After more than a week of rumors, the Oakland A's finally traded All-Star outfielder/first baseman Brandon Moss to the Cleveland Indians for minor league second baseman Joe Wendle. The A's have now traded their number three-four-five hitters in the span of the past three months.
Moss will be coming off of off-season hip surgery and he had a poor second-half of the 2014 season, but he was easily the A's best pure power hitter since midway through the 2012 season. Moss hit 76 homers over the past two-and-a-half seasons with the A's, including 25 last season when he was playing through hip pain. He made the AL All-Star team in 2014 and also hit two homeruns in the A's AL Wild Card loss to the Kansas City Royals this year.
Moss was set to make $7 million or so in arbitration, and the cost-cutting A's must have decided that that was too hefty a price to pay for a player coming off of major surgery. It has been an odd off-season for the A's, who committed roughly $14 million on two first basemen/DHs coming off of down years (Billy Butler and Ike Davis) and have traded two of their top hitters (Josh Donaldson and Moss) who were set to make a combined $11.5 million (or so) in 2015.
The A's received a package of four players for Donaldson, and within that package, three of those players are expected to be part of the A's 2015 roster at some point. Oakland is receiving back only one player for Moss, and he isn't likely to play a role for the A's in 2015 (save maybe in September). In other words, this deal isn't designed to help the A's next year.
Wendle was a sixth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians out of West Chester in 2012. The left-handed hitting second baseman hit .327 in the New York-Penn League during his pro debut in 2012 and followed that up with a .295/.372/.513 line for High-A Carolina in 2013. Wendle slumped in 2014 and he dealt with a broken hamate bone that limited him to 87 games in Double-A. He hit .253/.311/.414 for Double-A Akron.
Wendle is limited to second base defensively and is considered average with the glove. His bat will carry him as a prospect. He is 24 and will turn 25 next April. Wendle could be moved up to Triple-A at the start of next season, but he is more likely to begin the year in Double-A, where he will share at-bats at second base with Chad Pinder. Wendle won't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after this season.
Tony Lastoria, publisher of the preeminent Indians' prospect site IndiansBaseballInsider.com, wrote this about Wendle during the 2014 season when he was coming back from his hamate injury:
"Double-A Akron second baseman Joey Wendle suffered a hamate fracture to his right wrist in June and underwent surgery shortly after to correct the issue. He has been on a rehab assignment in Arizona playing for the rookie level AZL Indians team and in four games is 5-for-14 at the plate with a triple and 3 RBI. He should be cleared to play with Akron soon, possibly joining the team in New Hampshire this weekend or waiting for the team to return to Akron on Monday."
"It has not been the season that many were expecting from him as even before the injury he was very inconsistent with his at bats night in and night out. He did look to be settling into a groove as his play was much improved in the month leading up to the injury than in the first six weeks of the season, but considering he does not have the defensive skill set, the run tool or much versatility, he needs to hit and hit a lot to play up his value. If his timing improves, he avoids being pull happy, he uses his legs better in his swing and he works on the adjustments he has made in order to see the ball better, then he might be in line for a strong finish at Akron the final two weeks of the season and into the playoffs. He is a guy who could really use some time this offseason in winter ball or even in a return trip to the Arizona Fall League to make up some at bats and face top level competition."
Before the season, Lastoria wrote this about Wendle's strengths in his pre-season scouting report (he ranked Wendle #13 in the Indians' system):
"Strengths: Wendle is an interesting offensive oriented second baseman who has a very good, professional approach at the plate, shows good discipline, an advanced feel for hitting, and some solid power to shoot the gaps and occasionally pound the ball over the fence. He is really comfortable in the batter’s box and can flat out hit. He makes consistent contact thanks to some good hand-eye coordination, good hands at the plate and a natural feel for the bat head. He has an impressive swing where he consistently centers up the baseball and drives it all over the field. He is disciplined as he limits strikeouts because of how well he understands the strike zone and is not afraid to work deep into counts and take a walk or hit with two strikes. He has a blue collar grind it out approach to his at bats and a good general overall knowledge of how pitchers are attacking him. He is not an overly big player, but he has a solid build and is very strong in his forearms and wrists. That strength combined with some good bat speed and his consistent swing gives him the juice to shoot gaps as a high doubles guy with solid average power that can maybe be a 15-20 homer guy in the big leagues."
Wendle profiles very similarly to former A's prospect Kevin Melillo. A wrist injury cut short Melillo's opportunity to be a big league player. Like Melillo, Wendle has above-average power for a second baseman and the ability to hit for average. He also has a solid approach. He has average speed and an average glove, but is a gamer who gets the most out of his ability.
The Oakland A's announced on Monday that RHP Josh Lindblom was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had been designated for assignment on the same day that Josh Donaldson was traded to Toronto. Lindblom spent one season in the A's system and saw that season end early with an ankle injury. He had a 5.79 ERA in 84 innings at the Triple-A level. Lindblom also made one start for the A's, allowing two runs in 4.2 innings.
Lindblom has a 4.29 ERA in 459.2 career minor league innings and a 3.82 ERA in 136.2 career major league innings. Lindblom should compete for a spot on the Pirates' big league staff this spring.