Ben Zobrist Rumors

AL West Notes: Hernandez, Andrus, Crisp, Athletics

Astros righty Roberto Hernandez has finally received his visa an is set to report to spring camp for a physical, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart tweets. Hernandez has a bit of catching up to do if he hopes to make the roster after inking a minor league deal earlier in the offseason.

Here are some notes from the AL West:

  • A rough 2014 season for Elvis Andrus of the Rangers has left some looking askance at his eight-year, $120MM extension, which officially kicks in this season. As the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com), Andrus says that he is ready for a better campaign after reporting out of shape last year. “This year I took it a thousand times [more] seriously than I did the year before,” he said. “… That was an offseason that I hope never happens again. In spring training I wasn’t ready.” A turnaround from Andrus would go a long way toward restoring the once-promising trajectory of the Rangers, to say nothing of his own. It would also increase his appeal as a trade chip, though Texas no longer has quite the middle infield logjam it once did.
  • Coco Crisp is set to play left field this year for the Athletics, manager Bob Melvin tells reporters including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). That shift, which was occasioned by a desire to protect the team’s investment in Crisp by reducing the toll on his body, will result in Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld platooning in center. In turn, that probably also puts an end to the notion that Oakland could look to acquire a second baseman and move Ben Zobrist to the outfield.
  • While it is hard to deny (and not entirely surprising) that the Athletics got less back for Jeff Samardzija than they gave to acquire him (along with Jason Hammel), the team feels good about the young players that it picked up from the White Sox, MLB.com’s Phil Rogers writes“Look, both of those deals are difficult,” said assistant GM David Forst. “You never like trading a guy like Addison [Russell], but Jeff and Jason filled a particular need for us at that time. Then to turn around and lose Jason and feel like trading Jeff is the best option is never an easy decision to make. Jeff is a guy who has his best years ahead of him still. He’s right at the age you want to get a pitcher. He knows his game. His stuff is without question. It was not an easy decision to make. It was part of the balancing act we are forced to make.”

West Notes: Dunn, A’s, D-Backs, Zobrist, Chavez, Alonso

Adam Dunn‘s agent, Brian Peters, tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link) that Dunn is indeed retiring, as was widely expected. Dunn himself said that he would retire following the season back in August, though he created a bit of doubt when he backed off slightly and said, “That’s it, probably,” following the Athletics’ loss to the Royals in the AL Wild Card game. Dunn’s career was unique, to say the least, as he epitomized the “three true outcomes” player, homering 462 times while striking out in 28.6 percent of his plate appearances and walking in  15.8 percent of them. Just under half (49.9 percent) of Dunn’s career plate appearances ended in a long ball, a walk or a whiff, and he will enter the record books with a .237/.364/.490 batting line. Dunn hit 40-plus homers in six separate seasons, including five consecutive years — four of which finished with 40 on the dot (2005-08). The “Big Donkey” will be fondly remembered by many for his light-tower power — a skill that earned him more than $112MM throughout his career, per Baseball-Reference.com. MLBTR wishes Dunn and his family happiness and the best of luck in his post-playing days.

Here are a few notes on some of the game’s Western division clubs, including the final team for which Dunn played…

