Financial implications aside, how the Oakland Athletics fared in the August 1 trade-deadline deal that sent Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to the New York Yankees in exchange for Cooper Bowman, Luis Medina, JP Sears, and Ken Waldichuk won’t be known for at least a few more years. Two of the players who headed west made their big-league debuts last summer, while the others finished their respective seasons in Double-A and High-A. The extent to which the foursome goes on to thrive — or flop — can’t be predicted with any degree of certainty.
David Forst is understandably bullish on the quartet. Three-plus months after he pulled the trigger on the trade, I asked Oakland’s GM what he found appealing about each acquisition.
“We think Waldichuk has a chance to be a top-of-the rotation arm, and we certainly saw glimpses of that in the big leagues,” Forst said of the 24-year-old left-hander, who is No. 69 our Top 100 Prospects list. “With him, it’s the physicality, the fastball command, and the swing-and-miss he gets with three different pitches. I think Ken has a huge upside.
“Upside is the whole conversation with Medina,” continued Forst. “Huge arm, huge fastball. Whether he remains a starter or not, we’ll see. He’s pitching really well in the Dominican [Winter League] right now. I know that he wants to remain as a starter, but he has to improve his command.”
No. 92 our Top 100, the 23-year-old Medina averaged 10.4 strikeouts and six walks per nine innings in Double-A. According to our lead prospect analyst, Eric Longenhagen, Medina sits 94-98 and has topped out at 102 mph. Sears, who went into last season No. 25 in our Yankees rankings, doesn’t throw nearly as hard. The 26-year-old southpaw’s fastball averaged 93.2 mph over 70 big-league innings. Forst cited his changeup as being “kind of an equalizer,” adding that deception and movement allow Sears’s heater to play up.
Sears logged a 3.86 ERA and a 4.21 FIP this year, while the aforementioned Waldichuk had a 4.93 ERA and a 4.29 FIP in his 34-and-two-thirds big-league innings.
The organization from which the trio of hurlers were acquired is part of what prompted my asking Forst about their appeal. Did the Yankees’ reputation for having a top-notch pitching development program factor into the decision to choose this particular prospect package?
“Looking from the outside, we don’t specifically know what the Yankees are doing,” responded the executive, who reiterated earlier claims that a number of teams expressed interest in trading for Montas. “It’s hard to quantify that. But we trust our own scouting, and our internal numbers to evaluate. We obviously saw Waldichuk and Sears in college, so we had history with them, as well. So, it was less about what their organization is doing, and more about how we evaluate.”
Waldichuk was drafted in the fifth round by the Yankees in 2019, Sears by the Seattle Mariners in the 11th round two years earlier. Forst couldn’t recall how close his club might have come to drafting either (Medina was signed as an international free agent) but he did have recollections of Bowman.
“We came close to drafting Cooper, the other player we got in the deal,” Forst said of the 22-year-old infielder, whom New York selected five picks in front of Oakland’s fourth-round selection (Denzel Clarke) in 2021. “He was out of Louisville and I remember liking him a lot. He’s a guy we think has both versatility and upside. He’s got a high baseball IQ.”
How high the unranked Bowman rises in the Oakland organization is of course what matters most. Ditto the degree to which Medina, Sears and/or Waldichuk go on to help the A’s win baseball games. Financial relief alone doesn’t make for a good trade. Some combination of the foursome will need to prove Oakland’s evaluators right.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Andujar Cedeno went 1 for 5 against Matt Turner.
Danny Klassen went 2 for 4 against Sterling Hitchcock.
Ossee Schrecongost went 3 for 3 against Harry Kane.
Carlos Gomez went 4 for 5 against John Bale.
Junior Felix went 2 for 11 against Scott Erickson.
Hank Sauer went 1 for 1 against Dan Lewandowski.
Victor Mesa Jr. hopes to one day take the field in a Miami Marlins uniform, and while that possibility exists, another of his dreams is unrealistic due to geography. In a perfect world, the 21-year-old prospect would be playing for FC Barcelona, and ideally in the World Cup. A native of La Habana, Cuba who came stateside four years ago, Mesa is not only an outstanding athlete, he’s an avid fan of “The Beautiful Game.”
Had the speedy outfielder been born elsewhere, he would probably be wearing a kit and playing on a pitch.
“I’m not a soccer player because in Cuba we could only be baseball players,” Mesa told me prior to an Arizona Fall League game. “Soccer doesn’t have that much future there. But it is something I would love to do. If I were to born again, I would like to play soccer. I wear the number 10 because of [Lionel] Messi.”
