Athletics

A's land Piscotty without giving up any of their top prospects

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USATSI

A's land Piscotty without giving up any of their top prospects

The A’s finalized their trade for St. Louis outfielder Stephen Piscotty, sending two minor league infield prospects to the Cardinals in return.

Shortstop Yairo Munoz and second baseman Max Schrock were ranked 13th and 17th, respectively, on the A’s current list of prospects by mlb.com.

Both have upside but it’s fair to say Oakland pulled off this deal for a starting outfielder without giving up any of the premium guys in their farm system. A quick rundown on each prospect:

Munoz, 22, hit .300 with 13 homers, 68 RBI and 22 stolen bases last year split time between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. His raw talent and all-around tools made him an intriguing prospect. Munoz primarily is a shortstop but bounced all around the infield last season. The A’s even experimented with him in center field, and it would have been interesting to see if Munoz could have emerged as a possibility in center at the major league level eventually.

But with prospects climbing through the system such as shortstop Jorge Mateo, third baseman Sheldon Neuse and, over at second base, top prospect Franklin Barreto — not to mention shortstop Richie Martin, a former first-round pick whose hitting has held him back thus far — the A’s appear to have dealt from depth in trading Munoz.

Schrock, 23, was acquired in August 2016 from the Washington Nationals for reliever Marc Rzepczynski. He hit .321 for Midland last season and made the Texas League Midseason and Postseason All-Star teams. He’s an offense-first second baseman who impressed with his all-around approach and knowledge of the strike zone. A’s manager Bob Melvin praised Schrock in his first look at him last spring in major league camp. At 5-foot-8, he’s the type of player that naturally will get overlooked when compared to other more highly touted guys in a farm system.

The A’s just dealt another second baseman from their system in Joey Wendle earlier in the week. But with Barreto considered the A’s second baseman of the future, and Chad Pinder available to handle second as well being starter Jed Lowrie, Oakland was in good enough shape depth-wise to deal Schrock.

Interesting to note: Thursday’s trade was the first between the A’s and Cardinals since 2009, the season Oakland shipped Matt Holliday to St. Louis after a disappointing first half of the season. Since the 2014 trade deadline, the A’s have swung trades with 24 of the other 29 teams in the majors.

Why new MLB rules could mean A's won't bring back Ryan Buchter in 2020

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USATSI

Why new MLB rules could mean A's won't bring back Ryan Buchter in 2020

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who may or may not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Ryan Buchter, LHP

Contract: Second year of arbitration (projected to get $1.8 million after earning $1.4 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

Buchter did exactly what the A's brought him in to do -- retire left-handed hitters. The 32-year-old southpaw limited lefties to a .238 batting average, with 33 strikeouts and seven walks.

Buchter's overall numbers were respectable as well. He went 1-1 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 45 1/3 innings. That follows a 6-0 record in 2018 with a 2.75 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

Reasons to let him go

With MLB changing its rules next season to require a pitcher to face a minimum of three batters, Buchter will lose a lot of value. The so-called LOOGY (left-handed one-out guy) role will disappear and lefty specialists will have to face some right-handers as well.

Right-handed hitter batted .274 off Buchter with 17 strikeouts, compared to 16 walks. While his overall ERA was under 3.00, Buchter allowed 15 of his 36 inherited runners to score, a rate of 41.7 percent. That's nearly 10 points higher than the league average of 32 percent.

Final verdict

Buchter had some good stretches over the past two seasons, but with rule changes and his high walk and hit rate, it's probably time for the A's to move on without him.

[RELATED: Why A's reliever Treinen could be non-tender candidate]

Right-handed hitters notched a .904 OPS against Buchter this season in 83 plate appearances. That will be an even bigger problem next year. Oakland can find better relievers for that $1.8 million price tag.

While $1.8 million is an affordable number, Oakland seems unlikely to bring Buchter back in 2020.

Why A's need to address bullpen this offseason, according to MLB.com

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AP

Why A's need to address bullpen this offseason, according to MLB.com

The A's bullpen relied on different faces in 2019, but it was once again strong. 

Liam Hendriks emerged as the team's closer, while one-time stalwarts Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino struggled to reach their 2018 heights. Still, the A's finished the season seventh in bullpen ERA (3.89), third in FIP (3.98) and fourth in WAR (6.9). In 2018, the A's ranked third, 11th and sixth in those respective categories. 

Oakland's relievers also led the majors in blown saves (30), and the group could be due for a lot of turnover in 2020. September call-ups Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk are headed to the rotation, while the A's will have to make decisions on Treinen, Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit. Writing for MLB.com Friday, Will Leitch argued that the A's should embrace change in their bullpen this offseason.

"The A’s keep falling short in the AL Wild Card Game, but considering where the Astros are likely to be next year, that may be their ceiling again," Leitch wrote. "So more arms might be the answer for a team whose lineup looks to be terrific top to bottom in 2020."

Relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Will Smith and Kenley Jansen almost certainly will be out of the A's price range this winter, but there is a long list of free-agent options to re-tool their bullpen on the fly. Plus, the A's have intriguing pitching prospects in Daulton Jeffries, James Kaprielian and Grant Holmes who conceivably could follow in Luzardo and Puk's footsteps by making their big league debuts out of the 'pen.

[RELATED: Ex-Athletic Maxwell still receives death threats after protest]

Given the rollercoaster nature of relief pitching, though, standing pat is an option. Now healthy, Treinen and Trivino seem like good candidates to bounce back in 2020, and regression to their respective career means would give manager Bob Melvin more options in the later innings. 

The A's surely would like more consistency from their bullpen in 2019, but the results weren't all that far off from the group that was Oakland's strength in 2018. A few tweaks might be just what the A's need for perception to match reality.