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July 31, 2014

Transaction Analysis

A's hire A's

by R.J. Anderson, Bret Sayre and Ben Carsley

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American League

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Tommy Milone from the A's in exchange for OF-L Sam Fuld. [7/31]

There are plenty of heralded ways to rebuild an organization, but the Twins, in the way they've handled Sam Fuld, have just completed one of the most overlooked. On April 20th, the Twins claimed Fuld off waivers from the Athletics and carried him on the active roster because they could. The Twins weren't blocking anyone with his presence, nor were they concerned with getting every last tenth of a win out of their roster. They held onto him long enough for the playoff teams to come hunting (as good speed/defense guys are usually sought after by contenders), and this is what happens. Sure, it's not as sexy as trading an established player for prospects, but it all works toward the same goal.

For the cost of rostering Fuld for three months, the Twins get three years of control of a back-of-the-rotation starter who's already shown he can be effective while pitching in a large park. Milone was well out of the Athletics' plans even before they traded for Jon Lester earlier today, and Billy Beane was kind enough to grant him his trade request once he dropped to eighth on Oakland's starting pitching depth chart. The Twins certainly know what they're getting here—Milone is a soft-tosser who is not going to suddenly develop into even a mid-rotation starter. For a team that is currently using Logan Darnell and Yohan Pino (not to mention the lovable Kevin Correia), rotation depth is key, as is a pitcher who can throw 200 innings at a replacement-level rate. History will cite Milone's 3.11 home ERA for the Athletics, and while Target Field will likely not be as friendly to his profile, it should shield him against the long ball enough to be useful to the Twins. Milone will, at worst, hold down the fort until the Twins start graduating pitching prospects, like Alex Meyer and Trevor May—both of whom are currently one level away. At best, he can be a back-end starter on a hopeful Twins team in 2016 and 2017.

As for right now, Milone will make his way to Triple-A Rochester, but that's expected to be a very temporary move; he threw six innings on Tuesday night for Sacramento. The homer-prone left-hander will get his chance to make an impression on the Twin Cities before long, and should spend the majority of August and September showing the benefits of sound roster management. —Bret Sayre

Fantasy Impact

Tommy Milone

This move is certainly a plus for Milone’s limited fantasy value. He is not going to a more favorable ball park, league, or team, but he now has a better chance of cracking the rotation. Yes, the Twins just optioned him to Triple-A, but given their rotation I am guessing he replaces either Yohan Pino or Logan Darnell shortly. Milone was not mixed-league relevant nor will he be on the Twins, but this move certainly makes him useful in AL-only and very deep leagues, particularly for owners scouring for wins or even Ks. Even better, Milone will help you in those categories without hurting your ERA or WHIP and he may even help.

Twins' Bottom of the Rotation

They were providing zero or negative value; thus, there is no value to be lost.

Alex Meyer and Trevor May

Milone just adds another potential way for the Twins to justify stalling a callup for one of their advanced minor-league arms. It would be a shame if we had to witness someone besides Phil Hughes striking out more than four batters per outing.

Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelee

Colabello, who has been playing against only lefties of late, will most likely replace Fuld against righties. (This is not a good thing for your batting average/on-base percentage). The arrow is up for Parmelee because he now will probably maintain a spot somewhere in the starting lineup even when Joe Mauer returns.

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Acquired OF-L Sam Fuld from the Twins in exchange for LHP Tommy Milone. [7/31]
Acquired LHP Jon Lester, OF-R Jonny Gomes, and cash considerations from the Red Sox in exchange for OF-R Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance draft pick (slot no. 2). [7/31]

(Note: The Red Sox portion of this transaction will run separately on the site today.)

The A's entered Thursday as the best team in a season that features few other colossi. The only thing separating Oakland from the World Series, Billy Beane had to think, was the pesky variance that rules the postseason. And so Beane, in an effort to outpace the Angels and escape the Wild Card game, made another blockbuster trade aimed at winning now and in October.

Lester, in the midst of a career-best year by any measure, becomes the top starter in the A's rotation—no small feat, considering the presences of Sonny Gray and Jeff Samardzija. He works with a three-pitch arsenal—fastball, cutter, and curveball—that plays deeper thanks to his command; he can wrap his curveball around lefties just as easily as he front-doors his cutter to righties, opening avenues that wouldn't seem available based on having just three pitches. Though his durability doesn't necessarily matter to the A's—not unless they re-sign him—he has avoided the disabled list since 2011, and has topped 190 innings in each of the past seven years. Between Lester's production and reliability, it's no wonder he's one of the finest pitchers in the game.

Those same qualities will make it difficult, if not outright impossible, for Beane to retain Lester's services come wintertime. Think of it this way: the mighty Red Sox found Lester's asking price too rich for their budget, so what chance do the A's have? Factor in that Lester, because he was traded during the season, cannot be extended the qualifying offer, and the A's are trading for the impact he can have between now and whenever the season ends. Nothing more.

