Oakland Athletics Rumors

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

Billy Beane On Acquiring Samardzija, Hammel

Earlier today, Cubs President Theo Epstein held a conference call to discuss last night’s blockbuster trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Dan Straily, and a player to be named later or cash. Afterwards, A’s GM Billy Beane held court with the Bay Area media. Here are the highlights courtesy of John Shea and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (all links go to Twitter):

  • Beane indicated the A’s are not done dealing. “We’re not just going to stop and shut everything down. We’ve got 3-plus weeks until the trade deadline.
  • Beane explained why he was willing to part with the A’s top two prospects. “We have a team that can win right now. Just collecting young players is not something in our market place we can do.” Beane added, “We have to take the opportunity and grasp it.
  • Beane wanted to do the deal early and was not “interested in taking this pursuit down to the deadline.
  • Beane said he has been engaged in trade talks involving starting pitching for over a month.
  • Beane acknowledged the extra year of team control over Samardzija was crucial. “We placed a lot of value on him being here next year. There’s no doubt about that.” 
  • As per his policy, Beane refused to comment on trades not made when asked about David Price.
  • I think the narrative that this is a move for the postseason is a bit arrogant. We need to make sure we get there first,” said Beane (as tweeted by Jane Lee of MLB.com) in response to Justin Verlander‘s reaction to the trade (“When I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us. No doubt about it in my mind.” – per MLB.com’s Jason Beck on Twitter).

A’s Designate Nick Buss For Assignment

The A’s have announced (on Twitter) they have designated outfielder Nick Buss for assignment. The move clears roster space in the wake of the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade.

The A’s claimed Buss off waivers from the Dodgers in May. The 27-year-old has a combined Triple-A slash of .270/.330/.391 in 354 plate appearances between the A’s and Dodgers affiliates.

Athletics Acquire Jeff Samardzija And Jason Hammel

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).

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago Cubs

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. 

Cubs, Athletics In Serious Talks On Hammel And/Or Samardzija

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.

AL West Notes: Dipoto, A’s, Mariners

Here’s the latest from around the AL West…

  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto is pleased with his starting pitching and doesn’t intend to pursue rotation upgrades, though the bullpen is still “not a finished product,” he tells MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez and Matthew DeFranks.  Sources in the industry tell Gonzalez/DeFranks that the Halos are looking for a situational lefty and another possible closer candidate to bolster current stopper Joe Smith and the newly-acquired Jason Grilli.
  • The Athletics are talking to teams about acquiring a starting pitcher or second baseman, ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweets, and they’re willing to discuss trading any top prospect besides Addison Russell.  Many of Oakland’s other notable farm products are in the low minors, however, and Russell is the only Oakland minor leaguer ranked in preseason top 100 prospects from Baseball America, MLB.com or ESPN’s Keith Law.
  • Several unheralded players are helping the Mariners win, John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune writes, from seemingly stalled prospects like James Jones and Roenis Elias to veteran reclamation projects like Chris Young and Joe Beimel.
  • The Mariners seem intent on making an upgrade or two before the deadline, and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune discusses a few options as part of a reader mailbag.

Athletics Agree To 10-Year Lease With Coliseum Authority

8:40pm: The A’s and the Coliseum Authority have now officially agreed to a 10-year lease, writes MLB.com’s Jane Lee. The new lease calls for the city to provide $10MM worth of upgrades, which will be completed this offseason. Additionally, the A’s will be able to leave the Coliseum at any time, so long as they provide two years of notice and make their usual lease payments during that two-year period. The A’s do not have to continue making those payments if they relocate to a new stadium in Oakland, however.

Athletics owner Lew Wolff offered the following statement:

“After much diligence and cooperation from both parties, we are delighted to make this announcement today. We believe this agreement works well for city and county taxpayers, the team, A’s fans and all involved. It provides stability for the A’s, while also improving fan and player experience with significant upgrades and improvements at the facility.”

1:05pm: A power play from MLB commissioner Bud Selig has reignited lease talks between the A’s and the city of Oakland, as Carolyn Jones of the San Francisco Chronicle details.  Athletics co-owner Lew Wolff informed city officials late last night that he received permission from Selig to immediately move the team to a “temporary or permanent location” if a new lease agreement was not approved.

That email from Wolff – which is reprinted in full in Jones’ article - prompted city and county officials to come back to the table this morning to hammer out a deal.  Oakland city councilman Noel Gallo, who was initially opposed to the proposed ten-year lease proposal, said city, county and baseball leaders were on the phone hammering out a deal overnight.

I think this agreement will be fair,” he said. “It might not be perfect, but I think it’ll be good for Oakland and the region in the long run.”

The Athletics have fought hard for a new stadium for years now and there has been talk of possible moves to San Jose and Fresno at different times.  The ten-year lease agreement, which Jones outlined in an earlier article, called for the the rent to decline over the course of the contract from $1.75MM at the outset to $1.25MM at the end.  While it seemed to be a done deal, some Oakland officials opposed the agreement and it was not completed as expected.  Now, it seems that things are back on track to keep the A’s in Oakland.

Athletics Designate Jeff Francis For Assignment

The A’s announced (on Twitter) that they have designated left-hander Jeff Francis for assignment and activated fellow lefty Eric O’Flaherty from the disabled list.

The 33-year-old Francis appeared in nine games for the A’s (all relief appearances) and yielded nine runs in 13 1/3 total innings with a 10-to-3 K/BB ratio. The longtime Rockies hurler began the year with the Reds but was claimed off waivers by Oakland back in May. Once a mainstay in Colorado’s rotation, Francis has seen his stock drop since his peak years in 2006-07. The former No. 9 overall pick in the draft has a career 4.95 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 44.6 percent ground-ball rate in 1267 1/3 innings.

