- Athletics outfielder Matt Joyce, who hasn’t played since July 4 because of a back strain, will rejoin the team when rosters expand in September, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Joyce will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday, though Slusser suggests that playing time could be limited for the 34-year-old when he does return to Oakland. After offering solid production over the previous couple years, Joyce has batted just .203/.311/.359 (87 wRC+) in 226 PAs this season, and the A’s have been on a tear without him.
4:24pm: Detroit hasn’t decided yet whether it’ll take the other PTBNL or cash to complete the trade, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets.
3:48pm: The Tigers have acquired right-hander Nolan Blackwood from the Athletics, per an announcement from Detroit. Blackwood’s one of the two players to be named later in the teams’ Mike Fiers trade from earlier this month.
The 23-year-old Blackwood had been with the A’s since they used a 14th-round pick on him in 2016. He ended up ascending to the Double-A level this year with Oakland, pitching to a 4.08 ERA/3.51 FIP with 8.15 K/9, 2.72 BB/9 and an excellent 62.5 percent groundball rate in 53 innings (39 appearances). Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranked Blackwood as the A’s 30th-best prospect prior to his departure from the organization, noting that the 6-foot-5 sidearmer has quality stuff, including a 91 to 93 mph fastball with “heavy sink,” and “tremendous deception.”
Fiers, meanwhile, has been terrific for the A’s thus far, having thrown 11 1/3 innings of three-run ball with 13 strikeouts against zero walks in two starts since the surging AL West title contenders added him on Aug. 6. But with the Tigers in a rebuild and well out of contention, it didn’t make sense for them to keep the 33-year-old Fiers through the season. Now, at Fiers’ expense, Detroit has picked up at least one promising prospect in Blackwood. He’ll join a Tigers farm system that Baseball America ranks as the majors’ 14th-best group (subscription required).
The emergence of Brandon Nimmo has left Jay Bruce as something of an odd man out with the Mets, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman notes that the Mets’ outfield in 2019 and beyond is likely to include Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, making it more difficult for Bruce to secure regular at-bats (barring a move to first base, which would come at the expense of the younger Dominic Smith). According to Sherman, Bruce can block trades to the Orioles, Mariners, Blue Jays, Rays and Athletics, but he can be shipped anywhere else without his consent. Sherman runs through some speculative possibilities in which Bruce, who is owed $28MM from 2019-20, could be swapped out for a player earning at a comparable rate. Of course, it’s also worth noting that Nimmo’s bat has declined in each month of the season since a torrid start, while Cespedes and (to a lesser extent) Conforto come with injury question marks.
- Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently wrote that any of Derek Dietrich, Dan Straily or Starlin Castro could yet be trade candidates for the Marlins in the month of August. Castro didn’t draw any serious interest prior to the non-waiver deadline, Jackson notes, but the Cubs and Indians checked in on Dietrich while the Athletics chatted with the Marlins about a potential re-acquisition of Straily (though those talks came prior to Oakland’s trade for Mike Fiers). Jackson notes that the Fish would want quality prospects in return for Straily if they moved him, as he’s controlled beyond the 2018 season. That seems like a tough sell, given Straily’s diminished strikeout, chase and swinging-strike rates as well as his drastic increase in walk rate.
- The Athletics announced that they’ve outrighted reliever Chris Hatcher to Triple-A Nashville after he cleared waivers. The club previously designated Hatcher for assignment on Friday to make room for just-acquired reliever Fernando Rodney. The 33-year-old Hatcher’s stay in the minors won’t be a long one, it seems, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests he’ll return to Oakland in either September or sometime later this month. Since the Athletics acquired Hatcher from the Dodgers almost exactly one year ago (on Aug. 15, 2017), the right-hander has recorded 57 innings of 3.95 ERA/4.71 FIP ball with 7.58 K/9, 4.11 BB/9 and a 42.1 percent groundball rate.
Meanwhile, the Oakland organization has outrighted southpaw Jeremy Bleich after he cleared waivers. Bleich had recently been designated himself.
Hatcher still works in the mid-nineties with his fastball, but he carries a 4.24 ERA with even worse peripherals on the year. He’s sitting at 7.4 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9, while generating a 7.5% swinging-strike that sits well below his recent levels.
