team’s consensus second-best prospect, but he (like much of the rest of the organization’s best talent) has yet to advance above High-A ball and does not rate amongst the game’s best-rated young players.
For the A’s, the addition of at least one starter — if not two — makes a good deal of sense. The rotation has been good thus far, but clearly could benefit from an upgrade at the top and/or depth at the back for the playoff push.
Of course, Oakland could also stand to upgrade its options at second base. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes on Twitter, that is another area where the Cubs could potentially add value in a hypothetical deal. Indeed, Luis Valbuena, Emilio Bonifacio, and Darwin Barney are all capable of manning the keystone. And it is not inconceivable that a deal could deliver a somewhat lesser prospect (or prospects) back to Oakland, in order to balance out the A’s sacrifice of future value. Ultimately, there are many plausible permutations that one could imagine coming to pass.
The Rangers didn't really expect to re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter, yet did their due diligence by keeping in touch with Cruz's agent Adam Katz, GM Jon Daniels told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer. "We've touched base every week or so," Daniels said. "Nellie's highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with Adam. We made our moves and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we'll see where it goes. It's a unique situation for him as a free agent. When we made our decision to sign [Shin-Soo] Choo, it was with the understanding that [Cruz's] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don't know what's going on with other teams and Nellie."
Here's some more from around the AL West…
- The Rangers' view on re-signing Cruz is "unchanged," FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets, in that the team would only bring him back at a lower price and if he can't find any other suitors.
- Nick Franklin was almost traded to the Diamondbacks last offseason and had been the subject of trade rumors this winter as well since the Mariners' acquisition of Robinson Cano. Despite all of the speculation, Franklin tells Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that he's just focusing on the upcoming season. “I mean, as far as I know, I’ve been traded 20 times, and I’m still here," Franklin said. “It doesn’t really bother me at all. All I can do is control what I can and go out and play the game.”
- A 10-year, $300MM contract for Mike Trout has often been cited as a possible extension for the young superstar, though MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines that Trout's representatives might take a lesser deal given that Trout still has four years until free agency and his stock could drop in the interim. Also, a shorter deal would set Trout up for another massive contract later in his career. Gonzalez suggests a seven-year, $200MM extension could work. In my opinion, while the $200MM mark is a major threshold for any player, I'd guess the Angels would happily lock Trout up at that price.
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters, including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, that there is very little chance top prospect Addison Russell begins the season on the Major League roster. The A's are already set at shortstop wth Jed Lowrie (with Nick Punto and Eric Sogard as backup options), and as Slusser notes, there is little reason to start Russell's service time clock at this point in his young career.
Earlier today, Bartolo Colon told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he'd like to return to the A's next season and feels that he could pitch another three years in the Majors. At the time, it wasn't known if the A's were interested in a reunion, but in their postseason address to the media, both manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane said they are interested in bringing Colon back for a third season (via Slusser and John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group on Twitter). Beane went so far as to say it'd be "foolish" for the team not to be interested. Here's more from on the A's…
- Closer Grant Balfour isn't satisfied with only making the playoffs, he told reporters, including MLB.com's Jane Lee. Balfour said he intends to keep playing until he can win a World Series (Twitter link).
- Balfour also acknowledged to CSNBayArea.com's Casey Pratt that he wanted to make sure the inning he pitched in Game 5 last night was a good one, because he knew it may have been his last frame with the team (also on Twitter).
- Melvin said today that the A's are well-equipped to handle the potential loss of Balfour, as internal options Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle could take over as closer (via CSN California's Joe Stiglich on Twitter). As Stiglich goes on to caution, that comment doesn't mean Doolittle or Cook will close in 2014. The A's would likely explore the free agent relief market in that scenario for an additional arm to plug into the mix.
- Beane said that the A's will exercise Coco Crisp's $7.5MM option following the season and implied that they will do the same with Brett Anderson's $8MM option (via Slusser).
- Crisp said that he'd like to think the A's would want to discuss retaining him beyond the 2014 season (via Hickey).
- Top prospect Addison Russell will open 2014 at Double-A "at the lowest," according to Beane, who then added that "anything can happen" once a player reaches Double-A (Stiglich reporting).
