Joey Wendle initially joined the A’s in 2014, coming over in a trade with the Cleveland Indians for Brandon Moss, who was productive but on the eve of arbitration in Oakland.
As Wendle came up through Oakland’s farm system, it appeared that there would be a logjam at the second base position, where Wendle played primarily throughout his minor league career. Franklin Barreto was a highly-touted prospect and Jed Lowrie seemed to have a firm grasp on the starting position, so the A’s traded Wendle in 2017 to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league catcher, Jonah Heim. Now playing in the World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays, Wendle holds no ill will toward the A’s, and simply was thrilled to be getting an opportunity with the Rays.
“I don’t know if it was necessarily that they completely gave up on me other than where they were as an organization,” Wendle said (h/t San Francisco Chronicle). “They had a young prospect (Franklin Barreto) who was looking very promising at second base behind me. They had an older player in Jed Lowrie ahead of me.
"I think it was just more of what their roster needed.”
Both Tampa Bay and Oakland operate with similar philosophies, organizations that don’t tend to carry excessive payrolls and rely heavily on analytics and player development to maximize production of each and every player.
“There are definitely some similarities in terms of how they find value in players that maybe other organizations don’t see,” Wendle said. “I think there are some differences, too, from top to bottom. Not to say one is better than the other, but there are differences in just the atmosphere and relationships and things that are a little bit different for me.
“But I’m still close with a lot of people in the Oakland organization, and there are a lot of good people there who do things the right way as well.”
Heim made his MLB debut in 2020, hitting .211 with five RBI over 38 plate appearances. Switch-hitting isn't a common trend among catchers, and at just 25 years old, Heim certainly factors into the A's future behind the plate alongside burgeoning star Sean Murphy.
Wendle has spent the majority of his time with the Rays this season at third base, including starting each of Tampa Bay’s first two games in the World Series at the hot corner. His versatility makes him so valuable for a playoff team, as he’s able to play shortstop as well, switching over to the position late in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
His three RBI in Wednesday’s Game 2 win helped even the series in the 2020 Fall Classic, with Game 3 set for Friday at Globe Life Field.