Joey Wendle

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 power past Phillies, flex their way to series win on the road

A's power past Phillies, flex their way to series win on the road

BOX SCORE

PHILADELPHIA -- Joey Wendle hit a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning to lift the Oakland Athletics to a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.

Wendle was one of three rookies to hit a home run for the Athletics. With the Athletics trailing 3-2 with two outs in the sixth, Wendle lined the first pitch he saw from reliever Edubray Ramos into the right-field seats, quieting the crowd of 28,054. Oakland had loaded the bases with two walks and a single. The grand slam was Wendle's first home run of the season and the second of his career.

Fellow rookies Chad Pinder and Matt Olson hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning, erasing an early 2-0 deficit. Olson has homered in three consecutive games and has 17 home runs since Aug. 11.

Sean Manaea (11-10) lasted five innings to earn the win. He gave up three runs and struck out four. Five Oakland relievers combined to throw four hitless innings to preserve the win. Blake Treinen picked up his 11th save after a scoreless ninth.

Phillies starter Henderson Alvarez (0-1) made his first start since May 22, 2015 when he was with the Miami Marlins. He worked into the sixth inning but allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base and was removed. Both runners scored on Wendle's grand slam.

The Phillies scored first on a fielding error by Matt Chapman in the first inning. Maikel Franco had three hits, including two RBI singles.

Oakland improved to 66-83 with the victory and has won eight of its last 11 games. The Phillies dropped to 58-91.

LONG TIME COMING

Alvarez missed over two seasons while returning from shoulder surgeries. He signed with but never pitched for the Athletics last year and spent the beginning of 2017 with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League before the Phillies signed him.

RECORD USAGE

Alvarez became the 31st pitcher used by the Phillies this season. That broke a team record set in 2015.

UP NEXT

Athletics: RHP Jharel Cotton (8-10, 5.81) takes the hill Monday to start the Athletics' three-game set vs. the Tigers, who will throw RHP Buck Farmer (4-3, 6.62) in Detroit.

Phillies: RHP Nick Pivetta (5-10, 6.75) pitches Monday at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who toss National League ERA leader LHP Clayton Kershaw (17-3, 2.12). Pivetta debuted against the Dodgers in April, allowing two runs in five innings.

Versatility could help Wendle in crowded A's infield

Versatility could help Wendle in crowded A's infield

MESA, Ariz. — He committed to winter ball for the opportunity to play third base. Instead, Joey Wendle wound up playing lots of shortstop for Yaquis de Obregon in the Mexican League.

It all served the same purpose — make the A’s second baseman more versatile for an organization that values versatility more than ever.

A glance at the numbers shows Wendle faces an uphill battle to make the 25-man roster. Oakland has veteran Jed Lowrie slated to start at second base, and Adam Rosales was brought on board to be the utility infielder. But Wendle made a strong impression in September during his first major league call-up, and he’ll fight to make the A’s infield roster decision a tough one.

“It’s the same approach I’ve always kept,” Wendle said Friday morning. “Just continue focusing on what I can do and playing my game. That’s really all I can control. Everything else is up to the front office and coaching staff. If I do what I feel I’m capable of, I think I’ll put myself in a good position to help the team out at some point this year.”

The A’s like the strides the 26-year-old Wendle has made defensively at second since being acquired from Cleveland in December 2014. He hit .260 with one homer and 11 RBI in 28 games in September, serving as a leadoff man for much of that time.

Manager Bob Melvin likes the fact that Wendle got experience over the winter playing on the left side of the diamond. Wendle found out when he arrived in Mexico that a shortstop originally slated to play for Obregon didn’t pan out, so he got substantial time at short over the course of his 34 games.

“I think just playing the position, understanding what the shortstop has to go through as a second baseman helps you,” Melvin said. “Seeing the game from the other side of the diamond, having to make different throws. He’s a pretty athletic guy.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he could do it. And if you’re keeping one extra infielder and now you can add the position to your repertoire, it gives you another chance to stay at the big league level.”

Wendle took only four or five days off at the end of last season before heading to Mexico, so his 2016 season essentially stretched into late November. He and his wife, Lindsey, lounged on a beach near Obregon to celebrate their second anniversary, but by the time he finished winter ball, Wendle was “pretty fried” in his words.

But he arrived at camp refreshed and ready to compete for a roster spot.

“Until a player makes it to the major leagues, there’s a big question mark in his head as to whether he can do it or not,” Wendle said. “(The September call-up) was big for me. I think I proved to myself to an extent that at least I’m capable of playing at that level. Obviously, it’s a game of adjustments, so the ability to do that is going to be huge if I get another opportunity up there.”