- Beane feels that if Chris Young, whose contract contains an $11MM club option, doesn't return to the team, Michael Choice can serve as a right-handed outfielder for the team (Lee reporting). It seems logical that the A's would decline the option after Young batted just .200/.280/.379 this season.
Is this the beginning of a new era for shortstops?
Four publications — Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), Keith Law at ESPN (subscription required), and FanGraphs (compiled by yours truly) — recently released their midseason Top 50 prospects lists. The rankings featured as many as eight elite shortstop prospects. That position is widely considered to be the most important (non-pitcher) spot on the baseball field and those potential star athletes are highly-sought-after commodities on the open market, through trades and via the draft.
Of those eight prospects featured on the four lists, five of the players are found in American League organizations, suggesting we may be soon entering another Era of the Shortstop, similar to what we experienced in the early 2000s with the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada in the AL.
Let's have a closer look at those eight shortstop prospects…
1. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: Bogaerts was the highest ranked shortstop on all four lists. Boston is clearly planning for the day that the Aruba native is ready to contribute at the big league level as they recently had him playing games at the hot corner — an area of weakness for the playoff hungry club. However, the recent trade of Jose Iglesias, as well as the pending free agency of veteran Stephen Drew, should provide a clear path to the Major League shortstop job for Bogaerts, who has more than held his own at the Triple-A level.
2. Francisco Lindor, Indians: Just 19, Cleveland's top shortstop prospect earned a mid-season promotion from High-A to Double-A after a strong showing both in the field and at the plate. Veteran incumbent Asdrubal Cabrera's uninspired 2013 season could help convince the front office that his time with the organization is coming to an end. Lindor, who is only in his third professional season, could be ready for the Majors by the middle of 2014. He could develop into a perennial Gold Glove winner at shortstop.
3. Carlos Correa, Astros: The first overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, Correa has produced above-average offensive numbers in Low-A ball despite being just 18 years of age. The Puerto Rico native has shown a natural hitting ability, but he has yet to tap into his raw power. There are concerns that he'll eventually outgrow shortstop, but he should have the offensive chops to be an above-average player at just about any position on the field.
4. Javier Baez, Cubs: Baez has arguably the best raw power out of any player on this list, and he already has 27 home runs in 98 games this year. Like Lindor (a fellow 2011 first-round draft pick), he's already reached Double-A. Unlike the Indians prospect, though, his offensive game is raw. He has a very aggressive approach at the plate, which has resulted in just 29 walks with 111 strikeouts in 391 at-bats. As is the case with Correa, there has been some talk of moving Baez to third base. However, with fellow prospect Mike Olt (recently acquired from the Rangers) – a plus defender at the hot corner — that move doesn't make a ton of sense now. He could also move out to right field, but the Cubs organization features a lot of depth in that area. If and when everything clicks for Baez, though, Chicago will certainly find a spot for him.
5. Addison Russell, Athletics: Russell, a 2012 first-rounder, burst onto the prospect landscape in a big way last season. His strong play earned him an aggressive assignment to High-A ball to open the 2013 season despite being just 19 years old. He struggled in the first two months of the season but has posted an OPS near 1.000 during the past two months. Russell probably won't be ready until 2015, so current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie likely has one more season of job security before he finds himself at another position or on another club.
6. Alen Hanson, Pirates: The emergence of Jordy Mercer has added some middle infield stability at the big league level for the Pirates but he's not likely to be the long-term answer at shortstop. Hanson, 20, is the best in-house option to eventually take over the position — although his name has popped up more than a few times in recent trade rumors. After a strong showing in High-A ball, the Dominican native was recently promoted to Double-A. The switch-hitter has shown the ability to steal 20-30 bases with solid line-drive pop.
7. Raul Mondesi, Royals: Previously known as Adalberto Mondesi, this shortstop prospect is one of the youngest players in full-season ball, having just recently turned 18. His inexperience has shown in 2013, and he walked just four times in May and June. His raw ability is undeniable, though, and he's made adjustments with a strong month of July — including 13 walks and his highest monthly OPS of the year at .817.
