Athletics

A's trade Danny Valencia to Mariners

A's trade Danny Valencia to Mariners

The A’s made their first significant deal of the offseason by trading Danny Valencia to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday for minor league right-hander Paul Blackburn.

The move hardly comes as a surprise as Valencia lost the starting third base job to Ryon Healy in July and didn’t appear to be in the team’s plans looking ahead to 2017. Blackburn, an East Bay native who attended Heritage High School in Brentwood, was a first-round supplemental pick (No. 56 overall) of the Cubs in 2012. He was shipped to Seattle in July as part of the deal that sent left-hander Mike Montgomery to the eventual World Series champs.

“They had expressed interest in Danny right after the season,” A’s general manager David Forst said of the Mariners. “We took some steps in adding to the pitching depth with (the players received in) the Reddick and Hill trade. But it’s clear we need to have a rotation in place we can build around to be competitive again.”

Valencia’s departure leaves the A’s without one of their most productive right-handed bats. He hit .287 with 17 homers (third on the club) and 51 RBI last season but also garnered negative headlines when he punched teammate Billy Butler in a clubhouse altercation, leaving Butler with a concussion. Butler eventually was released in September.

There were other occasional issues, including a lack of hustle at times, that didn’t always sit well with the A’s brass. But it’s worth noting that Valencia earned praise from manager Bob Melvin for the way he handled his July demotion and his willingness to play wherever needed on the diamond. Forst also had complimentary words Saturday for Valencia, who the A’s will now see in the opposing dugout often as he suits up for an American League West rival.

“He did a nice job in our lineup,” Forst said. “This was about an opportunity to get a young starting pitcher we really like. ... It's always nice to bring an East Bay product back home.”

Blackburn, who turns 23 next month, was rated the Cubs’ No. 19 prospect by Baseball America before the 2016 season began. He went 9-5 with a 3.27 ERA in 26 games (25 starts) at Double-A split between the Cubs’ and Mariners’ organizations. He’s started in 85 of his 90 professional games, and he features a fastball that touches 94 miles per hour to go with a curve and changeup, all of which are considered above-average pitches. His control is said to be a strength.

“It’s my second time being traded within five months, it’s just crazy,” Blackburn said. “Mid-November, that doesn’t cross your mind at all.”

Blackburn grew up a Giants fan but attended lots of games at the Coliseum as a youth. He said his phone rang non-stop Saturday as word spread the A’s had acquired him.

Blackburn was asked to describe his approach on the mound.

“I’m not gonna go out and try to strike a lot people out. That’s not who I am,” he said. “The goal is to see how many people I can get out on three pitches or less. A lot of good things happen when you keep the ball on the ground.”

Blackburn joins a stable of quality young starters the A’s have acquired over the last couple of years. Sean Manaea is locked into a rotation spot for next season and fellow rookie Jharel Cotton is a strong candidate as well for one of those five spots. Raul Alcantara and Daniel Mengden are among others who saw major league time last season, and Blackburn joins a group of highly regarded minor league arms that includes Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas, who both came over from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade deadline deal last summer.

But bolstering the outfield remains a top priority as the A’s need to acquire a center fielder and find someone for right field, where Valencia was an option. Mark Canha, who’s been working out at Cal, is coming along well after hip surgery and will factor into the equation.

“We need major league outfielders,” Forst said. “We have to be (open) to any means of acquiring, whether it’s free agents or trades. It’s certainly not our history to be aggressive at the top end of the free agent market, but we have money to spend and we have some good options. Mark Canha coming back will help fill this gap.”

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Mark Canha

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Mark Canha

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Mark Canha is coming off the best season of his career.

The 29-year-old slashed .249/.328/.449 with a career-high 17 home runs and 52 RBI. Canha also set or matched career-highs in doubles, walks, OPS, OPS+, and WAR.

The San Jose native feasted on left-handed pitching, slashing .282/.337/.604 with 13 homers in 149 at-bats. The 13 round-trippers off southpaws were tied for second in the American League.

Canha earned $547,500 in 2018 and is projected to get a healthy raise to $2.1 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Canha tears up left-handed pitching and could be a solid starting option in left field against southpaws. His versatility is valuable as well, as he can play any outfield position, not to mention first base. He can also provide a nice power option off the bench.

Canha has become a very popular player in the A's clubhouse and his excitement for hitting home runs is contagious. His "Bat Flippin' Season" t-shirts are a huge hit among players and fans alike, and his personality represents the A's well. Canha's departure would represent a significant loss both on the field and in the clubhouse.

Why he might be too pricey

The A's already have a crowded outfield and Canha is probably only a platoon player in the outfield. Stephen Piscotty and Ramon Laureano have basically locked up everyday roles in right and center, so Canha would likely only start in left field against left-handed pitchers. The A's might decide that $2.1 million is too much for that type of role, especially since they also have younger outfield options in Chad Pinder and Dustin Fowler. While Canha can also play first base, Matt Olson is extremely durable, having played in all 162 games this past season.

Verdict

We're leaning toward Canha returning to Oakland for another season. Between his power hitting ability and clubhouse personality, he provides plenty of value to the team. Canha's versatility might be his best trait, as he can fill in at any outfield position as well as first base, and you can never have too much depth. For just over $2 million, Canha is a solid bet to remain in green and gold in 2019.

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Blake Treinen

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Blake Treinen

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Blake Treinen was nearly perfect in 2018. The A's closer allowed just seven earned runs the entire season. Seven!

Treinen went 9-2 with 38 saves and a league-leading 0.78 ERA, along with a 0.83 WHIP. He notched 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings, becoming the first pitcher ever to record 30 saves and 100 strikeouts with an ERA under one.

For his efforts, Treinen was named an All-Star for the first time in his career. He will likely receive votes for the Cy Young Award as well.

Treinen, 30, earned just $2.15 million in 2018 and is projected to get $5.8 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

If $5.8 million does end up being the number, it would be an incredible bargain for the A's. Treinen has established himself as an elite closer, perhaps the best in the game. Not only does he have dominant stuff, but he can pitch multiple innings. The A's were nearly unbeatable when leading after seven innings last season, and Treinen was the primary reason why. His 98 mph sinker is one of the most unhittable pitches in baseball, and at just 30 years of age, the talented right-hander shows no signs of slowing down.

Why he might be too pricey

As with Khris Davis, it's hard to even make a legitimate argument here. Some people in the baseball world believe closers are unnecessary, but even they would probably admit that $5.8 million is a bargain for a pitcher as talented as Treinen. The only question is whether the two sides will agree to terms before arbitration.

Verdict

Treinen will be back in Oakland next season. He will almost certainly be back in 2020 as well, as he will again be under team arbitration control. Treinen was the MVP of the A's bullpen, and probably the entire pitching staff. He figures to be just as valuable moving forward and should have Oakland's pen near the top of baseball again. Oakland may try to lock Treinen up with a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent in 2021.