Move #1: A's trade IF Aaron Miles and a PTBNL to the Cincinnati Reds for OF Willy Taveras and IF Adam Rosales; A's Designate Willy Taveras for assignment
The first trade the A's made this off-season was a deal with the Chicago Cubs when they sent right-hander Jeff Gray, outfielder Matt Spencer and right-hander Ronny Morla to the Chicago Cubs for utilityman Jake Fox and infielder Aaron Miles.
At the time of the trade, the A's spoke extensively about the role that Fox might play with the big league club in 2010, but they rarely commented on a possible role for Miles. The lack of comment regarding Miles' role was telling, especially given that he was one of only three players on the A's 40-man roster with major league experience playing shortstop (Cliff Pennington and Gregorio Petit being the other two). So it came as no surprise that Miles was traded before the start of spring training.
In many ways, the trade with Cincinnati was an exchange of bad contracts. Miles is owed $2.7 million for 2010, $1.7 million of which was the A's responsibility (the Cubs are on the hook for $1 million of Miles' salary). Miles hit only .185 for the Cubs in 2009 and he has a reputation for being a poor defensive infielder, although he does have versatility, with experience at second, short and third base. Given his price tag and poor glove, Miles seemed like a poor fit as the A's primary back-up infielder.
However, to dump Miles, Oakland had to take on an arguably worse contract. Taveras is owed $4 million for 2010. He is a fine defensive centerfielder with plus speed, but he has a career OPS of 649 and a career OBP of .321. The A's already have two solid defensive centerfielders with speed in Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp, so Taveras was a bad fit with Oakland from the start. The A's obviously agreed, as no sooner had they acquired Taveras did they expose him to the waiver wire by designating him for assignment. The A's now have 10 days to trade him or Oakland will be on the hook for the entirety of his $4 million salary.
Unless the A's already have a trade for Taveras lined up, it appears that Oakland has paid $2.3 million for the opportunity to acquire Adam Rosales. Rosales is a 26-year-old infielder with 105 games of major league experience. The Chicago native spent five seasons in the Cincinnati chain, compiling solid offensive numbers (he is a career .289 hitter with an 855 OPS) in the minor leagues. He hasn't hit much in the major leagues, however. In 259 career at-bats, he has a .212 average with a 605 OPS. Rosales will turn 27 in May.
Rosales won a lot of fans in Cincinnati during his time with the Reds with his hustling style of play. Reporters in Cincinnati dubbed him "Pete Rosales," an allusion to the most famous player for hustle in Reds' history, Pete Rose. Rosales has an unusual batting style but that style has worked for him, for the most part, throughout his professional career. He doesn't project as a homerun hitter, but he should have decent doubles power for a middle infielder.
Rosales brings a lot of versatility defensively to the A's bench. A college shortstop, Rosales has experience at short, second, third, first and in the corner outfield. Rosales immediately becomes the favorite to be the A's primary back-up middle infielder. He represents an upgrade both defensively and likely offensively to Miles as the A's back-up infielder, but defensively Rosales will be a step down (especially at shortstop) from Petit, who the A's designated for assignment on Monday (more on Petit later in this article).
Until the identity of the player to be named later that the A's owe the Reds is revealed, it is hard to judge this trade completely. Similarly, it will be easier to judge this trade once we know whether the A's will be able to dump some of Tavares' salary on another team. As it stands now, it appears the A's have paid a significant price ($2.3 million) for what amounts to a relatively minor upgrade to the team's bench.
Move #2: A's sign OF Gabe Gross to a one-year contract worth $750,000
At the start of the off-season, it appeared that one area in which the A's had no need to add depth was in their outfield. With Ryan Sweeney, Rajai Davis, Jack Cust, Scott Hairston, Travis Buck, Aaron Cunningham and Eric Patterson all on the 40-man roster and top prospects Sean Doolittle, Corey Brown and Grant Desme moving up the chain, the A's seemed well situated in the outfield.
Apparently the A's front office felt otherwise, however. Although the team non-tendered Cust in December, they never shut off communications with the outfielder/DH and wound-up bringing him back into the fold in January. In December, the A's also acquired three more outfielders via trades and free agent signings – Michael Taylor, Jake Fox and Coco Crisp. Even after Oakland dealt two outfielders to San Diego (Hairston and Cunningham) and watched Desme retire unexpectedly, the team still had eight outfielders who realistically could be everyday starters in 2010.
Despite that depth, it was clear that the A's weren't satisfied with their projected line-up in the outfield. The team was linked in negotiations with Johnny Damon before reportedly deciding that his asking price was too high. Instead, Oakland opted for Gross, a major league veteran who the team has been linked to in negotiations in prior seasons. Gross was signed at a cut-rate price for only $750,000 and he immediately becomes the A's projected fourth outfielder for 2010.
Gross is a left-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three outfield positions. In six major league seasons, he has a .239 career average with a 736 OPS. Gross' best season came in 2006 with Milwaukee when he hit .274 with nine homers and posted an 857 OPS in 117 games. Gross hit 13 homeruns for Tampa in 2008, but managed only six in 115 games for the Rays in 2009.
The addition of Gross is a somewhat curious one. Defensively, he brings a solid glove to the A's bench, but Oakland already boasts a solid defensive outfield with starters Davis, Sweeney and Crisp. Gross is a left-handed hitter, so he would be able to platoon with Davis should the A's want to go in that direction. However, the rest of the A's outfield (with the exception of Fox and Taylor) is made up of left-handed or switch-hitters.
