The Athletics are acquiring JJ Bleday from the Marlins in a trade, according to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Left-hander A.J. Puk is going the other way, per Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. The teams have now announced the deal.
Puk, 28 in April, had a quality year in 2022, working to a 3.12 ERA over 66 1/3 innings in Oakland’s bullpen. That came with above-average strikeout (27.1%) and walk (8.2%) rates. He was miserly against left-handed hitters, limiting them to just a .153/.250/.259 line.
That was the first full-season of work for Puk, who’d battled injuries and thrown just 24 2/3 innings at the top level since making his debut in 2019. He’d had mixed success in that time, working to a 4.74 ERA over those innings.
Puk was drafted and developed as a starter, but switched to the bullpen at Triple-A and hasn’t made a start at the big league level. With that being said, A’s GM David Forst said in December that Puk would prepare for the season as a starter and compete for a rotation spot in spring training. Given the Marlins plethora of starting options, it seems unlikely he’ll wind up anywhere other than the bullpen for his new team though.
Puk leans almost exclusively on a 97mph fastball and an 87mph slider, though he has thrown a changeup on occasion in the past. He’ll slot in as a third left-handed option in Miami’s bullpen alongside Tanner Scott and Steven Okert. Puk would’ve been close to being a Super Two player, but is under control at a pre-arbitration rate for 2023, before beginning his three seasons of arbitration in 2024.
In return, Oakland picks up Bleday, 25, a fourth overall pick by the Marlins in the 2019 draft. He had a strong year at Triple-A last year, and was rewarded with his first call up to the big leagues. Despite hitting .228/.365/.470 with 20 home runs at the top level of the minors, Bleday couldn’t continue that in the majors, hitting just .167/.277/.309 with five home runs over 238 plate appearances.
Bleday saw the majority of his time in center field last year, earning -3 Outs Above Average in 330 innings at the position. He’s generally been seen as a corner outfielder long term though, and defensive metrics liked him better in those positions.
Ramon Laureano is the only nailed-on starter in Oakland’s outfielder, and Bleday will compete with Cristian Pache and Esteury Ruiz for the other two spots. Bleday is under control for at least six more seasons, although he has all of his minor league options remaining, so the A’s could end up opting to give him a bit more time at Triple-A, which would of course delay his service time clock depending on how long he spends in the minors.