Oakland Athletics Rumors

Oakland Athletics trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL West Notes: Astros, Athletics, Johnson

The Astros have a perception problem, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. The Astros missed out on top overall pick Brady Aiken and another top pick, Jacob Nix, because of a disagreement about Aiken’s health. During part of the time they might have been negotiating with Aiken, Drellich points out, GM Jeff Luhnow was on vacation with his family in Mexico. That might not have had any bearing on their ability to sign Aiken, Drellich notes, but it doesn’t look good, and the Astros generally don’t get the “benefit of the doubt” with such matters.

Drellich also takes a close look at each party’s motivations as the Astros and Aiken tried to negotiate. He points out that, if Aiken goes to junior college and reenters the draft next year, it will be hard for Aiken to top the $5MM the Astros offered, given that the Astros themselves will have the No. 2 overall pick as a result of losing him, along with their own standard first-round pick, which will also be one of the early ones. For a player to get $5MM is very difficult under the new bonus pool system, especially with the Astros taking two very early picks. Here’s more from the AL West.

  • Astros scouting director Mike Elias is disappointed with the way the draft signing deadline went, Drellich writes. “I haven’t been very happy about anything to do with it, because of just the unfortunate situation that I think all parties found themselves in,” says Elias. “It’s something that I think we, and everyone involved with, will look forward to ultimately having behind us at some point.” Add the failures to sign Aiken, Nix and Mac Marshall to top 2013 pick Mark Appel‘s poor performance, and it’s a tough time all-around for Elias.
  • The Athletics would like to trade reliever Jim Johnson before the trade deadline, John Hickey of IBABuzz.com writes. The A’s don’t want to just cut him and swallow the rest of his salary, and they’re also having trouble drumming up interest in him. Johnson is a pitcher without a role — the A’s have been using him in low-leverage situations given his struggles this season, but even that is a problem, since he isn’t a multi-inning pitcher.

Blue Jays Claim Brad Mills From Athletics

The Blue Jays have claimed lefty Brad Mills off waivers from the Athletics, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Mills was designated for assignment on July 7 to make room for trade acquisition Jason Hammel.

In his first MLB action since 2012, Mills allowed eight earned runs in 16 1/3 frames while striking out 14 batters and issuing seven free passes. Before his acquisition by Oakland, Mills had impressed at Triple-A for the Brewers, compiling 75 innings of 1.56 ERA ball with 9.2 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9.

Toronto does not have rotation space for the out-of-options Mills unless it  sends one of its younger arms (Drew Hutchison or Marcus Stroman) to the pen or the minors or pushes out J.A. Happ (another lefty). The Jays could presumably utilize Mills in a relief role, though the club has enjoyed reasonably effective performances from fellow southpaws Aaron Loup (3.20 ERA) and Brett Cecil (3.68 ERA), the latter of whom is also out of options.


Bowden On Price, Hamels, Byrd, Angels, A’s, Reds, More

ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required and recommended) offers a bounty of information on the trade market as we draw to within two weeks of the deadline. While you’ll want to give the piece a full read, here are some of the many highlights:

  • The Rays are in no hurry to deal ace David Price, and some possible trade partners increasingly believe that he will not change hands before the deadline. The club still wants to see if a post-season run remains possible; though the club sits 9.5 games back at the break, the division does still look somewhat vulnerable. If Tampa does look to move Price, arguably the best potential trade chip in baseball, it will demand more in return than the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija — who, you may recall, was the key piece in a package that brought back one of the game’s elite prospects in Addison Russell. Needless to say, Price is a rare commodity, especially given his additional season of control, and his potential absence from the market (combined with the A’s early strike for two other top starters) could have interesting repercussions.
  • One player whose trade attention would potentially rise if Price stays put is Cole Hamels of the Phillies, who of course has plenty of value regardless. Bowden says that GMs around the league get the sense that Philadelphia will be very hesitant to move their star lefty, however. (Fellow top southpaw Cliff Lee, meanwhile, looks more and more a potential August trade piece.)
  • Ultimately, while the Phillies will not conduct a true fire sale, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has indicated through conversations with his peers that the club is prepared to sell. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is the most likely to go, says Bowden, though his contract presents some complications. While the Mariners are interested in him, Bowden says that the recent free agent signee will ask that the club guarantee his $8MM option for 2016, which Seattle is not currently willing to do. The Royals could also make sense as a partner, but also appear on Byrd’s four-team no-trade list and do not want to take on that level of mid-term commitment. It would appear that Byrd’s representatives at ACES advised their client well in selecting the relatively paltry number of teams to which he could refuse a trade.
  • Angels owner Arte Moreno has enabled GM Jerry Dipoto to be aggressive in trade talks, says Bowden. In addition to Huston Street and Ian Kennedy (read more on them here), the Halos have asked the Padres about righty Tyson Ross, though the Super Two hurler is unlikely to be moved. Indeed, now in the midst of his second consecutive season of high-end production, the 27-year-old starter (and his three remaining years of control) would require a significant return.
  • The Athletics remain aggressive on the second base market, with GM Billy Beane also said to be exploring more creative means of improving his club. Oakland is not inclined to deal away shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson after moving their top prospect, says Bowden, with the club’s internal evaluators believing that he could have as much future value as the more-hyped Russell.
  • The Reds are still looking to add a hitter, with Ben Zobrist of the Rays making a perfect match on paper given his positional flexibility and the club’s current injury situation. (Of course, the same could be said of several other clubs.) With Josh Willingham of the Twins set to hit free agency, he has also been looked at by Cincinnati.
  • Bowden provides several other interesting notes. Among them: the Braves have canvassed the market for a southpaw reliever and could be interested in James Russell of the Cubs and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers will likely add a starter. The Cardinals are planning to scout Twins‘ catcher Kurt Suzuki as they assess things behind the plate. And the Giants remain interested in a second base addition in the event that Marco Scutaro cannot stay healthy and productive.


