Athletics

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.

Two SoCal Little Leagues ban using Astros name after cheating scandal

Two SoCal Little Leagues ban using Astros name after cheating scandal

The surest bet for the A's to avoid the dreaded AL Wild Card Game would be for MLB to follow the lead of a pair of Little Leagues in Southern California. 

The Long Beach Little League and East Fullerton Little League won't have any teams named after the Houston Astros in the wake of Houston's sign-stealing operation coming to light this offseason.

Neither Little League thinks the Astros are a good example for their kids. 

"Parents are disgusted," Long Beach Little League president Steve Klaus told the Orange County Register. "They are disgusted with the Astros and their lack of ownership and accountability. We know there's more to this scandal. What's coming tomorrow? With the Astros, you've got premeditated cheating."

A's pitcher -- and former Astro -- Mike Fiers told The Athletic in November that his old club used a center-field camera to steal opposing catchers' signs in 2017, the year they won the World Series. Astros players or team employees would then bang a trash can to tell their teammates what pitches were coming. 

MLB suspended then-Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch -- who were both fired soon after -- while fining the organization $5 million and docking first- and second-round draft picks in each of the next two years after an investigation confirmed that the Astros stole signs.

Rob Manfred thinks that was punishment enough, but those who called for players to be punished or the team to be stripped of their title probably wish the MLB commissioner had taken note of his counterparts in Southern California. 

[RELATED: Manfred says Fiers did 'a service' revealing Astros scandal]

The A's won 97 games in 2018 and 2019 but finished no better than 6.0 games back of the Astros in the AL West. Oakland subsequently was eliminated in the AL Wild Card Game in both seasons, losing to the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively. 

Could the A's have gone farther without the Astros standing in the way of a division crown? We'll never know the real answer, but the A's in the Long Beach and East Fullerton Little Leagues have one less juggernaut to worry about, at least. 

Rob Manfred says Astros whistleblower Mike Fiers did MLB 'a service'

Rob Manfred says Astros whistleblower Mike Fiers did MLB 'a service'

Rob Manfred didn't love Trevor Bauer calling him "a clown," but the MLB commissioner and the Extremely Online Cincinnati Reds pitcher agree on one thing. 

A's pitcher Mike Fiers was right to lift the lid on the Houston Astros' trash-can-and-video-camera-powered cheating scandal. 

“Mike Fiers, in my view, did the industry a service,” Manfred told ESPN's Karl Ravech in a sit-down interview released Sunday (H/T New York Post). “He opened the door here. Without that opening of the door, we would not have been able to conduct the effective investigation that we did. We would not have been able to impose the disciplines that were imposed. We would not have been able to probably take the prophylactic measures that we’re gonna take with respect to 2020, and it’s important -- painful, but important -- that we clean all that up.”

Fiers told The Athletic in November that the Astros used a camera in center field to record and steal opposing catchers' signs en route to Houston's 2017 World Series title. Those signs would then be relayed to an Astros batter when his teammates or team employees banged on a garbage can. 

The Astros acquired Fiers in a midseason trade that year, and he signed with the Detroit Tigers the following offseason. Fiers told the Tigers about the scheme and later told the A's following a 2018 trade to Oakland. 

Fiers faced criticism from some in baseball, including television analysts Jessica Mendoza and Pedro Martinez, for whistleblowing and breaking what Manfred referred to as the "cone of silence" coming from the clubhouse. Carlos Correa, Fiers' former Astros teammate, said the pitcher should be "man enough" to clear Jose Altuve of the spreading insinuation his 2017 AL MVP was tainted by Houston's cheating. 

The pitcher didn't say that Altuve's was when he first revealed the scheme to The Athletic back in November, and he told the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser on Sunday that the Astros "cheated as a team" in 2017. 

[RELATED: Manfred explains why Astros players haven't been punished]

Fiers will see his former teammates for the first time since going public when the Astros visit the A's in Oakland on March 30. The A's, then, will first play in Houston on April 24.

Don't bet on the fans at Minute Maid Park being as understanding as their Coliseum counterparts or the commissioner.