  • Athletics right-handers Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are doubtful for Opening Day, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. That’s not a huge shock, given that both underwent Tommy John surgery last spring, though Parker, whose surgery was on March 25, would have seemed to at least have a chance at being ready. Oakland still has plenty of pitching depth, however, with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Hahn, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman all in the fold. Once Griffin and Parker are healthy, Oakland will have a plethora of MLB-ready rotation options, and only Kazmir is set to depart following the 2015 campaign.
  • Morosi also tweets that the Diamondbacks have received calls from the Orioles regarding their outfield depth. Baltimore is known to be looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder, and both David Peralta and Ender Inciarte would fit that description, Morosi notes. Peralta’s name has surfaced in trade talks already this offseason, as the Reds were said to be interested in him prior to acquiring Marlon Byrd. Moving Peralta would allow Arizona to shift Yasmany Tomas to the outfield rather than trying him at third base, as is the current plan, although first-year GM Dave Stewart specifically mentioned Peralta when discussing the club’s strengths shortly after his hiring.
  • Also from Morosi, the D-Backs have called the Blue Jays about Dioner Navarro, but talks haven’t advanced much to this point. Morosi noted last night that Arizona is working hard to acquire a catcher, as Tuffy Gosewich is the lone player on their 40-man roster with big league experience. Navarro is known to be available after the Jays inked Russell Martin to a huge five-year deal earlier this offseason.
  • The Giants tried to work out a deal to acquire Ben Zobrist from the Rays before he was dealt to Oakland, but San Francisco deemed Tampa’s asking price to be too high, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
  • The Mariners are one option for veteran outfielder Endy Chavez, tweets Heyman. Soon to be 37, Chavez remains on the free agent market on the heels of a season in which he batted .276/.317/.371 (99 OPS+, 97 wRC+). While Chavez has never brought much to the table in terms of offense, he’s graded out well from a defensive standpoint throughout his career (though defensive metrics have soured on him over the past two seasons).
  • Yonder Alonso tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he is 100 percent healthy after undergoing surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right wrist. Alonso says that he hasn’t been pain-free in his hands since he broke a metacarpal bone in his right hand when he was hit by a pitch on May 31, 2013. Padres GM A.J. Preller has indicated that first base is likely to be handled by some combination of Alonso, Tommy Medica and Will Middlebrooks, and Lin notes that perhaps a lower-pressure environment with more offensive threats throughout the lineup will help Alonso. Still, he notes, Alonso’s tenure with the Padres has been a disappointment to many. “I really thought he’d unleash some power,” a scout from another club tells Lin. “It’s been disappointing.”

Quick Hits: Howard, Rays, Vogelsong, Dbacks, Gee

There doesn’t seem to be much of a market yet for Ryan Howard, but perhaps there should be, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. True, the Phillies would have to pay a large chunk of the $60MM on Howard’s contract, but Howard still has home run power and is healthy this offseason. Howard also revised his limited no-trade clause last fall to accommodate possible trades, and would likely approve deals even to teams on his no-trade list, Rosenthal reports. “If you’re looking for a DH and want some left-handed power – which doesn’t exist out there – and a good quality person who knows how to win and wants to play, this guy is the guy to go get,” says GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “The fact that we’ve been so public makes people think we’ll release him. That won’t happen.” Contract aside, Rosenthal thinks Howard’s market value ought be be something like $7MM to $10MM per season. Even that seems ambitious for a 35-year-old who has been below replacement level in two of the last three seasons, however. Here are more notes from throughout baseball.

