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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
For weeks now, the baseball world has been waiting for the Cubs to line up trades for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Last night, Theo Epstein & Co. killed two birds with one stone and packaged both together in a deal with the A’s. In return for two of the most talked about pitchers on the trade block, the Cubs received top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily. Here’s a look at some of the reactions to the blockbuster deal.
- MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes (on Twitter) says the Cubs are taking an interesting approach by stockpiling top position player prospects and putting off acquiring pitching. Dierkes can see Straily providing Travis Wood-like value for the Cubs since teams pay big money for innings from a No. 4 type (link). Meanwhile, the deal makes the rest of the trade season kind of anticlimactic for Cub fans after their two best trade chips were moved on the Fourth of July (link).
- Before pulling the trigger on the deal with the Cubs, the A’s discussed a swap involving Russell with the Rays for David Price, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. However, nothing ever materialized on that front.
- The Yankees exchanged proposals with the Cubs on both Samardzija and Hammel, but could not compete with Russell’s inclusion, tweets FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
- In a separate tweet, Rosenthal reports the A’s don’t intend to flip Hammel because they will need him to win the AL West.
- ESPN’s Keith Law writes in an Insider piece (subscription required) the A’s and Cubs both significantly impacted their franchise, albeit with different timelines in mind.
- The early word is the Cubs are not looking to make any moves from their shortstop stockpile as the Mets have nothing brewing with Chicago and the Yankees have checked but to no avail, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links).
- Moneyball isn’t about on-base percentage or any one statistic, it’s about exploiting what is over- or under-valued and prospects are over-valued at present, writes Sherman. However, he notes (link) Javier Baez and Russell are big guys who might not stay at shortstop, so Starlin Castro may still be the Cubs’ long-term guy.
- The A’s may have made themselves the favorites for 2014, but the Cubs ultimately may have won the deal, writes CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. “He’s Barry Larkin with power,” one rival baseball executive said of Russell.
- The loss of Russell, in particular, could end up haunting the A’s, whose current shortstop Jed Lowrie is a free agent after this season, but GM Billy Beane has never been afraid to take an unconventional route, writes Rosenthal.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle echoes Rosenthal and adds the trade may point towards an extension for Lowrie and this wouldn’t be a bad time to do it.
- The trade demonstrates Beane’s burning desire to win now and now could be his only window for winning a World Series, according to MLB.com’s Jane Lee.
- Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com calls this trade fascinating because of the guts it took to swing such a deal between two men (Epstein and Beane) who defy convention for the way the game of baseball changes.
- The Cubs signed Hammel to a one-year, $6MM deal in late January and in July he has netted them one of the five best prospects in baseball, notes Passan (via Twitter).
- Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (via Twitter) is usually against trading great young talent, but likes the trade for the A’s since present wins have so much value to them right now. Of course, he likes the swap from the Cubs‘ perspective, too.
- Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes the trade is a win-win for both the A’s and Cubs, but the real winner could be the Rays, who just saw two of the top available starting pitchers dealt while only one contender benefited increasing the demand for Price.
- Addison Russell (Twitter link) is excited to be joining forces with Kris Bryant.
- Billy McKinney called the A’s an “amazing and classy organization” and is “excited to start and (sic) new chapter in the Cubs organization” (Twitter links).
- Dan Straily also tweeted his appreciation of the A’s organization, but is looking forward to beginning the next chapter of his career with the Cubs (Twitter links).
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
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).
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.
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.