The addition of Gross to the A's roster means that without injuries, Buck and Patterson are now long-shots to make the A's 25-man roster. Both Buck and Patterson are left-handed hitters and neither is particularly experienced playing centerfield. Buck offers a similar skill-set to Gross, whereas Patterson lacks the power of both Buck and Gross, but offers more speed and the ability to play in the infield.
The A's have always been an organization that has committed to its young players, but in this case, the signing of Gross will actually block young players. Both Buck and Patterson have been top prospects in the recent past and despite some bumps in the road at the major league level the past two seasons, both could potentially develop into major league starters if given the opportunity. With Gross on-board, the A's are essentially giving up an opportunity to give Buck or Patterson extended playing time. It wouldn't be surprising to see one or both of them traded at some point in the next year. Should Buck or Patterson go on to reach their potential with another team, it could be a decision the A's grow to regret.
Move #3: A's claim Steve Tolleson off waivers from Minnesota and designate Gregorio Petit for assignment
As deep as the A's were at the start of the off-season in outfielders, Oakland was that thin in terms of depth in the middle infield, especially in the upper levels of their minor league system. The A's have two top prospects at second base in Adrian Cardenas and Jemile Weeks, but their top shortstop prospect, Grant Green, has all of one week of minor league experience. At the start of the off-season, the A's only had two players with major league experience playing at shortstop – Cliff Pennington and Gregorio Petit.
Pennington, after posting a 760 OPS and playing a solid defensive shortstop (at least until the final week of the season) over the final two months of the 2009 A's season, earned himself the A's starting shortstop job going into the 2010 season. Petit, however, saw his stock with the A's slip in 2009 with a poor showing at the plate in both Triple-A and in the big leagues. Despite being a standout defensive player and a strong clubhouse presence, Petit was seemingly not in the A's plans for their bench in 2010, as Oakland was chasing back-up infielders such as Jamey Carroll from the start of the off-season. In fact, as recently as last week, there were discussions of having Eric Chavez act as the A's back-up shortstop next season. Chavez last played the position when he was in high school.
With the acquisition of Rosales, the A's have seemingly answered their back-up middle infield question for 2010. Oakland could have kept Petit in Triple-A as depth for Rosales and Pennington. The A's decided to go in another direction, opting to claim Tolleson off of waivers from the Minnesota Twins to be the team's Triple-A shortstop rather than have Petit spend a fourth season in Sacramento.
Tolleson isn't the same caliber defensive player as Petit, but he is a more accomplished hitter. Like Petit, Tolleson can play short, second and third, but he lacks Petit's range, especially at shortstop. However, Petit is a free swinger and his value as a hitter is completely tied to his ability to hit for average, whereas Tolleson has a strong sense of the strike zone and a decent amount of pop for a middle infielder. He also has decent speed, although he isn't an accomplished base-stealer, having been caught 35 times in 102 chances during his minor league career. In other words, the A's have opted for a better offensive option for their Triple-A depth at shortstop rather than defense. Of course, the A's could wind-up with both players if Petit manages to clear waivers, but given his age (he is only 24) and his defensive talent, Petit is likely to be claimed by another organization. The A's have lost two players to waiver claims already this off-season: Jay Marshall and Tom Everidge.
Move #4: A's designate Dana Eveland for assignment
With the additions of Gross, Tolleson and Rosales to the 40-man roster, Oakland had to clear three spots off of their own roster to make room. In addition to trading Miles and designating Petit for assignment, Oakland designated Eveland for assignment.
Eveland has been sliding out of favor with the A's since the tail-end of the 2008 season. He was a regular member of the A's rotation in 2008, starting 29 games. However, the A's grew frustrated with Eveland's inability to throw strikes consistently and he was demoted to Triple-A briefly towards the end of the 2008 season.
Eveland was given another chance to win a spot in the A's rotation in 2009, but he failed to capitalize on the opportunity. In 13 appearances (nine starts) with Oakland, Eveland had a 7.16 ERA and he posted a 22:24 K:BB ratio. In 21 starts for Triple-A Sacramento, Eveland had a 4.94 ERA and he walked 51 in 124 innings with the River Cats.
As an organization, the A's are deepest in the area of pitching. With the free agent signings of Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer for the starting rotation, the A's are already looking at sending at least two pitchers who were regular members of their rotation in 2009 to Triple-A for at least the start of 2010. The A's are also similarly deep in the bullpen, so there wasn't an obvious spot for Eveland in Sacramento or Oakland in 2010.
Eveland is only 26, is left-handed and has good stuff, so he is likely to be claimed by another organization. If Eveland ever finds a way to throw strikes consistently, he should be a solid major league pitcher. However, he has been given chances by three organizations now (Oakland, Arizona and Milwaukee) and has failed to capitalize on those chances. The fourth chance, should he receive it, might be his last.
In the end, it was a busy day on the transaction wire for the A's on Monday. However, despite all of the moves, the A's haven't dramatically altered their roster or depth chart for 2010. In many respects, the moves represent more of a shuffling of deck chairs than a big change in direction. Oakland is probably done with adding major league infielders this off-season, but given the crowding that still exists in the A's outfield, look for at least one more move involving an outfielder before the start of the regular season.
Transaction Analysis: Monday Moves
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