  • This weekend’s trade of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar could make the Rays a potential bidder for Howard, since the Rays gained payroll flexibility in the deal and have pursued stopgap designated hitters and first basemen in the past, Ryan Lawrence of Philly.com writes. It seems unlikely that the Rays would trade for Howard, however. They acquired John Jaso in the Zobrist deal with the idea that he wouldn’t primarily be a catcher, but rather a left-handed bat who might DH or play first base or outfield. (In fact, Jaso has said the Rays plan for him to play mostly DH.) Jaso’s role would seem to overlap with Howard’s potential spot in Tampa, so if Howard’s performance didn’t rule him out as an option for the Rays, Jaso’s presence probably would.
  • The Rockies have had discussions with free agent starter Ryan Vogelsong, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets. The Rockies have been connected to low-cost starting pitchers like Josh Johnson, Aaron Harang, Kevin Correia and Kyle Kendrick, and Vogelsong would seem somewhat similar. Pitchers like Kendrick have shown some ability to get ground balls, however, while Vogelsong is more of a fly ball pitcher, potentially making him an awkward fit for Coors Field. The 37-year-old posted a 4.00 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 184 2/3 innings with the Giants in 2014.
  • The Diamondbacks are trying to acquire a catcher, Morosi tweets. After trading Miguel Montero to the Cubs, the Snakes have Tuffy Gosewisch penciled in as their starter. The only other catcher on their 40-man is Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez, who played in Class A last year. They did sign Matt Pagnozzi and re-sign Blake Lalli to minor league deals, but they still appear short on experienced catching.
  • The Mets are in active trade discussions involving starting pitcher Dillon Gee, Andy Martino of New York Daily News tweets. Gee’s name came up in the three-team Ian Desmond / Ben Zobrist deal the Mets discussed with the Rays and Nationals, Martino adds. Rumors about Gee have simmered all offseason, with the Rockies, Giants and Twins among the teams connected to the righty. The Mets have reportedly been trying to trade a veteran starter, with Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon as other potential candidates, although Gee appears to be the most likely to be traded.
  • The Orioles will get a close look at Rule 5 picks Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett at minicamp this week, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Garcia (who was originally selected by the Astros before being traded to Baltimore) just turned 22 and has not yet pitched above Class A, but Encina says the righty impressed the Orioles with his performance against their farmhands in instructional league play last fall. Verrett is more experienced, having held his own as a starter for the Mets’ Triple-A team last year as a 24-year-old. He’s more likely to relieve for the Orioles. It seems unlikely that a contending team would keep two Rule 5 picks on its roster for too long, so the amount of time Garcia and Verrett have to prove themselves might be somewhat limited.


Nats, Mets, Rays Discussed Desmond/Zobrist Trade

The Nationals, Mets and Rays discussed a three-team deal involving Ian Desmond, Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar before the Rays sent Zobrist and Escobar to Oakland, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The Mets would have received Desmond, with Zobrist and Escobar heading to Washington and the Mets sending prospects to Tampa. The deal ultimately fell through when the Mets declined to part with two prospects from a list of three, one of whom was pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The Mets also discussed acquiring Zobrist from the Rays in a more conventional two-team trade, although the two teams encountered the same hangup regarding prospects.

The structure of the potential three-team deal makes sense, at least on some level, for all sides. The Mets continue to be weak at shortstop, and Desmond would have been an enormous upgrade over Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada. The Nationals had been connected to Zobrist, and Escobar, who is under control through 2016 with an option for 2017, would have provided an everyday shortstop for at least the next two years, helping alleviate a headache that could arrive next offseason as a number of key players become eligible for free agency. (Zobrist, who would have upgraded the Nats at second base while also providing them with options in the outfield, would have joined the list of Nationals eligible for free agency next winter, however.) And it’s hardly surprising that the Rays would have asked for high-upside young talent for Zobrist, since that’s what they ultimately got (in Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, who they received along with John Jaso and cash) when they sent him to the Athletics.

Desmond is eligible for free agency after the season, however, and Rosenthal notes that the Mets were concerned about paying a high price for a one-year player, particularly given the possibility that they could sign him next winter anyway. The Rays’ asking price evidently was high, even without knowing who they might have received besides Syndergaard — MLB.com and Baseball America both rank Syndergaard as the Mets’ No. 1 prospect, with MLB.com ranking him the No. 10 prospect in all of baseball. The 22-year-old posted a 4.60 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 133 innings for the Mets’ hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate in 2014.

The Nationals would not have been concerned about having Desmond play for another team in the NL East, Rosenthal writes. The Cubs, Giants and other teams besides the Athletics and Nationals also had interest in Zobrist.


More Reactions to the Ben Zobrist Trade

It has been more than 24 hours since the Rays shipped franchise cornerstone Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar to the A’s for a package of DH/catcher John Jaso, prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, and cash. MLBTR’s Brad Johnson posted the initial reactions to the transaction. Here’s another batch, including Zobrist’s own thoughts on the trade:

