Throughout the recently completed MLB Winter Meetings, the Oakland A's were rumored to be contemplating the trade of one of their top young starters. The name that was bandied about most frequently was Gio Gonzalez. However, on Friday, it was Trevor Cahill, not Gonzalez, who was traded away. This move figures to be the first in several trades the A's make this season, as the team looks to rebuild for a possible playoff run in 2014.
In the deal, Oakland is sending right-hander Trevor Cahill and left-hander Craig Breslow plus cash considerations to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-handers Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill. All three players the A's received in the deal made their major league debuts with the D-Backs this season. Cahill and Breslow will join an Arizona staff that already includes former ex-A's pitchers Brad Ziegler and Sam Demel.
Cahill's departure comes just a year after he was one of the top starters in the American League. In 2010, the San Diego-area native had a 2.97 ERA and went 18-8 despite starting the year on the disabled list. He was an AL All-Star that season. In 2011, he had an up-and-down campaign. He threw a career-high 207.2 innings and struck-out a career-best 147 batters, but his ERA jumped to 4.16 and he went 12-14. During his rookie season in 2009, Cahill went 10-13 with a 4.63 ERA.
Cahill was the A's first pick in 2006, although that pick came in the second round (the A's forfeited their first-round pick that season to sign veteran right-hander Esteban Loaiza). He moved quickly through the A's chain, dominating at Low-A Kane County in 2007 before a standout 2008 campaign that saw him pitch for High-A Stockton, Double-A Midland and the USA squad in the Beijing Olympics. He has followed a very similar career path to that of fellow A's starter Brett Anderson, who, ironically, the A's acquired from Arizona before the 2008 season.
In April, Cahill was signed to a long-term contract extension by the A's. The deal was a five-year contract worth $30.5 million with options that could extend the deal two more years at $13 million for each of those seasons.
Breslow was acquired by Oakland off of waivers from the Minnesota Twins during the 2009 season. Since that time, he has been the A's best left-handed reliever. The Yale grad, who is often referred to as "the smartest man in baseball," has a 3.36 ERA over the past three seasons. He was used against both righties and lefties and actually pitched better versus right-handers over that three-year span. Last season, Breslow had a 3.79 ERA in 67 appearances for Oakland. He is arbitration-eligible. Breslow will be playing for his seventh major league organization and his sixth big league club.
In return for Cahill and Breslow, the A's have netted a package of three players, led by top pitching prospect Jarrod Parker. Parker, who turned 23 in late November, pitched mostly at the Double-A level this past season. It was his first season back after missing all of the 2010 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The 2007 ninth-overall pick in the draft, Parker had a 3.79 ERA and a 112:55 K:BB ratio in 130.2 innings this season for Mobile. He also made one big league start, tossing 5.2 scoreless innings. In 2009, Parker had a 3.14 ERA in 97.1 innings for High-A Visalia and Mobile, with a 95:38 K:BB ratio. Before the trade, Parker was penciled in as the D-Backs' number five starter for 2012. It isn't clear whether the A's will elect to start Parker in the big leagues or give him some time at Triple-A. He has yet to pitch at that level.
Cowgill is a player very familiar to the A's scouting department. Oakland drafted the outfielder out of the University of Kentucky with their 29th round pick in 2007. He was coming off of a season lost to injury that year and elected to return to the Wildcats rather than sign with Oakland. He would be taken in the fifth round by Arizona in 2008.
Only 5'9'', Cowgill has exceeded expectations at every minor league level he has played at since turning pro. He posted a 1200 OPS in 20 games for short-season Yakima in 2008 before slumping a bit with Low-A South Bend to finish that season. In 2009, Cowgill spent the year with High-A Visalia and he posted an 819 OPS. He raised that OPS to 825 in 2010 with Double-A Mobile and really hit his stride in 2011 with Triple-A Reno. In 98 games, Cowgill hit .354 with 13 homers and a 954 OPS for the Aces. He also stole 30 bases in 33 chances. He appeared in 36 games for the D-Backs and hit .239 with a homer in 92 at-bats.
Although not as well-known as the other two players in the package, Cook had a break-through season of his own in 2011. The D-Backs 27th-round pick in 2008 out of USC, Cook was a starter in the Arizona chain through the 2010 campaign. He moved to the bullpen in 2011 and shot through Double-A and Triple-A and even got a brief big league look. In 48 minor league relief appearances, he posted a 2.21 ERA with 19 saves and a 62:22 K:BB ratio. Cook had a 7.04 ERA in 7.2 big league innings. He joins Jordan Norberto -- acquired by Oakland last July for Brad Ziegler -- as another former hard-throwing Arizona reliever on the A's 40-man roster.
Stay tuned over the next several days for more in-depth analysis of this trade...