By Jason Wojciechowski on August 1, 2016 at 10:02 PM
Billy Beane and/or David Forst has/have done his/their thing: Josh Reddick and Rich Hill are Dodgers.
Reddick was the A's right fielder. He'd started there the last six games and 23 of the last 28 (since he came off the disabled list). So the A's need a new right fielder. Might be you'd say "Jake Smolinski" but apparently the A's are committed enough to continuing the center-field experiment with him that David Forst didn't even say his name to Susan Slusser in the list of Reddick replacements. Instead he said Danny Valencia and Max Muncy, both already on the roster, and Brett Eibner, who it looks like will be added to the roster ... well, to be honest, it's unclear. He was optioned by the Royals on July 29 (and then not called up to the A's after the trade), which would normally say August 8 by the 10-day rule. But Jeremy Koo notes that the 10-day rule doesn't seem to apply at all when a player on optional assignment is acquired and immediately optioned, as happened with Eibner. Maybe there's even another provision walking that provision back, or maybe the intent is to string together the Old Team assignment days with the New Team assignment days and the provision is poorly drafted but would be interpreted as intended. Slusser says we'll get Ladendorf now and Eibner later, and I suppose we'll learn a little something about option rules if that's not the case.
Valencia can match Reddick's offense and Eibner will do the best impression of Reddick's defense, especially when he gets a chance to throw (talk of conversion to the mound won't stop until he's 40), but nobody will put together the full package, adding up to a solidly above-average player overall, that Reddick did. The A's will lose more games because of Reddick's absence unless they catch some kind of weird Mabry-in-a-bottle with Eibner. Obviously, that doesn't matter in terms of 2016's bottom line, but they'll still play those games, and they'll either win them or lose them. Now they'll lose more of them.
Hill was the A's no. 1 starter. He wasn't supposed to start Opening Day, but Hill was ideally going to be the no. 2 behind Sonny Gray and Gray has had an utter Titanic of a season, so even if Hill only pitched like a no. 2/3, he'd be the no. 1. Instead he pitched like an ace, and put up an ERA literally twice as good as every other starter but Kendall Graveman (2.25 to 4.15, with Sean Manaea's 4.57 clocking in at next-best). Jesse Hahn will, according to Slusser, take Hill's rotation spot. Hahn has struck out a batter every other inning this year. The A's will lose more games because of Hill's absence, though it's worth noting that if he keeps missing turns in the rotation as he's done so far (14 starts to Gray/Graveman's 20), Hahn or Daniel Mengden would be taking those starts in any event.
Still, and even figuring that as good as Hill has become on a per-inning basis, it's hard to say he's actually this good, the A's will be noticeably worse every fifth day. Obviously, that doesn't matter in terms of 2016's bottom line, but they'll still play those games, and they'll either win them or lose them. Now they'll lose more of them.
Reddick wasn't going to be in Oakland in 2017. Extension talk was in the A's news all year, and there was even a moment when it seemed the sides weren't that far apart, but one always had to have some doubt because Reddick is objectively worth a whole lot more than the A's have ever given anyone. Whether the A's negotiated in some semblance of good faith or merely kept up appearances and fed the rumor mills so that they could drive up Reddick's price on the trade market is something we can't know. We can know that the realistic question, if the A's didn't contend, was always going to be "qualifying offer or trade?"
Hill is a little weirder. The A's got him substantially cheaper than they got Scott Kazmir in 2014, as befits Hill's age and shorter post-comeback track record, but with an additional great season under his belt, it seems likely that Hill could get a very rich one-year deal or a moderately rich two-year contract this offseason. If the A's gave him a qualifying offer, it seems beyond doubt that he'd accept it: nobody would offer him a contract worth more than $16 million if they had to pay up a draft pick as well. So the question with Hill was a little different: did they want him at 15 to 20 percent of their 2017 payroll, or did they want prospects? Or, to put a little more context on those bones, did they want him + Billy Butler + Jed Lowrie + Coco Crisp's weirdly-gonna-vest option + Ryan Madson + John Axford at $61 million when the entire team made $81 million in 2016? (Even without Crisp, it's $48 million.) So a trade seems like the most obvious thing.
It's not entirely clear to me whether you'd call Grant Holmes, still in High-A but maybe still a starter, the headliner, or whether that label gets stuck to Frankie Montas, who's in Triple-A and throws 100, but is hurt and has been a future reliever since the day of his conception in June 1992. Really, though, that question only matters to bloggers trying to figure out what order to do their blogs in. So let's start with Holmes.
Basic basics: 22nd overall pick out of high school in 2014, consensus top-100 prospect ever since, done a level per year in his two full pro seasons despite being the second-youngest pitcher in the 2015 Midwest League (behind Justus Sheffield, also traded at this deadline) and the 2016 Cal League (Ryan Castellani), doesn't have prototypical starter size at just 6-foot-1, supposedly bats left-handed.
