When the Oakland A's acquired IF Jed Lowrie, it seemed to be only a matter of time before the A's traded one of their 2015 infielders. That time came on Wednesday, when Oakland dealt Brett Lawrie to the Chicago White Sox for J.B. Wendelken and Zack Erwin. Wendelken was a member of the White Sox's 40-man roster and takes Lawrie's place on the A's 40-man. Erwin was the White Sox's 4th-round pick this June.
Lawrie spent one season with the A's after joining Oakland last November in the deal that sent 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays. Lawrie played in a career-high 149 games in 2015. He also established career-highs in homeruns (16) and RBI (60), but he posted a career-worst OBP (.299) and he struck-out 144 times in 149 games.
Lawrie began the season as the A's primary third baseman. However, he shifted to second base last in the year after Oakland acquired Danny Valencia on a waiver claim. Lawrie had a down year defensively, and he was worth a -0.2 dWAR in 2015, according to Baseball-Reference. He is in his second year of arbitration-eligibility, but Lawrie is still quite young for a major leaguer with his service time. He won't turn 26 until January. Lawrie should give the White Sox some much needed right-handed power next season and will also bring defensive versatility.
Wendelken could factor into the A's increasingly re-vamped bullpen next season. The 2012 13th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox reached Triple-A last season and, as a reliever, could be big league-ready by mid-season. The 6'0'' right-hander has mostly been a reliever since turning pro, although he did spend the 2014 season in the rotation for High-A Winston-Salem. After posting a 5.25 ERA as a starter in 2014, Wendelken moved back to the bullpen in 2015 and found much more success. In 59 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, Wendelken had a 3.20 ERA and a 69:16 K:BB. A flyball pitcher, Wendelken allowed six homeruns.
As a reliever, Wendelken's fastball sits in the 91-95 MPH range. His best secondary pitch is his change-up. He also features a breaking ball. He has a career 3.80 K:BB. Wendelken hails from Georgia and attended the same high school and junior college as A's outfielder Josh Reddick (six years apart). He will turn 23 in March.
Erwin was the White Sox's second overall pick (fourth round) in this year's draft. The left-hander had a solid three-year career at Clemson, where he was a teammate of current A's prospect Daniel Gossett. Erwin was a swingman for the Tigers during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he moved into the rotation full-time this year. In 106.2 innings, he had a 3.04 ERA and a 92:16 K:BB. After the draft, Erwin split his time between the Rookie level Great Falls Voyagers and the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators. He had a 1.34 ERA in 40.1 innings with a 30:7 K:BB.
Erwin is long and lean at 6'5'', 195 pounds. He is a groundball pitcher who didn't allow a homerun during his pro debut season. Erwin's fastball sits in the high-80s, touching 92, and he has some deception in his delivery. Erwin commands his split-change and curveball well. He has a good feel for mixing his pitches and the frame and strike-throwing approach to be an innings-eater as he develops.
In other news, San Francisco Chronicle beat writer Susan Slusser reported early on Wednesday that the A's signed free agent reliever John Axford to a two-year deal. The deal hasn't been announced, but several reports indicate that it is worth $10 million over those two seasons. Axford joins Ryan Madson, Liam Hendriks and Marc Rzepczynski in a remade A's bullpen. Axford, like Madson, has plenty of experience closing at the big league level. He has 141 career saves, including 25 in 2015 with the Colorado Rockies. the right-hander had a 4.20 ERA in 55.2 innings for Colorado. He struck-out 62 and walked 32. Axford had a 2.70 ERA and a .216 BAA away from Coors Field. He struggled during the second half of the season, posting a 5.90 ERA after posting a 2.36 ERA in the first half. The A's aren't likely to make the Axford or Madson signings official until after the Rule 5 draft on Thursday.