A's trade former 2B prospect Joey Wendle, who never got a chance to blossom

A's trade former 2B prospect Joey Wendle, who never got a chance to blossom

The A’s swung a trade on the first day of the Winter Meetings, but it wasn’t the type of swap that’s been anticipated.

Oakland dealt second baseman Joey Wendle to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday for a player to be named later or cash considerations. The storyline for the rest of the week is whether the A’s complete a deal for their biggest target— a right-handed hitting corner outfielder.

They weren’t involved in heavy dialogue Monday as the four-day Winter Meetings opened at the Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla. But they’re on the lookout for an outfielder that will allow them to shift Khris Davis from left field to designated hitter.

Billy Beane, the A’s head of baseball operations, reiterated to reporters that the team ideally wants to acquire an outfielder who’s under team control for multiple years. The Cardinals’ Stephen Piscotty fits that bill and is known to be a primary target, but the A’s have been linked to others too, including Miami’s Marcell Ozuna.

If a trade doesn’t pan out, Beane didn’t rule out the possibility of signing a free agent outfielder, but the focus is trading for one who’s signed to an affordable contract. Beyond that, the A’s seek a left-handed reliever to continue fortifying a bullpen they’ve already added to this offseason.

“We were pretty specific with who and what we want, whether it be a free agent or a trade,” Beane said of the team’s approach to the meetings. “There’s a few free agents we have interest in, a trade here and there. And if we don’t get them, we’ll just wait for the offseason” to continue.

Wendle, who saw slices of big league time in 2016 and 2017, was originally acquired from Cleveland for Brandon Moss during the 2014 Winter Meetings. He drew some comparisons to Mark Ellis for both his style of play and work ethic but found himself blocked at second base despite an impressive big league debut in September 2016.

He hit .260 that month in 28 games, and though that average doesn’t stand out, he impressed defensively and proved to be a spark plug hitting leadoff, drawing praise from manager Bob Melvin. But a shoulder injury cost the 27-year-old Wendle valuable time in spring training last season and extended into the regular season. It didn’t help his cause that Chad Pinder emerged as a second base option and valuable utility man, and that Franklin Barreto — the A’s top-rated prospect — also arrived on the big league scene for stretches.

In addition, the A’s think highly of another up-and-coming second base prospect, Max Schrock. Acquired from Washington for reliever Marc Rzepczynski in August 2016, the 23-year-old Schrock opened the eyes of Melvin’s staff last spring and hit .321 for Double-A Midland in 2017.

Jed Lowrie, of course, is the A’s veteran incumbent at second base but is a logical trade candidate at any point given Barreto’s inevitable full-time arrival in the majors.

A's outfielder Stephen Piscotty undergoes MRI on sprained right ankle

A's outfielder Stephen Piscotty undergoes MRI on sprained right ankle

OAKLAND -- Just when the A's outfield appeared to be nearing a return to full health, Oakland manager Bob Melvin announced on Sunday that starting right fielder Stephen Piscotty had aggravated his sprained right ankle and had to undergo an MRI.

Piscotty initially sprained the ankle last Saturday on an awkward slide back into second base on a pickoff attempt. He has played through the ailment since then but was seen in a walking boot Sunday morning.

"It got a little better, a little worse, and then last night he took a swing where it really bothered him," Melvin said. "He had an MRI this morning. We're waiting on the results of that. I don't have a great feeling about it at this point, but we'll see what the doctors have to say and then proceed accordingly."

Piscotty, 28, missed all of July with a sprained right knee but returned from the injured list in early August. Unfortunately, center fielder Ramón Laureano then went on the IL with a stress reaction in his right shin. Now with Laureano nearing a return, it appears Piscotty might miss some time again.

The good news for the A's is that they have plenty of outfield depth. Mark Canha filled in for Piscotty when he was out with the knee sprain and figures to take over right field again when Laureano returns to center. Robbie Grossman and Chad Pinder should continue to split time in left.

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Piscotty is slashing .252/.312/.416 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI in 92 games this year. He's in the third season of his six-year, $33.5 million contract, originally signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.

How Jake Diekman gave 15-year-old best day of his life at A's-Giants game

How Jake Diekman gave 15-year-old best day of his life at A's-Giants game

OAKLAND -- Jake Diekman was diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis at 10 years old, but that didn't stop him from achieving his dream of reaching the major leagues.

Now the A's reliever wants to help others who suffer from Inflammatory bowel disease, which can include Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. In 2017, Diekman and his wife Amanda created the Gut It Out Foundation.

"I was going through the first of three surgeries to have my colon removed, so we created the Gut It Out Foundation to support people with IBD, Crohn’s disease, and Ulcerative colitis, and just give them some sort of a resource," Diekman told NBC Sports California.

This weekend, Diekman hosted 15-year-old Nathan Nichols at the A's-Giants game. Nichols suffers from IBD himself and won the Gut It Out Foundation's VIP Experience for being the top fundraiser.

Diekman flew Nichols and his mother out from Lenexa, Kansas for several incredible experiences, including a tour of Alcatraz on Friday, dinner with Diekman and his wife, and a conversation and game of catch with Diekman on the Coliseum field before Saturday's game.

"It's been amazing," Nichols said. "Best day of my life by far. ... (Diekman) is just a great guy. I love talking to him."

Nichols actually first connected with Diekman in Kansas City when the hard-throwing left-hander was still a member of the Royals. Diekman encouraged Nichols to join his foundation and it has worked out wonderfully for both parties.

"It's great," Diekman said. "He's everything that we created a foundation for. If bringing him out here can influence to help when he grows up and influence others, then that's perfect."

The feeling is certainly mutual. A high school pitcher himself, Nichols draws inspiration from Diekman's story.

"A lot of inspiration," Nichols emphasized. "I'm a pitcher, he's a pitcher. He has IBD, I have IBD. A lot of similarities between us and I think that's awesome."

After playing catch and getting some tips from Diekman, Nichols and his mother got to stay on the field to watch batting practice, followed by tickets to the game. 

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"Playing catch on the field (was my favorite part)," Nichols said. "It's not every day you play catch with an MLB pitcher. It's super cool."

Added Diekman: "It makes you feel really good. I know what it's like to have it when you're younger. You think it's a pretty big disability. You don't really know (if you're going to need surgery). You just want to be normal. So if they can look up to me in any aspect and say, 'Well he's pretty normal and doing what he loves,' that's the biggest thing."