By Jason Wojciechowski on July 31, 2014 at 9:26 AM

I'd link, but you can find this news anywhere. First trade:

  1. Yoenis Cespedes and the 2015 competitive balance pick for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes

The A's wound up with the second competitive balance pick in "Round B," which means it's something like the 70th overall pick. Andrelton Simmons was taken 70th overall in 2010. Mitch Talbot in 2002. John Vander Wal in 1987. It's a fine pick, but it shouldn't cause anyone to lose sleep.

Cespedes, after a sterling 2012 at the plate paired with some struggles in center field, has settled into a .275 to .280 True Average hitter with probably a little bit above average range in left field and a cannon arm that's a genuine asset. All told, he's an above-average player, a 3-WAR type with the physical potential to be more but the realization that, at 28 and with 1,546 regular-season plate appearances under his belt, this is probably what he is. What he is is nothing to sneeze at, but for $10.5 million in 2015, that means the A's would have been paying under the market price but not way under the market price.

Jonny Gomes has struggled this year, but over the course of his career, he's essentially the same hitter as Cespedes, right down to the source of his value: more power than OBP. He's not much of a defender, though he's not as bad as he looks, and his arm, while obviously not in the Cespedes class, is nothing to sneeze at. He's a free agent after this year, so it doesn't matter how much money he's making.

And Jon Lester is having an incredible year at exactly the right time, as he heads into free agency. If the season ended today, he'd set new personal bests in ERA, FIP, and walks per nine, and his strikeouts are back to their peak 2009-10 level. His true talent is probably something closer to a 3.5 ERA than a 2.5, but if you remember the table I made after the Samardzija trade, you'll notice that that makes him either the A's ace or their co-ace with Sonny Gray or their co-co-ace with Gray and Samardzija, depending on what numbers you prefer to believe. He's an upgrade on Jason Hammel (though you'd have to believe that Hammel is as bad as he's looked in his few starts in Oakland to think it's a big upgrade), and if Jesse Chavez breaks down under his workload or Scott Kazmir breaks down under his Kazmirity, Lester is an upgrade on Tom Milone.

This deal is this deal. We could do deep dives and come out with opinions ranging from A+ to F-, probably, but at a glance it seems fair and reasonable and probably even the right thing for the A's to do as a matter of balancing their present and their future.

  1. Tom Milone for Sam Fuld

This deal, though, mystifies me. I don't get it. Fuld is probably better than Billy Burns, sure. And the A's know more about the injury situation of Coco Crisp than we do. But if you want a center fielder to cover the spot (and platoon with Craig Gentry) and you want someone like Sam Fuld, ideally you can get Sam Fuld for a lot less than Tom Milone, a no. 4 starter under team and cost control for years to come.

And if you want to trade Tom Milone because he's unhappy with being demoted despite being an above-average pitcher this year, that's fine, but you'd think you could get more for him than a two-month rental of a mediocre outfielder, right?

I don't know, maybe not. Maybe I'm overreacting to a minor deal that nobody's going to regret in any particular fashion. The A's rotation for 2015 is essentially set already (Gray, Kazmir, Samardzija, Chavez, Pomeranz, with Griffin and Parker returning at some point midyear), so Milone is just insurance and depth. Obviously, since he was in Triple-A already.

So now what do the A's lineups look like? I'm going to assume that Coco Crisp is hitting the disabled list.

v. LHP
C: Norris
1B: Moss?
2B: Punto
SS: Lowrie
3B: Donaldson
LF: Gomes
CF: Burns?
RF: Reddick
DH: Callaspo?

v. RHP
C: Norris
1B: Moss / Vogt
2B: Sogard
SS: Lowrie
3B: Donaldson
LF: Vogt / Moss
CF: Fuld
RF: Reddick
DH: Jaso

I don't know. I don't even know anymore. I'm broken. Billy Beane broke my head.


By Jason Wojciechowski on July 27, 2014 at 10:05 AM

I done missed some transactions!

7/21: Demote Andy Parrino
7/22: Activate Josh Reddick from the disabled list
This isn't going to do much for the A's infield defense, replacing Parrino with Reddick, but I guess that's not the point? It will be interesting to see how Bob Melvin juggles the outfield/first base/designated hitter time for the rest of the year:

  • Coco Crisp: sterling outfielder, remarkable late-career revival as a hitter, shouldn't sit against anyone but play until he needs a day of rest
  • Yoenis Cespedes: not actually hitting that well for the second year in a row, but still a power source and still a good defender in left, and whether or not he should, he will play every day
  • John Jaso: nominal catcher, born DH, bat should have him in the lineup against all righties
  • Stephen Vogt: nominal catcher/outfielder/first baseman, born DH, has a 156 OPS+ this year, so you really can't sit him against righties
  • Brandon Moss: nominal outfielder/first baseman, born DH, can't sit against righties, maybe shouldn't even sit against lefties at this point unless you've got a really good alternative
  • Nate Freiman: first baseman, theoretically the "really good alternative" to Moss against lefties, but is probably more just sort of decent/adequate, particularly since if you start against a lefty you're still pretty likely to wind up facing a righty or two out of the bullpen before the day is done
  • Josh Reddick: nominal batter, born defensive replacement, has hit .229/.304/.381 over the last two years (655 plate appearances); PECOTA's current estimation of his abilities is a .239/.300/.417 line
  • Derek Norris: the best defensive catcher of the bunch, crushes lefties, gets on base against righties, should be an "everyday" player (in the sense that catchers are)
  • Craig Gentry: defense! Defense! Defense! Don't let him hit! Especially against righties!