- The Athletics added some needed starting pitching by acquiring Mike Fiers from the Tigers this week, though Heyman wonders why the Mariners didn’t block their divisional and wild card rivals by putting a waiver claim on Fiers themselves. The A’s were already known to have interest in Fiers prior to the trade deadline, and since Seattle was behind Oakland in the standings when Fiers was on waivers, the M’s had first dibs on claiming the right-hander. Heyman wonders if the Mariners simply weren’t interested in Fiers actually ending up on their roster, if Detroit had let the claim stand in order to get his remaining salary off their payroll. Of course, an extra arm might look pretty good to the Mariners right about now, given how the team is without a stable fifth starter now that Felix Hernandez is out of the rotation.
In a stunning move seemingly out of nowhere, the Athletics announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Fernando Rodney from the Twins in exchange for minor league righty Dakota Chalmers. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports that the A’s will assume all of Rodney’s remaining salary (around 1.3MM).
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the transaction came as the result of a waiver claim by the Athletics, meaning Rodney never cleared revocable trade waivers. The 42-year-old was certainly a logical August trade candidate, as MLBTR’s own Connor Byrne noted this past Saturday; more recently, the Twins’ closer appeared near the top of our Top 20 August Trade Candidates, checking in at number seven. He’s a reasonably affordable option for the surging yet cost-conscious A’s.
[RELATED: How August Trades Work]
Rodney has long been an effective MLB reliever, and has served mainly as a closer across the past decade. His 325 career saves rank 17th all-time among relievers, and although he’s certainly shown some fluctuation in performance over the course of his lifetime, his 3.09 ERA at present would be his best in a full season since 2014 with the Mariners. The veteran has managed to strike out more than ten batters per nine innings in five of the past six campaigns and owns a solid if unspectacular 3.70 ERA (3.73 FIP) over the course of his 16-year MLB career.
For the A’s, it’s the latest move to bolster an already-spectacular relief corps. Headed into the second half of July, the club already boasted three relievers with a Win Probability Added of 1.00 or higher (Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino and Yusmeiro Petit). Since then, they’ve added Jeurys Familia in a trade with the Mets, claimed Shawn Kelley off waivers from the Nationals, and plucked Mike Fiers from the paws of the Tigers. Rodney serves as the club’s fourth major bullpen addition over the course of the past month, fortifying an already-terrifying group.
That’s excellent work on the part of the club’s front office, as it’ll help mask the club’s uninspiring rotation. Sean Manaea’s currently the club’s only starter with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, in no small part due to the wreckage of torn UCLs suffered by rotation candidates this season. Daniel Gossett, Kendall Graveman, Jharel Cotton and top prospect A.J. Puk are all done for the season after requiring Tommy John surgery, leaving the club with a starting group of ragtag veterans that includes Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Edwin Jackson, each of whom has outperformed expectations. With an eye on October, it seems as though the Athletics are likely to use starters for short outings in the postseason and rely on a deep bullpen to handle the remainder of the workload.
Perhaps one of the more surprising elements of this deal is the fact that Rodney went unclaimed by the Indians, who had waiver priority over the Athletics and one of the worst bullpens in baseball. With three strong lefties in their pen and no viable right-handed options beyond Adam Cimber and struggling closer Cody Allen, Rodney would have provided a strong upgrade to the Cleveland bullpen. Likewise, the Mariners (who’re in close competition with them for a wild card spot) also passed on Rodney, allowing him to be claimed by a division rival rather than using him to patch their own relief corps.
The inclusion of Chalmers is a fascinating element of this deal, as the 21-year-old right hander has yet to accrue any significant professional resume following his selection by the A’s as the 97th overall pick in the 2015 draft. He didn’t rank among the club’s top 30 prospects in MLB Pipeline’s latest rankings, but Fangraphs considered him to within that group, ranking him 23rd in the A’s farm system. Chalmers had to step away from baseball late in 2017 for personal reasons, and Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen mentioned that he’s struggled with his control since returning. Though his velocity sits in the low-to-mid-90’s, there’s some skepticism that he’ll ever develop the command necessary to work multiple innings. He won’t pitch for the remainder of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this season.
The A’s have acquired right-hander Mike Fiers from the Tigers in exchange for cash considerations or two players to be named later, the team has announced (Twitter link). Left-hander Jeremy Bleich has been designated for assignment to create room for Fiers on Oakland’s roster.