  • I was hoping that I would be able to stay in Tampa Bay for at least this year,” Zobrist, who is scheduled to hit free agency next offseason, told the Tampa Bay Times’ Matt Baker. “I understand, of course, their perspective in trying to get some younger guys and fill some other holes. Obviously I understand the baseball side of it. It’s tough, but I’m thankful for all my time I was able to spend there. It was just a blessed time for our family. It’s a special season of our life that has just come to a close.
  • Zobrist, who ignored all calls and text messages yesterday until his phone died, has mixed emotions about changing franchises. “I think it’ll be fun to get to know new teammates and new fans and a new situation in Oakland. It’ll be exciting. But part of my heart is still stuck in Tampa Bay right now. It’ll take a little bit for me to move on.
  • Zobrist has spoken with Oakland GM Billy Beane and expects to play the same role with the A’s, as he did with the Rays.
  • The moves made by Beane this offseason, beginning with the trade of Josh Donaldson, now make much more sense, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan concurs with Rosenthal that the logic of the A’s offseason is now evident. Sullivan also sees trading Zobrist as a real loss for the Rays, but not a dramatic one adding the return, which will help them down the road when the impending freee agent would have been gone anyway, was simply what was out there.
  • Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times writes when David Price was traded, it was hard on the franchise; when Andrew Friedman left, it was shocking; when Joe Maddon walked away, it was weird, but dealing Zobrist just hurts.
  • The identity change taking place in Tampa is dramatic, but it is a by-product of the Rays‘ market-born business model and may eventually be seen as a necessary evil, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.

AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Axford, Zobrist

The Rays are big on promoting from within both on the field and off.  That’s why they were able to replace popular Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen, now with the Twins, with another sharp mind in Kyle Snyder, writes Marc Topkin for Baseball America. “Kyle Snyder is an excellent pitching coach,” Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. “He’s way ahead of the curve in development. He’s smart, has passion, can relate to all. I say all, because he’s been often injured as a professional. He’s been in the big leagues. He’s been rehabbed. He’s been bounced around.”  More out of the AL East..

  • The Blue Jays have been linked to free agent John Axford and there are several reasons why they would make sense for the closer, including proximity to his hometown, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes.  “Living and growing up not too far away from Toronto — Port Dover, Ont. — I lived just under two hours away,” Axford said of the proximity factor. “Growing up a Blue Jays fan, that would be a big deal for me, definitely. I still live close to Toronto, about 45 minutes away in the off-season, still close to home. So, yeah, it would definitely be big for me, but I’m not going to shut out any team.”
  • Before Ben Zobrist was shipped to the A’s, the Orioles discussed him with the Rays, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). The O’s really wanted the standout second baseman/outfielder, but the asking price was just too high for them.
  • David Laurila of FanGraphs (on Twitter) likes the Zobrist trade from the Rays‘ perspective. The A’s get the short-term win on the deal, but infield prospect David Robertson has a bright future and should excel for years after Zobrist is done playing.

Reactions To The Ben Zobrist Trade

Earlier today, the Rays agreed to swap Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for John Jaso, infield prospect Daniel Robertson, and outfield prospect Boog Powell. The move represents a five or six win gain for the A’s, writes Keith Law of ESPN (Insider required). Per Law, Oakland lacked any “capable everyday middle infielders,” so the move is pure benefit at those positions. Here’s more reactions to the blockbuster.