As for what Lester's addition means to the A's rotation, it seems Jesse Chavez will slide to the bullpen. Chavez's transformation, from a journeyman middle reliever to a starter with a better ERA than the likes of James Shields and Stephen Strasburg, had been one of the league's nicer stories. Oakland's rotation, barring another trade, is just too deep for Chavez to have a spot. He's not the only one affected though. Scott Kazmir, who looks like the Game Two starter a month ago, figures to start Game Four now, and Jason Hammel could be out of the postseason rotation entirely. That's what happens when a good rotation gets better.

Gomes's inclusion, however less exciting than Lester's, makes sense when paired with the subsequent trade for Fuld. Since both incoming outfielders have spent time with Oakland, there should be familiarity with Bob Melvin and his platoonholic ways. That's a good thing, because Gomes and Fuld could be partners in left field due to their contrasting skill sets. Gomes features an offense-heavy profile that relies upon walks and extra-base hits. Fuld packs less punch, but more speed and defense. Although they're unlikely to replace Cespedes' production, together they should keep left field above black-hole status. Alternatively, Fuld could come in handy if Coco Crisp's neck leaves him unavailable, or if Craig Gentry doesn't, for whatever reason, return from his fractured hand in good shape. Such scenarios would leave Brandon Moss or Stephen Vogt splitting left with Gomes.

There's also the matter of Gomes' cult-like standing within the Oakland clubhouse. Whether that provides value or not is unclear, but if it does, then the A's could reap some additional benefits that outsiders might not properly account for.

Because Gomes, like Lester, is a free agent at season's end, this trade is only about the next few months. There are no guarantees that Lester, Gomes, Fuld, and Oakland's other recent acquisitions will be enough to overcome the pitfalls of a short series. Yet there are never guarantees in this game. Besides, Cespedes would've hit the open market himself after next season. That means, in essence, the A's traded an extra year of control to improve their current standing. Beane, who has done a tremendous job building a contender, has done an even better job in July of ensuring it has the best-possible shot at winning the World Series. And isn't that what this is about? - R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Jon Lester

While I'm sure Lester would've enjoyed feasting on NL lineups, landing in Oakland is a great outcome for him. He's going to a better team, which will give him more of an opportunity to grab some wins, and O.co Coliseum could help him lower his ERA a bit, too. Much has been made of the Lester-David Ross battery as of late, and while we'll have to watch how the A's triumvirate of backstops handles Lester, I don’t think there's any cause for concern. I'd probably still rather have Felix Hernandez, and David Price factors into the equation, but there's a pretty good argument to be made for Lester being the second-most valuable fantasy starter in the AL for the rest of 2014.

Jonny Gomes

The worse home ballpark but better supporting cast make the tradeoff for Gomes about even. He'll keep on doing what he does best, mashing lefties, loving ‘murca and … well, that's pretty much it. If you're in a deep mixed or AL-only daily league, feel free to keep starting him against southpaws. If you're in a shallow league, you shouldn't own him.

Jesse Chavez/Jason Hammel

Now that Lester, Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir occupy the first four spots in Oakland's rotation, there's not much room for the back-end starters. The job should be Hammel's for a little while, but given how awful he's been since joining the A's, his hold on said job is likely tenuous at best. Chavez would be next man up, but he's had quite the rough stretch as of late, too. When I asked Bret Sayre for help in handicapping who'll see the most starts for the A's from here on out, he said "whoever doesn't get traded today," which is both unhelpful and probably right. If they both stick, though, I'll put my money on Hammel. —Ben Carsley

Sam Fuld

Sam Fuld was starting in the outfield against righties for the Twins and he will be doing the same for the Athletics for as long as Coco Crisp remains out of the lineup. I think he will still play a good amount when Crisp returns as the A’s could easily DH the ailing Crisp or move Fuld to a corner, while moving Brandon Moss to first base and Stephen Vogt to DH. There is some playing time risk here for Fuld because the As do like to DH John Jaso against righties, while playing Derek Norris at catcher (which would leave three outfield spots for Crisp, Fuld, Moss, and Josh Reddick). The advantage here for Fuld, and thus the flat rating, is being in a better lineup, which should give him a slight boost in runs and RBI.

Billy Burns

I originally thought I would be giving a down arrow here, but in trading away Yoenis Cespedes and Milone for a platoon of Fuld and Johnny Gomes. I do not think that Burns was ever going to play against righties as the A’s started both Cespedes and Reddick in centerfield against the past two righties. Burns started Wednesday’s tilt against Houston lefty Dallas Kuechel. To conclude, Burns value remains the same, as the Athletics centerfielder against lefties, until Craig Gentry or Coco Crisp return.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Oakland Athletics,  Minnesota Twins

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