For the second time in two days, the Oakland A’s traded away an All-Star. This time, however, the A’s are getting several players back in return. On Tuesday morning, the A’s announced that they had traded RHP Jeff Samardzija and RHP Michael Ynoa for IF Marcus Semien, RHP Chris Bassitt, C Josh Phegley and 1B Rangel Ravelo. The A’s will need to move one more player off of their 40-man roster. UPDATE: The A's DFA'd Jorge De Leon in the aftermath of the deal. For more on De Leon, click here
Unlike the Brandon Moss trade on Monday, the return for Samardzija should have a significant impact on the A’s 25-man roster in 2015. Semien, an East Bay native and St. Mary’s HS/Cal alum, is likely to get the first crack at the A’s open shortstop spot this spring. He could also get a look at second base, the position he has played the most at the major-league level. Bassitt, who beat the A’s in a late-season start for the White Sox last year, will get an opportunity to make the A’s starting rotation this spring. Depending on what the A’s do with John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt, Phegley could also factor in the A’s catching situation. Ravelo spent the 2014 season in Double-A and is likely to start the 2015 campaign in Triple-A, sharing time with Max Muncy and Anthony Aliotti.
The A’s are saying good-bye to the pitcher who was supposed to guide the A’s deep into the post-season when he was acquired in early July. Samardzija held up his end of the bargain, for the most part, after his trade from the Chicago Cubs. He made 16 starts for Oakland post-trade and had a 3.14 ERA and a 99:12 K:BB in 111.2 innings. Samardzija threw two complete games and had an 0.931 WHIP. He did allow 13 homeruns, however, and many of those homeruns proved costly in games where the A’s failed to score Samardzija many runs.
Samardzija returns to the city that he spent his entire major league career in before being traded to Oakland. Samardzija’s rising homerun rate could be a concern in the hitter-friendly US Cellular Field, but otherwise the White Sox should be receiving a solid number two starter to slot behind ace Chris Sale and ahead of left-hander Jose Quintana. Samardzija is in the final year of his pre-free agency period and has said that he liked playing in Chicago. The Notre Dame alum reportedly grew up rooting for the White Sox, so Chicago should have a decent chance of re-signing him. The A’s were extremely unlikely to sign Samardzija long-term. They are choosing to save the $10 million or so he would have been owed in arbitration dollars and acquire four players now rather than hope for a draft pick next off-season.
The A’s are also bidding adieu to right-hander Michael Ynoa, perhaps the most famous international free agent the A’s ever signed. The right-hander inked a deal worth more than $4 million in 2008 as a 16-year-old, but he has yet to live up to the lofty expectations that surrounded him as a teenager. Ynoa has had elbow problems throughout his career and also struggled with oblique injuries and forearm strains in 2014. He left his last game in an A’s uniform with an injury.
Ynoa is in his final option year (unless MLB grants the White Sox a one-year injury exemption). The right-hander has thrown only 161 innings as a professional. His career ERA is 4.81 and he has a 168:85 K:BB. Ynoa can top 100 MPH with his fastball and he has an excellent breaking ball, but he struggles to throw strikes and stay healthy. The White Sox are hoping to catch lightening in a bottle with Ynoa, who will be 23 throughout the 2015 regular season.
The A’s are receiving three players with some major-league experience and one player who is already in the upper levels of the minor leagues. The package is headlined by former Cal infielder Marcus Semien. A native of El Cerrito, California, Semien attended St. Mary’s College High School in Albany and then Cal. The 24-year-old was a sixth-round pick of the White Sox in 2011. He began his career in Low-A and spent his first full professional season in High-A, where he posted an 833 OPS for Winston-Salem.
Semien continued to open eyes in 2013, splitting the minor league season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. He hit a combined .284/.401/.479 with 19 homers, 98 walks and 24 stolen bases. Semien made his major-league debut in 2013, batting .261/.268/.406 in 21 games for the White Sox.
In 2014, Semien split his season between Triple-A Charlotte and the big leagues. He continued to hit well in Triple-A, posting a .267/.380/.502 line with 15 homers in 83 games. Semien struggled in the big leagues, batting just .234/.300/.372 in 64 games. He hit six homers in 231 at-bats, including one against the A’s in Chicago.
At the big league level, Semien has spent most of his time at second base, although he has made a few appearances at shortstop and third base. In the minors, he was mostly a shortstop. He rated highly according to defensive metrics at short in the minor leagues, but it remains to be seen whether he will stick there at the big league level.
Ryan Gorcey, publisher of BearTerritory.net had this to say about Semien, who he covered extensively as a collegiate player:
“Last season was Semien's first extended action in the Majors, and his fielding suffered, just as it did during his sophomore year, which was his first playing shortstop in an extended role in the college game. It will take him some time to adjust to the speed of the game, but I think, given his history, that's what he'll do.
“Semien won't wow you immediately with his tools in the field. A lot like his personality, his glove is very quiet, but he's got one of the more impressive work ethics I've seen in college, right up there with his former double play partner -- and current Washington Nationals farmhand -- Tony Renda. In 2010, then a sophomore at Cal, Semien was thrown into the fire and committed 20 errors at short in 283 chances. He was one of the worst fielders in the conference. A year later, and he committed just 12 errors in 292 chances and became one of the slickest, most dependable shortstops in the league, with a strong arm -- not eye-popping strong, but more than capable -- and above-average range. He'll make a few plays he shouldn't make, and he'll make all the plays he should.