The Argentine legend is a big reason that Mesa closely follows FC Barcelona; before going to Paris Saint-Germain last year, the 35-year-old striker starred for the La Liga powerhouse for nearly two decades. Mesa also follows Atlético de Madrid — Antoine Griezmann is another of his favorites — and he will sometimes watch English Premier League matches, usually when Manchester City and its mega-star striker Erling Haaland plays a Liverpool, an Arsenal, or a Chelsea.
Mesa was a striker himself — “I’m like Haaland; I smell the goal!” — and he professes to still be dangerous in the box. He’s definitely charismatic. That quality shone brightly after I told him about the conversation I had with Randy Arozarena this past August. The Tampa Bay Rays outfielder shared a similar story to his, saying that soccer was his best sport growing up, but baseball provided a better opportunity. Asked when he stopped playing soccer, Arozarena said that he never has stopped.
“Tell Randy Arozarena that I challenge him to play soccer,” Mesa said with a broad smile. “Any time he wants, I’ll be ready. But talk is just talk. That one day we play, then we can talk about who is better.”
Which pitcher holds the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals franchise record for most career wins?
The answer can be found below.
Kansas City Royals broadcaster Steve Physioc is retiring after 43 years behind the mic. Jake Eisenberg, a guest on FanGraphs Audio earlier this year, will replace Physioc in the Royals’ radio booth.
Dave Hillman, who pitched for four teams — most notably the Chicago Cubs — from 1955-1962, died last weekend at age 95. Born Darius Dutton Hillman, in Dungannon, Virginia, the right-hander’s best season came with the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels, for whom he went 21-7 in 1956.
Per the Pacific Northwest Professional Baseball Scouts Association, the mother of Tampa Bay Rays prospect Kyle Manzardo needs a heart replacement. A GoFundMe has been established and can be found here.
The answer to the quiz is Steve Rogers, who was credited with 158 wins while pitching for the Expos from 1973-1985. Steven Strasburg is second in franchise history with 113 wins, while Dennis Martinez is third with 100.
How organizations structure and implement their hitting and pitching development programs is of interest to me, and I recently broached that subject with Arizona’s Mike Hazen. According to the Diamondbacks GM, his team has made minor tweaks to both in recent years. Most notable is the building of a more-cohesive relationship between the majors and minors.
“We created a structure where we have some of our coaches going down to the minor leagues to bridge the transition from Triple-A,” explained Hazen. “We have our third hitting coach and third pitching coach, and at times our second hitting coach and second pitching coach, go down to the upper affiliates. There’s a connect they’ll bring down, message-wise, from Strommy [pitching coach Brent Strom] and [hitting coach] Joe Mather.
“That especially benefited us on the pitching side this year, with guys like [Ryne] Nelson and [Drey] Jameson coming up,” continued Hazen. “On the hitting side, Jake McCarthy was optioned twice, and he came back better both times. We’ve tried to clean some of that up, because it hadn’t been the case for us over the past couple of years.”
Asked if there have been any philosophical changes to either program, Hazen said “nothing is drastically different,” that the D-Backs have simply tried to improve their processes. “I don’t know that there has been anything groundbreaking,” added Hazen. “But we do have good coaches. I think we also have a lot of talented, young players.”
The D-Backs farm system ranks sixth in MLB, with five players in our Top 100. Most notable are Corbin Carroll at No. 4, and Druw Jones at No. 16.
Chris Oxspring has made four appearances and allowed two runs in 10 innings with the Australian Baseball League’s Sydney Blue Sox. The 45-year-old right-hander pitched in five games for the San Diego Padres in 2005.
Adam Bates has made two appearances and allowed a pair of runs in three innings with the Blue Sox. The 17-year-old right-hander, a native of Sydney, is the youngest player in the ABL.
Tyler Tolbert has 16 hits in 47 at-bats, and has been successful in five of six stolen base attempts, with the Brisbane Bandits. The 24-year-old infielder/outfielder in the Kansas City Royals system had 60 steals without being caught — but also a lackluster .653 OPS — this year with the High-A Quad Cities River Bandits.
Beau Sulser has reportedly signed with the KBO’s KT Wiz. The 28-year-old right-hander made his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates last April, was subsequently signed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles in May, then reacquired by the Pirates via waivers last month. Sulser appeared in six games and had a 3.63 ERA between the two clubs.
Orlando Calixte has reportedly signed with NPB’s Chunichi Dragons. The 30-year-old native of Santo Domingo played in two games for the Kansas City Royals in 2015, and in 29 games with the San Francisco Giants in 2017. He spent this past season with Sultanes de Monterrey in the Mexican League.