Fiers drew attention from multiple clubs prior to the trade deadline, with the Athletics reportedly making a strong bid to land the 33-year-old on deadline day itself. Less than a week later, the A’s finally landed the righty to help reinforce its injury-plagued starting staff, with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that Oakland put a claim on Fiers while he was on revocable trade waivers.
After being non-tendered by the Astros last winter, Fiers signed a one-year, $6MM deal with the Tigers and did a solid job of rebuilding his stock after a rough 2017 season. Fiers posted a 3.48 ERA, 6.58 K/9, and 3.35 K/BB rate over 119 innings (21 starts) for Detroit, and has been particularly effective after a slow start to the season, as Fiers has a 2.57 ERA over his last 70 frames.
There are some red flags about his performance, however, most notably the career-low (over a full season) strikeout rate and swinging strike rate (8.3 %). Fiers is getting away with allowing some hard contact, as evidenced by the gap between his .321 wOBA and his .345 xwOBA, and he has also benefited from an 83.1% strand rate and a .277 BABIP. Advanced metrics such as FIP (4.66), xFIP (4.82) and SIERA (4.54) all sit over a run higher than his real-world ERA.
Even if a bit of regression is in order, Fiers will likely still represent an upgrade for an A’s rotation that has posted middling numbers over the course of the season (though they have been dominant as of late). Fiers joins ace Sean Manaea and veterans Brett Anderson, Edwin Jackson, and Trevor Cahill in the Athletics’ starting five, and Fiers is also an option for the 2019 staff, as he is controlled via salary arbitration. It’s worth noting that Fiers left his last start after just two innings after being hit in the shin with a line drive, though the injury isn’t thought to be particularly serious, and obviously the A’s weren’t concerned enough to hold off on making the trade.
As per Slusser, the Tigers have the option of taking money back for Fiers, or selecting two names from a list of prospects. It’s safe to assume that none of Oakland’s top minor leaguers are on that list, though Detroit should still get some kind of decent return on their $6MM investment in Fiers in the offseason.
Bleich made his Major League debut this season, appearing in two games for the A’s though getting through just one-third of an inning. A supplemental first-round pick (44th overall) for the Yankees in the 2008 draft, Bleich has pitched for five different organizations over 10 professional seasons and he also played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Bleich has a 3.92 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and 2.06 K/BB rate over 601 1/3 career minor league innings.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
4:52pm: The Athletics announced that they’ve acquired Kelley for international slot money. To clear room for him, they placed outfielder Jake Smolinski on the 60-day disabled list with a blood clot in his left calf.
4:46pm: The Athletics have acquired reliever Shawn Kelley from the Nationals, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports. There’s no word yet on what the Nationals received in exchange, but given that they designated Kelley for assignment earlier this week, it’s likely to be an insubstantial return.
Even though it’s competing for a playoff spot in the National League, Washington elected to move on from Kelley after he admitted he “acted like a baby” in a 25-4 rout over the Mets on Tuesday. Kelley slammed his glove after allowing a home run in that game, which offended general manager Mike Rizzo and others in the Nationals organization.
“If you’re not in, you’re in the way,” Rizzo said (via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post).
It’s clear Kelley’s actions didn’t turn off Oakland, which is pushing for a playoff berth in the AL. If his results to this point of the campaign are any indication, the 34-year-old Kelley should help the Athletics break their three-year playoff drought. Kelley logged a 3.34 ERA with 8.91 K/9 and 1.39 BB/9 in 32 1/3 innings with the Nats this year, though that came with a 27 percent groundball rate and a 4.56 FIP. He’s in the final season of a three-year, $15MM contract and is making $5.5MM.
We’ll use this post to track the day’s minor moves:
- The Athletics have outrighted right-hander Carlos Ramirez, who cleared waivers after being designated for assignment recently. Ramirez, 27, has allowed just eight earned runs on nine hits in his 25 MLB innings over the past two years. Of course, he also dished out nine free passes to go with only five strikeouts in 8 1/3 frames this season. Ramirez has spent most of his time of late in the upper minors. At Triple-A this year, in 32 1/3 innings with the A’s and Blue Jays organizations, Ramirez has worked to a 5.01 ERA with 9.2 K/9 against 5.6 BB/9.