“Semien's father -- Damien -- played wide receiver at Cal, and while the younger Semien doesn't have that long, rangy body, he has the same plus athleticism. He'll make those wow-plays -- the jumping, twisting throws, diving back for a grab over his shoulder -- but the real main attraction is the fact that he's very fundamentally sound. He looks the ball into his glove, sets his feet, follows his flips on double plays and won't get shy when contact comes his way around the bag.
“On offense, Semien was a bit overmatched for most of the time he was up in the big leagues last season, hitting just .234. But, his hitting fundamentals are sound. He's always been a high-strikeout guy, so I don't expect that to change much, but he'll make up for strikeouts with power and performing in the clutch.
“One thing Semien has always had in spades is power. He doesn't look the part at all, but there's a lot of strength hiding in that 6-foot-1, 195-pound body. Semien's swing is a very simple, no-frills stroke but that's why it works so well. Semien is short to the ball and has a level swing plane, really exploding his hips through contact. He's a line-drive hitter who generates gap power and could be a 15-20 HR guy once he becomes an everyday player.”
The A’s are also receiving RHP Chris Bassitt, who will compete for a spot in the A’s starting rotation this spring. Bassitt was a 16th-round pick of the White Sox in 2011 out of Akron. He spent his first season as a professional in the bullpen, but the White Sox moved him into the rotation in 2012 and his career took off at that point. Using a three-quarters delivery, Bassitt had a 3.08 ERA and a 138:59 K:BB in 149 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2013. He then went on to earn AFL Rising Star honors that off-season, posting an 0.90 ERA in 10 innings.
In 2014, a hand injury kept Bassitt sidelined for a significant period of time. He pitched well when healthy, putting up a 1.56 ERA in six starts for Double-A Birmingham. He struck-out 49 and walked 17 in 43.1 innings. He also added 8.2 rehab innings in the Arizona Rookie League. Late in the year, the White Sox added Bassitt into their starting rotation, and he held his own. In 29.2 innings, he had a 3.94 ERA and a 21:13 K:BB. Bassitt went to the AFL once again to get back some of the innings he lost to injury. He dominated the league for a second straight year, allowing just a run in 13 innings. He struck-out 22 and walked three and was named to the AFL All-Star team.
Bassitt gets plenty of movement on his fastball, which has been clocked as high as 96 and generally sits around 91-93. He also has a slider that he uses frequently, a change-up and a curveball. Bassitt is 6’5’’ and gets plenty of deception with his motion to go along with movement on all of his pitches. He was a flyball pitcher in his brief big league stint but has been a groundball pitcher during his minor league career.
Catcher Josh Phegley is an interesting addition to the A’s roster because it now gives Oakland four catchers with big league service time on their 40-man roster. The Indiana alum has been in the White Sox organization since 2009, when he was a compensation first round pick.
Injuries kept Phegley from making progress early in his career, but he has played more than 100 games in each of the last three seasons. The right-handed hitting catcher has spent the majority of his last three seasons at the Triple-A level. His 2012 campaign was a struggle in Charlotte, but Phegley has hit very well at that level the past two seasons. In 2014, he hit .274/.331/.530 with 23 homers and 30 doubles.
Phegley has had two stints with the White Sox. In 2013, he appeared in 67 games, but he struggled at the plate, posting a 522 OPS. In 2014, he received a September call-up and had a 724 OPS in 11 games. Phegley has an above-average throwing arm and average receiving skills. Phegley focused on his defensive extensively during his time in Triple-A in 2014 and reportedly made significant improvements. At the plate, Phegley is a classic power hitter with good numbers the past two seasons against both righties and lefties.
The addition of Phegley gives the A’s some options when it comes to their catching situation. They could trade one or two of the three catchers from the 2014 roster (Jaso, Norris and Vogt) or leave Phegley in Triple-A for depth. Or they could move one or two of their three catchers to a different position. Vogt spent time at first base and in the outfield last season, while Jaso has some limited experience at first base and Norris was an infielder in high school.
The final piece of the A’s package from Chicago is first baseman Rangel Ravelo, who is coming off of a strong season at the Double-A level as a 22-year-old. A native of Gio Gonzalez’s hometown of Hialeah, Florida, Ravelo was drafted out of high school in 2010. Ravelo spent the 2014 season in Double-A despite only 84 games at High-A in 2013. He responded with a .309/.386/.473 line in 133 games in Double-A. Ravelo hit 11 homers, 37 doubles and walked 56 times against 77 strike-outs.
Ravelo is a good athlete with a slugger’s build at 6’2’’, 215. He is likely to be a first baseman in the big leagues, but he has seen time at third base, as well. If Ravelo moves up to Triple-A next season, he will be sharing time at first with Max Muncy and Anthony Aliotti, so letting Ravelo get some time at third could allow for the at-bats to be spread around more easily.
Ravelo has an advanced approach at the plate and the ability to make consistent contact. He is just starting to tap into his raw power and the 37 doubles last season suggests that there should be more homerun power down-the-road as he continues to mature as a hitter. Ravelo was added to the White Sox’s 40-man roster this off-season, so he will be in his first option year in 2015.