AL West Notes: Preller, Gallo, Johnson, A’s

The AL West has three teams on pace for postseason play and is home to the two best records in baseball.  The 59-36 A’s hold a slim lead over the 57-37 Angels, while the Mariners’ 51-44 record gives them a 2.5 edge over the Royals and Blue Jays for the second AL wild card slot.  On the flip side, Houston (40-56) and Texas (38-57) hold the American League’s two worst records, with the Rangers’ eight-game losing streak dropping them to worst record in the game.

Here’s the latest from around the AL West…

  • Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller will receive a second interview for the Padres‘ general manager job, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports.  Of the dozen or so candidates known to have interviewed for the job, Preller is thought to be the first to receive a second meeting with San Diego’s upper management team.
  • Also from Fraley, he notes that the Rangers are projected to draw around 400,000 fewer fans than last season, and he speculates this drop in attendance could impact the club’s 2015 payroll.
  • Joey Gallo‘s power was the talk of yesterday’s Futures Game, and WEEI.com’s Alex Speier is already wondering how the Rangers prospect could have fallen to the 39th pick of the 2012 draft.  The Red Sox, in particular, had two bonus compensation picks plus their own first-rounder with Gallo still on the board and yet passed on him all three times (drafting Deven Marrero, Brian Johnson and Pat Light instead).
  • When Drew Pomeranz is ready to return to the Athletics‘ 25-man roster, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle hints that the A’s could make room by parting ways with Jim Johnson.  The A’s nearly dealt Johnson to the Marlins last month and there have been reports that Oakland would be willing to eat most of Johnson’s remaining salary (approximately $4.2MM) in a trade.  Johnson has been a major disappointment in his first season as an Athletic, posting a 6.18 ERA and losing his closer’s job to Sean Doolittle.
  • The Athletics‘ seven All-Stars took some very different paths to get to Oakland, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes, which is a tribute to how creatively the team has built its first-place roster.

Yankees Acquire Jeff Francis

1:50pm: The A’s have now released a correction that lines up with the Yankees’ announcement (hat tip: MLB.com’s Jane Lee). Francis and cash considerations are indeed heading to the Yankees for a player to be named later.

1:17pm: The Yankees, however, have announced that they will be receiving Francis and cash considerations in exchange for a player to be named later. The discrepancy is puzzling, but it appears Oakland could be receiving what would likely be a marginal player to be named later in the deal.

1:03pm: The A’s have announced the trade of Francis to the Yankees in exchange for cash considerations.

12:39pm: The Yankees have acquired veteran lefty Jeff Francis from the A’s, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Francis was designated for assignment last week.

Francis, 33, has pitched 18 1/3 innings this season for the A’s and Reds, allowing 12 runs (5.89 ERA) with a 14-to-3 K/BB ratio. Formerly the ninth overall pick in the draft (2002), it’s been awhile since Francis enjoyed success as a member of a big league rotation. He posted a 4.19 ERA in 414 1/3 for the 2006-07 Rockies — no small feat in Coors Field, as evidenced by his park-adjusted 116 ERA+ — but it’s been a struggle since that time for the Canadian hurler. Francis owns a 5.22 ERA in 632 2/3 innings since that time.

The Yankees are undoubtedly on the lookout for pitching depth with yesterday’s news that Masahiro Tanaka has a slight tear in his right elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament. Francis has pitched well over the past three seasons in Triple-A, registering a 3.75 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 163 1/3 innings between the Reds and Rockies organizations.


