The Oakland Athletics have had a relatively quiet off-season by their standards. After shocking the baseball world by winning the AL west on the last game of the season in 2012, the A’s found themselves in unfamiliar territory when the year ended. The Oakland fans had finally come out of hiding, they had a manager everyone loved and respected and the A’s roster, which was comprised mostly of rookies or young players getting their first real shot at regular playing time, is so young, talented and cheap that there is no reason to turn it over for prospects.
In fact, most of the news surrounding the A’s this off-season has been positive. On Wednesday, the A’s were involved in a three way trade that saw the Washington Nationals send 1B/Outfielder Michael Morse to the Mariners, who traded John Jaso to the A’s. The A’s surrendered pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen as well as a player to be named later to the Nationals. I’ll get to the actual trade in a minute, but the idea of the trade is just as important.
Billy Beane has made it clear over the years and especially lately just how much he values young pitching. Cole has some serious potential and is still very young, so the fact that he surrendered such a high upside arm to improve the current major league roster is both surprising and vindicating. Beane knows this team is good and has a solid 3-4 year window to compete, and thus far I think he has made subtle yet definable improvements to the big club.
A few free agents have moved on, most notably Johnny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Brandon Inge, and Brandon McCarthy. But the A’s have the depth with which to withstand such losses. And really, McCarthy is the only one I thought and hoped would resign, but he got a sizable raise from the Arizona Diamondbacks and with his injury history that loss won’t likely be significant.
Other than that, Billy Beane has made the team stronger and, if possible, deeper. Along with the Jaso trade, he flipped infielder Cliff Pennington to the Diamondbacks for outfielder Chris young to replace Gomes and signed Japanese infielder, Hiroyuki Nakajima (or just Hiro) to replace Drew.
It must be a refreshing change of pace for A’s fans; I know it is for me. For once we are not constantly being bombarded with the unrelenting buzz of offseason trade rumors that would render the team irrelevant yet again. Instead of an apparent punted season, it seems Beane is going more or less all-in.
Most importantly, Beane has signed Manager Bob Melvin through the 2016 season. After locking up Melvin through 2014 last year, Melvin rewarded Beane by winning the Manager of the Year award. Beane then decided to further reward Melvin by extending him another two seasons. Melvin’s extension is probably the biggest indication of Beane’s growth as a GM and respect for his team.
Beane has famously denounced a baseball manager’s value but he has clearly found his guy and Melvin’s value, though difficult to quantify, is undeniable.
But let’s get to the actual news from Wednesday:
On the surface, it certainly looks like a lot to give up for a catcher who will more than likely be a platoon player. A.J. Cole has a front-line starter stuff. If he ever puts it together, this trade might not look so good down the road. Presently, however, Jaso is a considerable upgrade at a position that was one of the few question marks going into 2013 for the A’s.
I like the trade. Jaso, a left handed hitter, will likely only play against right handed pitchers, but as most pitchers are right handed, he’ll play quite often. And considering that he hit a robust .302/.419/.508 against righties last year, he represents a huge offensive upgrade.
A’s catchers hit just .204/.262/.325. That is the definition of atrocious. I don’t think production from the catcher spot would have remained that terrible, but it certainly will be much improved with Jaso getting the majority of at-bats. And I wouldn’t expect a drop off in production. Jaso made significant changes to his batting stance, which helped his approach and allowed him to hit so well in Seattle, a pitcher’s atmosphere much like the Coliseum.
Jaso’s defense leaves a little to be desired but as the A’s wouldn’t be throwing any gold glove catchers out there anyway, it shouldn’t be a huge factor.
Derek Norris is still in the A’s plans should still start most of the games against left-handers, but Jaso seems like the main man here. According to Billy Beane, he has been trying to trade for the former Mariner all off-season. Jaso also has a team friendly contract for the next three years.
George Kottaras is the odd man out as he has already been designated for assignment. The A’s have ten days with which to trade him or he’ll be sent to the minors or released… likely released.
All in all, the A’s got better with this trade. The catcher position was a black hole in the A’s lineup for almost the entire year in 2012 and now the A’s have a proven commodity at that spot. I’ll be examining the infield, outfield, rotation and bullpen in the coming days, but it is clear to me that the A’s are better at catcher in 2013… even if it was a steep price to pay.
About the Author
Written by Josh Muller
My name is Josh Muller. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and currently live in San Francisco. I watch sports religiously and organize my calender year to coincide with baseball season. I'm a diehard A's and Warriors fan, love talking sports all day and believe that the words "Opening Day" are the two greatest in the English language.