  • While it’s been a hectic offseason for the A’s, the club still has another $5MM available, tweets John Hickey of Bay Area News Group. My impression is that the team is pretty well stocked at this point. I could see a role for a third catcher, backup outfielder, or middle reliever, but no need is particularly pressing.
  • Teams interested in Zobrist checked in with A’s GM Billy Beane within five minutes of the trade, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Zobrist appears to be a linchpin for the A’s, so a second trade strikes me as unlikely. Of course, Beane has shown this offseason that we can’t rule it out.
  • The acquisition of Zobrist and Escobar will allow the A’s to shift Marcus Semien into a utility role, writes Law. Semien was previously penciled in as the primary shortstop, but he’s better suited to second or third base. With Semien and Zobrist capable of playing all over the diamond, Oakland could possess the most flexible roster in the league.
  • “We see [Semien] as an everyday player, similar to Josh Harrison‘s role with the Pirates,” said Beane to reporters including Chris Haft of MLB.com. Meanwhile, Beane plans to leverage Zobrist’s versatility and switch-hitting to build excellent matchups. In the same article, Beane compared Robertson to former Athletic Mark Ellis.
  • Jaso is excited to return to Tampa Bay, tweets Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times. Per Baker, Jaso had identified the Rays earlier in the offseason as a team that might target him (also Twitter).
  • Jaso’s return to the Rays could allow the club to shop left-handed outfielder David DeJesus, according to Law. The veteran outfielder is owed $6MM in 2015, and the Rays have a reputation for careful management of the payroll. A trade would open more regular playing time for Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer. Jaso is expected to serve primarily as a designated hitter.
  • Beane’s re-tooling efforts are “fearless,” writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. The GM’s decision to trade multiple All Stars and established veterans to extend the club’s window to compete is nothing short of inspired. Justice also notes that manager Bob Melvin specializes in building cohesive teams. With so many new faces, Melvin will have his hands full.

Matt Silverman On The Ben Zobrist Trade

The trade of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for John Jaso, shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson and outfield prospect Boog Powell on Saturday was a franchise-changing one for the Rays, who parted with a longtime star. Zobrist joined the team in 2006 when it had never had a winning season and was still called the Devil Rays, and he was a key to the team’s turnaround, helping lead the organization to its first winning season in 2008.

USATSI_7995594_154513410_lowresRays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman told the media Saturday afternoon that the decision to trade Zobrist, who would have been eligible for free agency after the season, was a painful one.

This has been a difficult transaction for all of us to stomach,” Silverman said. “There are a lot of heavy hearts in the organization today. Ben has been a central figure in the transformation of the organization.”

Unsurprisingly, Silverman said that a team in the Rays’ position sometimes has to trade veterans for young talent.

These trades are difficult, but they’re a necessary part of how we operate. In an ideal world, we don’t make these kinds of trades, but we don’t have the luxury to do that,” he said.

While not all trades of older players for younger ones work out, such trades have often proven helpful to the Rays in the past.

We acquired Ben Zobrist in a trade kind of like this,” said Silverman, referring to the deal in which they sent former star Aubrey Huff to the Astros in 2006.

The Rays parted with another starting infielder in Escobar in today’s deal as well. They knew heading into trade discussions that the Athletics liked Escobar, because the A’s had claimed him from the Rays on revocable waivers last year.

When we talk to teams, oftentimes interest is expressed years before transactions actually come to a head,” said Silverman, adding that the A’s were one of a number of teams with interest in Escobar. “Oakland had interest in Yunel for awhile, and it helps set the tone for conversations.

Now, with Zobrist and Escobar gone, the Rays will need to reshape their middle infield. The key will be Asdrubal Cabrera, whose signing the Rays officially announced today. Silverman said that Cabrera would get regular playing time either at shortstop or second base.

Beyond that, he noted, “we have an open mind heading into the spring” regarding the middle infield. Silverman added that Nick Franklin, who the Rays acquired in the David Price deal last summer and who can also play both shortstop and second base, could now get more playing time as well.

There are a number of players in our organization who probably see a better opportunity for them,” Silverman said, though he also suggested that the Rays could continue to look for outside middle infield help.

Meanwhile, the Rays did get one big-leaguer as part of their return in the trade. Getting a good left-handed hitter in John Jaso was a key to the deal, Silverman said.

He’s the kind of offensive player that our lineup has been missing against right-handed pitching,” said Silverman.

The position Jaso has played the most is catcher, but Silverman suggested that Jaso’s hitting was more important to them than his ability to catch. Jaso missed the end of the 2014 season with concussion issues. Silverman said he expects Jaso to be healthy heading into the season, but added that it’s important that the Rays put Jaso “in the best position to succeed,” seemingly suggesting that the team could limit his catching if playing the position proved to be a health risk. The team could use Jaso at first base or outfield in addition to occasional catching if he proves he can perform at those positions.