Billy Beane On Samardzija Deal, Roster Construction, Further Trades

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.”

A’s Acquire Rodolfo Fernandez From Brewers For International Bonus Slot

The Athletics announced that they have acquired minor league right-hander Rodolfo Fernandez from the Brewers for the No. 57 international bonus slot, which carries a value of $339K.

The Brewers have been rumored to be on the hunt for some additional bonus money, as they’ve agreed to terms with Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara on a $3.2MM bonus but have an international bonus pool of just over $2.6MM. This new move boosts their overall bonus pool $2,950,800, which is still $249,200 short of Lara’s reported bonus. That means that their agreement with Lara would still result in an overage of 8.4 percent, which would be enough to prevent them from signing a player in next year’s signing period for any more than $500K.

While MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has since listed Lara’s signing bonus, even that $149,200 overage would still result in a 5.05 percent overage. The Brew Crew needs to keep the overage under five percent in order to avoid restrictions on their spending next season, so it seems likely that the team will pursue further bonus slots in order to come in under that number. Further trades will have to be completed before Lara’s signing is officially announced, as teams cannot acquire additional bonus money once they have already exceeded their signing pool.

Fernandez, a 24-year-old Cuban right-hander, has a 2.87 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings at Low Class A this season. He didn’t rank among Milwaukee’s Top 30 prospects, per Baseball America or the team’s Top 20 prospects, per MLB.com. The trade serves as another example of teams moving international bonus money for relatively marginal returns.


Athletics Designate Brad Mills For Assignment

The Athletics have designated left-hander Brad Mills for assignment, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

Oakland acquired Mills from the Brewers earlier this summer, and the southpaw made three starts for the defending AL West champs, pitching to a 4.41 ERA with a 14-to-7 K/BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings. He was excellent in 75 innings for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate this season, pitching to a 1.56 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Even with those strong numbers, he has a 4.19 ERA in 635 2/3 career Triple-A innings to go along with a 6.98 ERA in 69 2/3 big league frames.

Mills’ spot in the rotation was lost with this weekend’s blockbuster acquisition of both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, and his DFA will clear a 40-man roster spot for Hammel to be activated, MLB.com’s Jane Lee tweets.


A’s Claim Kenny Wilson, Outright Nick Buss

The A’s announced that they have claimed center fielder Kenny Wilson off waivers from the Blue Jays and optioned him to Triple-A Sacramento (Twitter link). The team also announced that the recently designated Nick Buss has been outrighted Sacramento.

Wilson is used to seeing his name in headlines at this point, as this is the third time he has been claimed off waivers this season. The 24-year-old began the season as the No. 22 ranked prospect in the Blue Jays organization (per Baseball America) but found himself designated for assignment and claimed by the Twins. Minnesota then designated Wilson in late May, and he returned to the Jays on a waiver claim. Now, the standout defender will join his third organization of the year.

Wilson’s glove has drawn high praise in multiple scouting reports, but he’s never hit much despite some promising tools. He’s batted just .234/.312/.333 between Double-A and Triple-A this season and is a career .230/.326/.315 hitter in his minor league career.

Buss, a 27-year-old outfielder, was claimed off waivers by the A’s after the Dodgers designated him for assignment earlier this year. He’s performed well in his time with Sacramento and will return to the River Cats after being removed from the 40-man roster. In 250 PA with Oakland’s top minor league affiliate, Buss has batted .274/.331/.354 with three homers and seven steals.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Dodgers, Price, Hammel, Padres, Twins

In his latest video, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has an interesting theory as to why the Dodgers may be keen to acquire Rays starter David Price. Over 70% of the Dodgers market is currently blacked out due to a dispute between Time Warner and Direct TV. Adding another superstar pitcher to a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke could put even more pressure on the two telecom giants to work out a deal.

  • Speaking of Price, A’s GM Billy Beane confirmed interest in the southpaw, but he preferred to add two pitchers in one fell swoop. He was also concerned about Price’s potential $20MM price tag next season, which would be hard to absorb into the club’s payroll or move via trade.
  • For their part, the Cubs were eager to deal Jason Hammel before the market became saturated with similar pitchers.
  • The Padres have interviewed four candidates for their open GM position and plan to interview another seven to eight prior to the end of the All-Star break. Then they will invite two or three candidates back. A new GM may be named by the end of the month, although they may not start until after the non-waiver trade deadline.
  • The Twins will hang onto their trade chips until after the All-Star game, which will be hosted at Target Field. As we heard earlier tonight, Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia, and Kurt Suzuki are the most likely to find new homes.