8. Corey Seager, Dodgers: Seager — whose brother Kyle Seager plays for the Mariners — is perhaps the most underrated shortstop on this list. The teenager has enjoyed his time in the Midwest League, and he's been on fire over the summer months with an OPS approaching 1.000. He's also slugged eight of his 11 home runs in June and July. Like Correa, Seager is expected to outgrow shortstop but he's shown enough skill at the position to suggest he may be able to stick there for a few more years. He's likely at least two seasons away from reaching Los Angeles.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Addison Russell | Alen Hanson | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Cleveland Indians | Corey Seager | Francisco Lindor | Houston Astros | Javier Baez | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Oakland Athletics | Pittsburgh Pirates | Prospect Rumor Roundup | Raul Mondesi | Xander Bogaerts
The Athletics held their A's Fan Fest today with manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane hosting a Q&A session. Here are the highlights:
- Melvin says second base will be an open competition between Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks while Grant Green, the A's fourth-best prospect as ranked by MLB.com, will also receive a hard look, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee (Twitter links).
- Melvin plans to continue with the Brandon Moss/Chris Carter platoon at first base, tweets Lee.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets the A's will not use any one set lineup because Melvin has multiple options depending on matchups and who's hot.
- Melvin views Coco Crisp as the starting center fielder with Chris Young moving around all three outfield spots, Lee tweets.
- Young says being reunited with Melvin is "like a breath of fresh air." (A's team Twitter feed).
- Melvin calls Yoenis Cespedes one of most talented players in the league and Beane adds he wouldn't be surprised if the 27-year-old Cuban takes it to another level, Slusser tweets.
- Beane is confident Hiroyuki Nakajima will make a successful transition to MLB, tweets Casey Pratt of CSNBayArea.com. In fact, Beane joked he will have a tougher transition in dealing with the effervescent Japanese shortstop.
- Beane expects their top prospect, outfielder Michael Choice, to open the season in Triple-A, unless something unforeseen happens, according to Pratt (via Twitter).
- The A's are convinced shortstop Addison Russell, last year's first round draft choice, is mature enough to be invited to Spring Training even though it wasn't part of his contract, writes Slusser on Twitter. Slusser adds this is an indication of how much the 19-year-old has wowed the front office.
The Tigers can tie the White Sox for the AL Central lead today, but it'll take a win over the Royals and some help from the Indians, who are visiting the south side of Chicago. Here are today's links…
- Athletics first-round selection Addison Russell tops Baseball America's list of the 20 best prospects from the rookie-level Arizona League. The A's selected the high school shortstop 11th overall, and he hit .415/.488/.717 in 26 games in the Arizona League before being promoted to Class A ball.
- Cody Ross has been a bargain acquisition in the past, but he’s likely headed for a raise as a free agent following a strong offensive showing with the Red Sox, Alex Speier of WEEI.com writes. As Speier explains, Ross has been traded for next to nothing in the past.
- Kerry Wood will work with the Cubs next year, likely as an on-field instructor, Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Wood, who retired in May, said he hopes to have some kind of role in uniform with the Cubs, ideally alongside some of his former teammates.
- The Rockies will enter the 2013 season with questions related to Todd Helton, Drew Pomeranz, Jim Tracy and others, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. The Rockies want to bring Jeff Francis back when he hits free agency this offseason, according to Saunders.
THURSDAY: Russell will receive a $2.625MM bonus according to Baseball America's Jim Callis (on Twitter), the full slot value for the 11th overall pick.
MONDAY: First round selection Addison Russell told Jason Blakeney of the Pensacola News Journal that he has decided to sign with the Athletics. Russell, the 11th overall selection in last week's draft, will fly to California this week, and advisor Scott Boras will finalize his contract.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Russell said. "Being part of a big league club and being an affiliate of the Oakland A's is a dream come true."
Russell didn't reveal the specifics of his deal with the A's, saying only that they "offered [him] a good chunk of change.” MLB recommends a bonus of $2.625MM for the 11th overall selection, according to Baseball America.
Russell, a high school shortstop, became the first prep player selected by Oakland in the first round since 2001. While some teams wanted to move him to third base, the A's told him he can continue playing shortstop for the time being.
Mike Axisa contributed to this post.