We want to make sure we get as much out of that bat as possible,” said Silverman.

Nonetheless, it’s Robertson, the Athletics’ former No. 1 prospect, who most interests the Rays.

Robertson is the lead piece in this transaction,” Silverman said. “It takes a large trade like this for us to be able to acquire someone of his talents.”

Powell isn’t on Robertson’s level as a prospect, but he wasn’t a throw-in, either.

He’s a speedy outfielder with an interesting bat profile, and one that we hope can develop a little bit more power. It’s a profile that is uncommon, but one that can often find success at the Major League level,” said Silverman. “He’s not going to overwhelm you in the stat box, but his value shows up in many different ways.”

Neither Robertson nor Powell has even played at Double-A yet, so neither of them are likely to help the Rays next year. Silverman says, though, that he expects the Rays’ offense to improve upon its AL-worst 612 runs scored next season, despite the departures of Zobrist, Escobar, Wil Myers and Matt Joyce.

A lot of that is based on our expectation that the players who are returning will perform better offensively than they did last year,” he said.

“If our players play to our expectation, and we get the contributions we expect from the players we’ve added, this should be a better offensive team. … This team should be competitive. It should be compelling. The talent level is certainly there. It just looks different than it has in years past.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Athletics Acquire Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar

The Rays have announced that they’ve traded Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for catcher/DH John Jaso, shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson, and outfield prospect Boog Powell. The Rays also announced that they would receive cash considerations, which Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets is $1.5MM.

USATSI_8035097_154513410_lowresIt’s an emotional and meaningful day as we bid farewell to Ben Zobrist and thank him for everything he’s meant to the Rays organization,” says Rays executive Matt Silverman. “Any description of his value, talent and character would understate how we feel about Ben, and we consider ourselves fortunate for all our great moments together.”

The Athletics entered the offseason with needs at both middle infield positions. They addressed one of those when they acquired Marcus Semien from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade, though Semien isn’t an established big-leaguer, and the versatile Zobrist can be moved around the field if Semien emerges. Or perhaps it’s Semien who will move around — he played third base in the big leagues and left field in the minors in 2014, and Slusser suggests that Semien could now be used “like a young Zobrist.” So acquiring Zobrist and Escobar certainly makes sense from a positional perspective.

The A’s pulling off a blockbuster trade for Zobrist and Escobar is surprising, however, given the trajectory of their offseason. They signed DH Billy Butler early in the winter but have spent much of the rest of it trading veterans, not acquiring them, sending Samardzija to Chicago, Josh Donaldson to Toronto, Brandon Moss to Cleveland, and Derek Norris to San Diego. The A’s also lost Jon Lester, Luke Gregerson and Jed Lowrie to free agency.

The Athletics aren’t interested in complete rebuilds, however, and acquiring Zobrist and Escobar (who the Athletics claimed on revocable waivers last August) should help, at least for 2015, in making up for the talent they lost previously in the offseason. The 33-year-old Zobrist has been one of baseball’s best players over the past several seasons, with four straight seasons of an fWAR of above 5.0. While his offense the past two years has been down from his 2008-2012 pace (slipping somewhat to .272/.354/.395 in 2014), his defensive talents and ability to play second base, shortstop and outfield make him tremendously valuable. He will be eligible for free agency after making $7.5MM in the last option season on the team-friendly extension he signed with Tampa in 2010. The Athletics can also extend Zobrist a qualifying offer after the season, potentially netting themselves a draft pick if he signs elsewhere.

Zobrist had also been connected to the Nationals and Giants this offseason. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams pointed out in December, however, Zobrist would have made sense for any number of teams.

Escobar, 32, hit .258/.324/.340 in 529 plate appearances with the Rays in 2014. In the past, much of his value has come from his above-average glove, although UZR liked his defense considerably less in 2014 than it did in the past. He signed a two-year deal last April that carries him through 2016 at a total of $12MM, and he also has a $1MM buyout on a $7MM option for 2017.

