Winter Meetings Recap: Oakland A’s
Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane made so many moves leading up to the Winter Meetings that by the time the annual gathering of executives, agents and players rolled around there wasn’t a whole lot left for the defending AL West champs to do in Orlando. Beane was wheeling a dealing at such a frenetic pace in the weeks leading up to the meetings that it was easy to get the impression that he was chugging pint glasses full of espresso 24/7 while calling agents and general managers from dusk till dawn trying to add pieces for a run at the World Series in 2014.
By the time the Winter Meetings were all said and done, Oakland’s front office left Florida with a little payroll relief and some new blood for the minor league system.
The once-untouchable (but always brittle) Brett Anderson was sent to the Rockies for minor league pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen which freed up $8 million in payroll for 2014. Reliever Jerry Blevins was traded to Washington for young speedster Billy Burns trimming off more than $1 million of next season’s bottom line. The move also added an outfield prospect who could eventually be Coco Crisp‘s replacement in center field in a best-case scenario.
To complete the trade Oakland made at the beginning of the month for closer Jim Johnson, the A’s sent minor league catcher David Freitas to the Orioles on the last day of the meetings. Freitas, acquired from the Nationals for Kurt Suzuki in 2012, was expendable. The A’s will head into into spring training witha crowded field of catchers including Derek Norris, John Jaso, Stephen Vogt and Luke Montz. Montz is likely to be the odd man out in Oakland and will probably be the primary catcher in Sacramento now that Freitas is on his way to Baltimore.
The Rule 5 draft saw the A’s grab Twins pitcher Tim Atherton in the minor-league phase of the selection process. Oakland lost infielders Tony Thompson to the Marlins and Vinnie Catricala to the Brewers. Thompson was a sixth-round pick by the A’s in 2010 out of the University of Kansas and Catricala was acquired from the Mariners last year after he was designated for assignment.
Thompson seems like the more interesting player lost in the Rule 5 draft. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro says that Thompson has some power but if his bat doesn’t develop the Marlins may take a look at him as a pitcher since he pitched in college and has worked some mop-up innings in the minors.
Oakland Clubhouse’s Melissa Lockard expects Atherton, a converted outfielder, to start 2014 in Stockton. The right-hander throws a fastball in the low 90s along with a slow curveball and changeup. Atherton went 8-5 with a 2.54 ERA while averaging 9.6 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings in the Twins’ farm system last year.
If you want a hot prospect to get excited about, Atherton probably isn’t your man. However, he hass an interesting story. According to Alexis Brudnicki of the Canberra Cavalry, he is a young player who has bounced around a lot. Atherton has played the infield, the outfield and stood on the pitcher’s mound. He was also granted a release for an off-field incident. Throw in some playing time in Japan and Australia and his various experience is evident.
The A’s entered the offseason needing replacements for starting pitcher Bartolo Colon and closer Grant Balfour. Their shopping list also included a fourth outfielder who can platoon with Josh Reddick and spell Crisp in center field, a utility infielder who can platoon with Eric Sogard and back up Jed Lowrie at shortstop and some bullpen depth to take pressure off of Dan Otero, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle in the late innings.
By acquiring Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson, Craig Gentry, Nick Punto and Luke Gregerson before the Winter Meetings even started, Oakland’s front office spent their stay in Orlando alleviating a roster crunch and purging payroll in exchange for prospects.
Are the A’s leaving Orlando with a better big league team than when they came to town? No. However, that clearly wasn’t their goal heading into the meetings. Does the organization now have more overall depth in the minor leagues, fewer payroll obligations and a clearer idea of how the 2014 starting rotation and bullpen will round out? Absolutely.
In that light, the mission has been accomplished for Oakland’s front office at the Winter Meetings, but it’s probably a disappointing turn of events for A’s fans who were hoping to see the team get more in return for Anderson.
I’m assuming that there was a significant gap between Anderson’s perceived value to A’s fans (who’ve seen him pitch like an ace when healthy) and the real value that other teams were willing to offer in return for someone hasn’t been healthy enough to make more than 19 starts since 2009. Throw in the fact that Anderson is due to make $8 million in 2014 and you end up with the A’s having to throw in $2 million just to get Pomeranz and a fringe pitching prospect out of the Rockies.
There you have it, the 2014 Winter Meetings have come and gone. If seeing your Twitter timeline overflow with a seemingly endless stream of rumors from around MLB and reading about agents brawling in a parking lot is your thing then you probably had a fine time this week.
If you were expecting the A’s to make some headline grabbing moves improving their 2014 MLB roster you’re just going to have to sit tight and hope that Beane pounds a few more pints of espresso and goes on another hyperactive transaction binge this offseason.