The Oakland A’s dipped into their starting pitching depth, acquiring veteran utilityman Chris Coghlan from the Chicago Cubs for RHP Aaron Brooks. Coghlan brings a solid left-handed bat and a versatile glove to the A’s roster, while Brooks heads to Chicago looking to earn a spot in the backend of their rotation.
Coghlan was a regular for the Cubs the past two seasons, spending most of his time in left field. With the Cubs’ off-season signing of free agent Jason Heyward and the emergence of young players such as Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber, Coghlan was likely to be the Cubs’ fourth outfielder and back-up second baseman in 2016. With the A’s, Coghlan is likely to move around the field, but he should see regular playing time.
The Cubs also announced shortly after the deal with the A’s was completed that they had re-signed OF Dexter Fowler to a one-year deal. Fowler was expected to sign a three-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles, but he returns to Chicago, where he will be the Cubs’ everyday centerfielder.
A first-round pick (36th overall) of the Florida Marlins in 2006, Coghlan made his major-league debut in 2009 and won the National League’s Rookie of the Year that season when he hit .321 with an 850 OPS. Coghlan hit .268 for the Marlins the following season, but injured his knee while attempting to ‘pie’ a teammate after a walk-off win. He appeared in only 91 games that season. Coghlan struggled for the next three seasons with the Marlins before receiving a change of scenery in 2013 with the Cubs.
Coghlan re-emerged as an offensive threat during his two years with the Cubs. In 125 games, Coghlan hit .283 with an 804 OPS in 2014. Then last season, Coghlan played in a career-high 148 games. He also established career-highs in homeruns (16), stolen bases (11), walks (58) and strike-outs (94). His OPS+ was 113 last season.
During his big league career, Coghlan has accumulated playing time at several positions: left field, center field, right field, second base, third base and first base. The majority of his time has come in left, but he could fill in for a number of A’s starters at all of those positions as the match-ups warrant it. Coghlan also provides some speed. He is eligible for free agency in 2017.
The A’s have always valued players who can fill multiple roles. Coghlan is the second player acquired by the A’s this off-season who can give them that sort of defensive versatility. Fellow off-season acquisition Jed Lowrie is expected to play mostly second base for the A’s, but he will be able to move to third, short or even first, should the A’s need him at those spots.
A left-handed hitter, Coghlan will give the A’s a platoon option at third base for Danny Valencia against tough right-handed pitchers. Coghlan can also fill in against tough right-handers in left field for Khris Davis, who – like Valencia – is a right-handed hitter. Coghlan is a career .278 hitter against righties and a .232 versus southpaws.
Former A’s prospect and current member of the Chicago Cubs’ front office John Baker played with Coghlan in the Marlins’ and Cubs’ organizations. He thinks Coghlan will fit in well with Baker’s original organization.
“Chris is a gamer,” Baker said. “He can hit, takes pride in his defense and will be a great addition to the Oakland A's.”
This trade is a likely indication that the A’s aren’t done making moves this spring. The infield and outfield rotations are now pretty crowded with players who have substantial service time. In left, the A’s will need to balance Davis, Coghlan, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld and Mark Canha. OF Jake Smolinski and off-season waiver claim Andrew Lambo could also be in the mix. In center, Billy Burns, Crisp, Coghlan and Fuld could all see time, while in right Josh Reddick will play every day, with Canha and Coghlan seeing time there on Reddick’s days off. The A’s don’t have much flexibility to DH any of these outfielders with Billy Butler set to get the majority of the at-bats at that position. It would make sense to see the A’s move at least one of the players in this mix.
The A’s infield is now pretty crowded, as well. Valencia (3B), Marcus Semien (SS), Lowrie (2B) and new acquisition Yonder Alonso (1B) figure to be the everyday infield, with Canha filling in for Alonso at first against lefties. However, veteran Eric Sogard (2B/SS), Coghlan (2B/3B) and rookies Tyler Ladendorf (SS/2B), Max Muncy (1B/3B), Rangel Ravelo (1B) and Joey Wendle (2B) could also work into that mix. There isn’t a rush to move anyone from this group, but if the A’s get to the end of camp with everyone healthy, they could make a deal.
Brooks came to the A’s in the Ben Zobrist trade last year and appeared in 11 games (nine starts) for Oakland during the final six weeks of the season. He posted a 6.71 ERA in 51 innings, but flashed some potential with five starts of six innings or more and two or fewer runs allowed. The tall right-hander was a ninth round pick of the Royals in 2011. He made his big league debut in 2014 with Kansas City and had two relief appearances with the Royals early in 2015 before being traded to the A’s. He has a career 4.18 ERA in 651 minor league innings and had a 3.56 ERA in Triple-A last season.
Brooks was a long-shot to make the A’s Opening Day roster thanks to additions the A’s made to both their starting rotation (Rich Hill and Henderson Alvarez) and their bullpen this off-season. The emergence of Sean Manaea (who came over to the A’s in the same deal as Brooks) this fall and early spring and the early optimism surrounding the health of Jarrod Parker also pushed Brooks down the A’s depth chart. The A’s also signed minor league free agent Eric Surkamp this off-season and Surkamp has a similar amount of experience and is another strong candidate to fill in as a fifth starter or long reliever should the A’s need one due to injuries.