Steven Moyers is 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA in six starts comprising 29 innings with Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League. The 29-year-old University of Rhode Island product pitched in the Chicago White Sox system this year before being released in August.
You can have either Aaron Judge or Manny Machado, and money isn’t a factor. I presented that option in a Twitter poll earlier this week, and the results were intriguingly close. Of the 500-plus people who voted, 53.1% opted for the reigning American League MVP, while 46.9% went with the All-Star third baseman.
Judge is obviously coming off a season for the ages. The free-agent outfielder bashed 62 home runs while putting up a 207 wRC+ and 11.4 WAR with the New York Yankees. Machado homered 32 times while putting up a 152 wRC+ and 7.4 WAR with the San Diego Padres. Judge has a 163 wRC+ and 36.1 WAR since debuting in 2016, while Machado has a 124 wRC+ and 46.6 WAR since debuting with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012.
Health and reliability presumably factored into the poll results. Machado, who is two months younger than Judge, has played in 150 or more games eight times in his nine full (162-game) seasons. Judge has played in 150 or more games twice in his five full seasons.
Both project as Hall of Famers. As for which of the two performs better over the next five seasons… again, the poll results were intriguingly close. It will be interesting to look back at this five years from now.
My April 5, 2020 Sunday Notes column included the story of a bet between a then-18-year-old Paul O’Neill and a hockey prospect named Bruce Holloway who went on to play in two games with the Vancouver Canucks in the 1984-1985 season. Nearly three decades later, the latter’s son is playing with the Edmonton Oilers. Yesterday afternoon, 21-year-old Dylan Holloway scored his first NHL goal in Edmonton’s 4-3 win over the New York Rangers. Congrats to the Holloways.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Olivia Pichardo is making history as the first female athlete in NCAA Division I history to be named to a varsity baseball roster. Amanda McGregor wrote about the 18-year-old Brown University outfielder/pitcher for the school’s website.
Brew Crew Ball’s Jack Stern looked at the Tuesday trade that sent Hunter Renfroe from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for a trio of young pitchers.
Terre Haute, Indiana native Tim Herrin was added to the Cleveland Guardians’ 40-man roster, and Joey Bennett wrote about it for the Tribune-Star.
The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel talked to Pirates farm director John Baker about some Pittsburgh prospects. (Subscription required.)
The Good Phight’s Ethan White wonders if any of three Detroit Tigers relievers would be a good fit for the Phillies.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Lou Whitaker struck out 1,099 times and walked 1,197 times. Javier Báez has struck out 1,100 times and walked 182 times.
Bryce Harper has 1,379 hits, including 285 home runs, and a 141 wRC+ through his age-29 season. Prince Fielder had 1,352 hits, including 285 home runs, and a 140 wRC+ through his age-29 season.
Cedric Mullins has 1,765 career plate appearances, 53 home runs, 135 walks, and 226 runs scored. Harrison Bader has 1,764 career plate appearances, 52 home runs, 137 walks, and 229 runs scored.
Andy Pettitte had 256 wins, 521 starts, and 26 complete games. Jack Morris had 254 wins, 527 starts, and 175 complete games.
Mike Maddux went 2-0 in his career versus the Seattle Mariners, allowing eight runs over 21-and-a-third innings, with 14 strikeouts. He had the exact same numbers against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ted Williams had 2,654 hits and 130.4 WAR. Doc Cramer had 2,705 hits and 9.4 WAR.
The New York Yankees acquired Graig Nettles from the Cleveland Indians as part of a six-player trade on today’s date in 1972. Nettles went on to play 11 seasons with the Yankees, hitting 250 home runs, winning a pair of Gold Gloves, making five All-Star teams, and earning a pair of World Series rings.
The Baltimore Orioles acquired John Lowenstein off waivers from the Texas Rangers on today’s date in 1978. The left-handed-hitter became a valuable platoon outfielder for Earl Weaver’s Orioles, batting .320 with 24 home runs in 1982, and making a major contribution to Baltimore’s 1983 World Series championship team. Lowenstein’s 881 career hits are the most for a player born in the state of Montana.
Players born on today’s date include Dave Giusti, a right-handed pitcher who saw action with five teams from 1962-1977. The Seneca, New York native had 47 wins and three saves in six seasons with the Houston Colt .45s/Astros, and 47 wins and 133 saves in seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Also born on today’s date was Jason Beverlin, whose big-league comprised seven games — four with the Cleveland Indians and three with the Detroit Tigers — in 2002. A native of Ashtabula, Ohio who attended high school in Royal Oak, Michigan, Beverlin is currently the pitching coach at Coastal Carolina University.