From the Rays’ perspective, a trade of Zobrist or Escobar seemed likely after the team reached agreement on a one-year deal with Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera will make $7.5MM in 2015, exactly the same as Zobrist, so trading him doesn’t seem to be primarily about shedding salary, but about getting something for a top player who’s eligible for free agency before the next time the Rays are likely to contend. The Rays could now use a combination of Cabrera, Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe in the middle infield.

The Rays’ haul is considerable, as one would expect given Zobrist’s considerable talents. Jaso, 31, appeared in 54 games at catcher and 32 at DH last season, hitting .264/.337/.430. Given his solid hitting from the left side, Jaso is valuable at either position. He tells John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (on Twitter) that the Rays have told him they want him to mostly DH while occasionally filling in at catcher. That would leave Rene Rivera as the Rays’ primary backstop.

Jaso was a semi-regular player for the Rays in 2010 and 2011 before they traded him to Seattle. He’s projected to make $3.3MM in 2015, his last season before he’s eligible for free agency. Jaso missed the end of the season last year with concussion issues but is expected to be healthy heading into the 2015 season.

The real jewel here, though, is Robertson, who MLB.com and Baseball America rank as the Athletics’ top prospect MLB.com also ranks him the No. 85 prospect in baseball overall. The 20-year-old also, obviously, would have qualified as Oakland’s top young shortstop after the A’s traded Addison Russell last year. Robertson, who the A’s drafted in the first round in 2012, hit .310/.402/.471 in 642 plate appearances with Class A+ Stockton in 2014, winning praise for his line-drive stroke on offense and his sure-handedness on defense. The loss of Robertson is another hit to the Athletics’ farm system that lost plenty of talent in the Samardzija deal with the Cubs last summer, although the addition of Franklin Barreto in the Donaldson trade should help with the middle infield depth they’re losing.

Fellow 2012 draftee Powell, meanwhile, ranks No. 11 on MLB.com’s list. Powell (who isn’t related to the fellow lefty-hitting outfielder and former Orioles great of the same name) hit a terrific .343/.451/.435 in 381 plate appearances with Class A Beloit and with Stockton in 2014. He was, however, suspended for 50 games in July for testing positive for an amphetamine. He doesn’t have an outstanding arm, but has good speed (though he hasn’t translated that speed into good basestealing ability yet) and could stick in center field.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle was the first to report that a deal sending Zobrist and Escobar to Oakland was imminent. Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first to tweet that the Rays would get Jaso and two prospects in the deal. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted that Robertson was involved in the deal, while ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted that Powell was in the trade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rays Sign Asdrubal Cabrera

The Rays have announced that they’ve signed middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year deal. The Octagon client will make $7.5MM.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia PhilliesThe Rays already had Yunel Escobar at shortstop and Ben Zobrist to play second, but after they reached agreement with Cabrera, they shipped both Escobar and Zobrist (who also will make $7.5MM next season) to Oakland. That should free the Rays’ middle infield for Cabrera, Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe.

Cabrera, 29, hit .241/.307/.387 in 553 plate appearances with the Indians and Nationals last season. He rated as below average defensively at shortstop, and mostly played second base with the Nationals, who already had Ian Desmond at shortstop. Cabrera ranked 23rd on MLBTR’s list of this offseason’s top 50 free agents, just ahead of Jed Lowrie as the top middle infielder available (not including Hanley Ramirez). That such a player would only receive a one-year deal is somewhat surprising (Lowrie, for example, got three years and $23MM), but the contract will give Cabrera another shot at free agency next year, when he’ll still only be 30.

Cabrera is the first significant signing for the Rays this offseason. The Rays have added Ernesto Frieri and Michael Kohn on big-league deals, also trading Wil Myers, Ryan Hanigan, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Joyce, Joel Peralta and Sean Rodriguez in an attempt to remake a team that won 77 games with the franchise’s highest ever payroll.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the contract was done, and that it was a one-year, $7.5MM contract (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports originally tweeted that an agreement was in place. Heyman first tweeted that a deal was close.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.