Athletics

A's trade Sonny Gray to Yankees

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USATI

A's trade Sonny Gray to Yankees

OAKLAND — The A’s turned rumor into reality Monday by dealing staff ace Sonny Gray to the New York Yankees just an hour or so before the non-waiver trade deadline.

In return, the A’s received three of the Yankees’ top-rated prospects — infielder/outfielder Jorge Mateo, right-hander James Kaprielian and outfielder Dustin Fowler. It’s a highly regarded trio but a risky return package in that Kaprielian is out for this season recovering from Tommy John surgery and Fowler suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this month.

Thus ends the speculation on where the trade deadline’s most talked about pitcher would end up. The only question for the A’s was whether to move their top trade chip now or wait until the offseason, when Gray still would have had value.

Gray is just the latest marquee name to be shipped out of Oakland in recent years, as the A’s appear destined for a third consecutive last-place finish that has once again left them in summer “sell” mode.

Earlier this month, they dealt relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Washington Nationals. Last season saw them deal starter Rich Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick at the deadline. And in 2015 it was starter Scott Kazmir, reliever Tyler Clippard and utility man Ben Zobrist who were traded away for prospects.

The concept of dealing Gray, a 2015 Cy Young finalist, has been speculated going back multiple years. The A’s decided to pull the trigger because the 27-year-old has rebounded with a strong season after a poor 2016 campaign. That — combined with the fact he’s under team control for the next two seasons, keeping him quite affordable — made him very attractive to many contending teams who have been on the hunt for starting pitching.

The A’s have built up the starting pitching depth throughout their organization via the draft and the trades of the past two seasons. That’s one reason they felt secure in dealing Gray, who is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts.

Had they waited until the winter to trade him, they potentially still could have gotten a haul in return. But they also risked a second-half dip in his performance or an injury that would have dented that value. Gray has spent substantial time on the disabled list each of the past two seasons.

But this deal ultimately will be judged on how these prospects the A’s received in return eventually pan out. Mateo, 22, was the Yankees’ No. 4 prospect by Baseball America opening the season. He was at Double-A and batting a combined.258 with eight home runs, 37 RBI and 39 stolen bases in 99 games split between Single-A and Double-A. Center field is said to perhaps be his best position, and he has elite speed. Worth noting: Mateo was suspended last season reportedly for lashing out at Yankee officials over a promotion that didn’t come his way.

Kaprielian, 23, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. He was the 16th overall draft pick in 2015 and was ranked the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect. Fowler, 22, was their No. 10 prospect. He suffered a devastating right knee injury in the first inning of his major league debut earlier this month, rupturing the patella tendon in his right knee. He’s out for the season, but when healthy is considered a five-tool prospect.

The departure of Gray, in particular, will be a tough pill for A’s fans to swallow from the standpoint that he’s the third “Face Of The Franchise”-type player the A’s have cut ties with this season, along with Doolittle and catcher Stephen Vogt, who was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by Milwaukee.

As the 1 p.m. trade deadline hit, there was no sign of the A's trading first baseman Yonder Alonso or any other veterans.

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

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USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.