Baseball Prospectus' Wilson Karaman saw him in April of this year and saw a low-90s fastball, an above-average curve, and not enough changeup or command to see a big-league starter right away (but also not little enough to bury him). Other writeups at BP have noted "elite arm speed" and the staff 2014 re-draft would have taken him 15th, a seven-spot jump from his actual slot. Eric Longenhagen thinks his command can recover, which would allow him to reach his upside in the middle of a big-league rotation.
We've got to be talking about mid-2018 at the earliest for Holmes, which would mean a year at Double-A and half a season at Triple-A, and for someone battling his command and mechanics, that sounds quick. So call it summer 2019 instead, which is to say "the beginning of the next Presidential campaign."
Frankie Montas also doesn't have starter height (6-foot-2) and he's absolutely got reliever girth (listed at 255). Weirdly (worrisomely?), he's been traded three times already: He signed with the Red Sox in the Dominican Republic, went to Chicago 3 1/2 seasons later, to the Dodgers 2 1/2 seasons after that, and now to the A's another half season after that. He's bounced around in some distinguished deals, though, as he was the highlight of the Jake Peavy haul in 2013, and he was the most exciting player the Dodgers got in the weird Todd Frazier three-way deal last offseason.
Even if he's probably a reliever due to his lack of changeup and stamina, you'll take a fastball prospect writers grade as a future 80 out of the bullpen, especially if the slider is also above-average. If you think Sean Doolittle is fun at the end of games, wait until he's paired with Montas.
The piker here is Jharel Cotton, and he was still BP's no. 10 Dodgers prospect before the season in a good system. He's even smaller than the other two (not even six feet), and he's got no pedigree at all ($1,000 bonus, 20th round), but he's worked his way into a possibility of a career in the rotation by throwing in the low 90s with a very good changeup and putting up good numbers all the way up the minor-league chain. His strikeout rate has actually gone up at each level, peaking at 11 per nine innings in Triple-A, though that's paired with a near-5 ERA.
The roster situation for each of the three newbies: Holmes is not on the 40-man and won't have to be added until the 2018 Rule 5 draft; Cotton has used his first option year this season; and Montas can be optioned freely for one more season.
Odds seem good, then, that Montas will be in the A's bullpen next year, assuming he's healthy, that Cotton will get a September call-up this year and a midseason shot at a big-league role next year, and that Holmes will keep being a prospect until he's traded this offseason for Andrew McCutchen's last pre-free agency season.
I've seen mixed reactions out there in the wilds of the internet about Reddick leaving. He can be frustrating to watch, flailing at lefty sliders and never seeming to live up to what appear to be immense physical gifts. He can also be irritating to watch, slamming his helmet after every strikeout or inning-ending roll-over to second base. In the end, though, I saw too much of my own failings in his (I was a goodie-two-shoes coach's favorite who, without fail, got yelled at 10 times a year for throwing stuff; I ran laps around the outfield for a solid 90 minutes during one practice my senior year of high school, then won the Coach's Award at the end of the season) to judge him or even to be turned off by watching him. I won't have moment-based memories of his time in Oakland so much as general impressionistic ones: the lanky swing, all parabolas and levers; the flopping hair, vaguely gross, but a trademark nonetheless; Captain of the Pie Squad; the long windup on his throws, with exactly the same coefficients in the equation as on his swing; and the general sense of "wish a mother would" every time a runner stopped at second on a groundball single to right field.
For all that, though, I'm not sure Reddick would crack my list of 25 favorite A's position players. On the one hand, sure, on the list as it stands at that link, in 2011, he probably slots in at no. 22, between Rickey Henderson and Ryan Sweeney, knocking Ryan Christenson off the end. On the other hand, the intervening years might have added enough other favorites to push Reddick past 25 himself: John Jaso, Billy Burns, and Seth Smith (I didn't pick the alliteratives on purpose) are definitely going on the list, Marcus Semien could easily get there, and I'd like to think Matt Chapman's headed for the top 10 basically the day he debuts.
The point, in other words, is that I'm not so much clear-headed about the prospects the A's got as I am just generally not that broken up about losing Reddick one way or another. If they'd traded him for three nobodies, would I wonder what the hell was going on? Sure. Would I wonder why I even bother with baseball? Sure. But would I feel the way I did the day Mark Ellis was traded? Ben Grieve? Mark McGwire? Nah. It was never in the cards. There's no shade here. It's not about him per se. He's just not one of my guys. Let's face it: Cust, Giambi, Stairs, Durazo, Fasano, Steinbach? My guys are fat. Reddick was doomed from the start.
As for Hill? Fourteen games, even if they were brilliant, just isn't enough. It doesn't help that he was out the door the day he signed his contract. The chatter was nonstop: If the A's didn't compete, Hill would net them some sweet sweet prospects. It's like the old The Dugout thing: "HEY GUYS IT'S RI" but before he could even get to the "RICH HILL" we'd all jumped in to figure out whether he might fetch a top-100 youngster from the Astros or Cubs come July.
Who Won the Trade
Nobody wins trades; there are only losers.