So that's seven players for four spots and you've got to figure out lefty (Jaso, Vogt, Moss, Reddick) righty (Freiman, Norris, Gentry) issues, what positions everyone can play, who's had a day off recently, who's frustrated with their playing time, and even other match-up issues with that day's pitcher.

How has this played out in the five games since Reddick's activation?

  • First base: Freiman got the start against the only lefty; Moss and Vogt split two apiece the righties
  • Catcher: Norris started against the lefty; Norris and Jaso split the righties. Vogt hasn't started at catcher since July 3rd
  • Right field: Moss against the lefty; Reddick against the righties
  • Designated hitter: Crisp against the lefty with Gentry getting a day in center; Vogt and Jaso split the righties

What all this adds up to is: when Norris catches against righties, Vogt plays first, Jaso DHes, Moss plays left, and Cespedes either sits or plays center, with Crisp doing the other. When Norris sits against righties, Jaso catches, Vogt DHes, Moss plays first, Cespedes is in left, and Crisp in center.

Against lefties, it's hard to say for certain given that it's just been one game, but Norris at catcher, Freiman at first, Moss DHing, Gentry in right, and Crisp in center makes all the sense in the world. (On the 22nd, as you'll note, Crisp actually DHed and Moss played right, but that's a sort of half-game-off situation for Crisp, obviously not reflective of the best defensive alignment of the Moss-Gentry-Crisp group.)

There's not a lot to argue with. My one quibble is that I'd rather have Vogt catching and Jaso DHing, in part because I think Vogt is the better defensive catcher (it being hard to be worse than Jaso) and in part because Vogt is the more flexible of the two -- in a "situation" Vogt can come out from behind the plate and play first or outfield, with Norris coming in to catch. Jaso can't really do that, especially as to the outfield. Putting your more flexible player at DH robs you of ... well, flexibility.

In the two games that Norris started at catcher against a righty, as I noted, Cespedes and Crisp got one day off each. I suspect that going forward, that day off will be distributed in Reddick's direction as well, unless he comes back very strong with the bat in the next week or so and makes Bob Melvin think he can't sit him. Even with his defense, it probably doesn't make sense to prioritize him over Crisp and Cespedes.

7/21: Sign outfielder Zeke DeVoss
I'm for this move because the dude's name is Zeke. He's a former third-round pick out of the University of Miami (after graduating from "Astronaut High School," which is amazing) who can apparently play center field. He has zero power and walks a lot, but doesn't seem to have the Billy Burns ability with basestealing. He's already 23 and he's headed to Stockton, where center field had largely been manned this year by Billy McKinney. Zach Mortimer at Baseball Prospectus once noted that he has "easy speed and athleticism" -- it looks like he's still figuring out the baseball skills side of things, but hey, what does taking a chance on him as a free agent cost?

7/21: Sign pitcher Tim Alderson
Alderson is a former top prospect -- he was rated in the top 50 by Baseball America before 2009, and he was traded to Pittsburgh that year for Freddy Sanchez, but he's very much stalled out, having put up 5.02 and 4.34 ERAs in Triple-A and Double-A, with the good portion of that Double-A performance coming before 2010. He wound up in Baltimore in the Russ Canzler trade, where he pitched as a reliever. He's pitched two games in Stockton, one as a starter, so, even at 25, one wonders whether the A's think he has some potential left in that role or whether he's just around to soak up innings. Probably the latter, sadly. He remains in the minor leagues of my dynasty league team from when I drafted him back in 2008 or 2009.

7/21: Sign catcher Josh Ludy
Ludy was an eighth-round pick in 2012 who appears to have been released by the Phillies after 2013. He'd been crushing the ball for River City in the independent Frontier League this year, leading the entire league in OPS by 121 points. That's worth taking a shot on as a catcher, yeah? Ludy is in Beloit, where he's 2 1/2 years older than the league average.

7/24: Designated Jim Johnson for assignment
7/24: Recall Evan Scribner
The long, sad nightmare is over. There's not much to say. Johnson couldn't get it together, and now the only debate is whether the $10 million the A's paid him could have filled second base instead. I'm of the opinion that it could not have and that the Weeks-Johnson trade, while bad for Billy Beane in the sense that he acquired a player who played terribly, is the least bad of his bad deals because the long-term repercussions are going to be nil. Unless you're Jemile Weeks' last believer, but that's not me.

7/25: Acquired pitcher Deck McGuire for cash
McGuire had been designated for assignment by Toronto and the A's had a spare 40-man spot due to Johnson's designation, so why not? McGuire was the 11th overall pick in 2010, though he was always a safe pick, not an upside play, someone who hoped to be a mid-rotation starter if things broke right. Well, they haven't. Broken right, that is. He pitched poorly in 2012 at Double-A, repeated the level in 2013 and pitched better, improving all his components but not looking like a standout, got sent back to Double-A one more time in 2014, didn't miss bats, walked too many guys, gave up homers, got promoted to Triple-A anyway, and proceeded to get mauled to the tune of a 5.56 ERA and 12 homers in 55 innings. He's 25, so he's got time, but seeing as how McGuire's not a "hasn't figured out his third pitch" pitcher but instead a "has no stuff" pitcher (if we're being mean and seeing the clouds rather than the silver linings), the odds he makes any kind of impact seem low. He's probably not even Brad Mills, and a move to the bullpen may not help him as much as it would other types of pitchers. It's just money and a roster spot for the A's, though, so who knows what can happen -- maybe the A's coaching staff saw something they think they can work with that Toronto missed.