O’Flaherty will be making his first appearance on Oakland’s active roster after signing a two-year, $7MM contract with the A’s this offseason. The former Brave underwent Tommy John surgery last year and has been on the shelf all season as he recovers. When healthy, O’Flaherty was one of the National League’s best setup men, posting a 1.99 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 249 1/3 innings from 2009-13. He’s lethal against opposing lefties and has typically been solid against right-handed hitters as well, so he will make a nice addition to Oakland’s relief corps.

Draft Signings: Graves, Laxer, Schuh

Here are today’s notable amateur draft signings, with all slot information provided by Baseball America

  • The Athletics have signed third-rounder Brett Graves, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports (via Twitter).  Graves signed for a $510K bonus, giving the A’s a slight discount on the $519.2K slot price attached to the 101st overall selection.  Graves is a 6’1″, 173-pound right-hander from the University of Missouri.  He was ranked as the 59th-best draft prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, 61st by Baseball America and 80th by MLB.com.  The BA scouting report noted that Graves “appeared to be losing steam as the college season wound down,” which could explain why he was still available after the first 100 picks.
  • The Tigers have signed ninth-round pick Josh Laxer, according to the MLB.com transactions page.  Laxer signed for the $143.9K bonus price assigned to the 280th overall pick, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports (Twitter link).  Laxer, a right-handed reliever from Ole Miss, has a fastball that can touch 96mph at best, though Baseball America’s scouting report noted that he’ll have to work heavily on his command.
  • The Orioles announced the signing of left-hander Max Schuh, their seventh-round draft choice.  No terms were announced, though the slot value for the 211th overall pick is $179.9K.  Schuh is a 6’4″, 210-pound southpaw out of UCLA.  Baseball America’s scouting report projects Schuh as a reliever since he only has a two-pitch repertoire, though both his pitches (a fastball and slurve) were considered to be very good, and Schuh could add velocity to his 86-91mph heater.

Draft Signings: Kevin Steen, Branden Cogswell, Auston Bousfield

Here’s a roundup of today’s draft signings:

  • The Red Sox have reportedly signed ninth-rounder Kevin Steen tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com. According to Speier, the high-school pitcher is just one of two Boston draftees from the top ten rounds to receive an above slot bonus. The exact amount of the deal is unknown, and slot value for the pick is $152,700. He features a low 90′s fastball.
  • The Athletics have signed seventh-rounder Branden Cogswell for $200K, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. The pick had a bonus pool allotment of $164,200. MLB.com notes that that the junior UVA infielder makes up for his limited power and “modest tools” with good “feel for the game.” He may end up at second base as a professional.
  • The Padres have signed fifth-rounder (No. 147 overall) Auston Bousfield for $200K, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. The pick had a bonus pool allotment of $333,100. Bousfield, a junior outfielder from Ole Miss, ranked No. 329 in Baseball America’s list of the top 500 draft prospects. BA praises his ability to hit for average and notes that he should be able to play center field at the professional level, but suggests he won’t hit for much more than gap power.

Brad Johnson contributed to this post.

Vote On A’s New Coliseum Lease Canceled

FRIDAY: Approval of the lease did not go through as expected today, reports Carolyn Jones of the San Francisco Chronicle, because four representatives of the city of Oakland boycotted the meeting. Without their presence, a quorum could not be reached, and therefore the vote could not pass.

Jones spoke to sources close to the negotiations and was told that the Oakland City Council met behind closed doors on Wednesday and barred two members — both of whom are also members of the Coliseum Authority — from attending Friday’s meeting. Other members of the Coliseum Authority were “livid,” according to Jones, including Authority chair and Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley: “I’m shocked and upset and very disturbed. We feel like we’re being hampered from doing our business because the city has taken this position. At this stage, it’s just shocking.”

Jones also notes that Oakland mayor Jean Quan stated on Wednesday, following the initial news that an agreement had been reached, that no such deal was actually in place, as the city had yet to have a chance to review the team’s latest proposal.

Miley added that if the city has a problem with the proposal, it should address that problem when the new lease comes before the city council — not when it comes before the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority (JPA). As was reported on Wednesday, the lease required approval from the JPA, the city of Oakland, and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

WEDNESDAY: The A’s have agreed to a new 10-year lease with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority to remain at O.Co Coliseum, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The new lease would run through 2025 and still needs to be approved by the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, which will vote on the extension this Friday, the AP reports. The lease is also subject to the approval of the city of Oakland and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The Athletics are still hopeful of securing a new stadium, but owner Lew Wolff told the AP via email that both MLB and the A’s rejected a proposed site near Jack London Square. Commissioner Bud Selig denied to the AP that the committee formed to deal with the Athletics’ stadium issues suggested that site as the best location for a new facility. He added that he “continue[s] to believe that the Athletics need a new facility” and that he is supportive of the team’s belief that the best site for them in the city of Oakland is the Coliseum site.

The A’s are the only team that still shares a facility with an NFL team, though the Raiders are in the final year of their lease and are hoping for a new facility of their own following the upcoming NFL season, per the AP report. The Athletics’ new lease is expected to contain out clauses, presumably included in the event that a new location can be agreed upon.

Previously, the A’s had rejected a 10-year lease extension from the Coliseum Authority, stating that the proposal did not address all of their needs. The stadium issue has been an ongoing one for the A’s for years, with a move to San Jose suggested on multiple occasions. The city of San Jose even filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball just over a year ago, claiming that the city was being illegally blocked from importing the A’s.