The A’s pressed a reset button this spring by trading a handful of stars with an eye to the future. Holding one of the star names at the 2022 trade deadline in Frankie Montas, the rebuild continued Monday, with the right-hander going to the Yankees with reliever Lou Trivino for four minor leaguers.
Montas, whose booming trading stock took a serious hit after feeling tightness in his shoulders just before the All-Star break, restored his value with a pair of solid outings on his return. For the season, Montas is 4-9 with a 3.18 ERA in 19 starts and 109 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings. His 1.14 WHIP ranks 10th among American League starters.
Montas is under the control of the team throughout the 2023 season, which A general manager David Forst has repeatedly cited as a reason why there is no urgency to trade him. The A’s wanted a proper return for what they felt was arguably the best pitcher in the market, and they got a headline package from southpaw Ken Waldichuk – a product of Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga who was ranked the Yankees . No. 5 prospect and No. 70 overall prospect in MLB Pipeline’s most recent rankings. Also coming from New York are right-hander Luis Medina (No. 10 Yankees prospect), left-hander JP Sears (No. 20) and second baseman Cooper Bowman (No. 21).
All four enter the Top 30 A’s on MLB Pipeline: Waldichuk at No. 3, Medina at No. 7, Sears at No. 19 and Bowman at No. 29.
“We have three pitchers who are very close, if not already, Major League ready,” Forst said. “Sears has been in the big leagues and we saw that up close and personal in New York a few months ago. We think all three guys are on their way to a Major League rotation, and Bowman is a guy having a fantastic first full year out of the draft. Glad to add them all to our system.
The A’s sparked strong interest from multiple teams during spring training over Montas, who was seen as Oakland’s next star on the move after Chris Bassitt, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Sean Manaea were exchanged within three weeks. Despite an encouraging improvement in the game over the past month, the focus is on continuing to strengthen a farming system that now has several promising prospects that should help bring the A’s back to the playoffs over the next two years.
Montas, 29, was originally traded from the Dodgers to the A’s in August 2016 and had his ups and downs as a young pitcher before fully evolving from a hard pitcher to a pitcher with top-notch stuff. In six seasons with Oakland, Montas went 35-30 with a 3.70 ERA in 114 games (89 starts) and developed a splitter that became one of the most dominant fields in the game.
Trivino, who was drafted by the A’s in the 11th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, started the year as Oakland’s closest but ultimately lost that role after a shaky start. He holds a 6.47 ERA with 10 saves in 39 relief appearances this season.
Waldichuk, 24, will report to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was selected in the fifth round by the Yankees in the 2019 MLB Draft after playing at Saint Mary’s and holds a 3.00 ERA in 50 career Minor League games (48 starts) with 328 strikeouts in 215 2/3 sleeves. After dominating at Double-A Somerset to start the 2022 campaign with a 1.26 ERA in six starts, Waldichuk quickly earned promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he boasts a 3.59 ERA in 11 starts with 70 strikeouts over 47 2/3 innings.
Waldichuk brings a four-seam fastball that sits around 92-95 mph with impressive carry in the zone that leads to plenty of swing-and-miss. His 80s low shift and sweeping slider also fade when at their best, and the southpaw has also worked to add more depth to his curveball. All in all, it’s a four-step shuffle that makes him almost ready to slot into Oakland’s starting rotation.
Sears, 26, has split his time between Triple-A and the big leagues this season, doing well in seven games (two starts) with the Yankees posting a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings. He’s 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA in 11 games (nine starts) at Triple-A. Given his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame, Sears presents himself more as a multi-inning reliever than a rotational piece. Sears will also report to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Medina, 23, is a big arm whose fastball sits at 96-99 mph and has been clocked up to 103 mph with chopping action. He’s battled command issues at Double-A Somerset this season, where he’s 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA and 81 strikeouts with 40 walks in 72 innings. If Medina can overcome his command issues, he’s seen as a potential frontline starter. Otherwise, the bullpen is his likely destination as a big leaguer. For now, he will join the starting rotation at Double-A Midland.
Between the spring trades and Monday’s move, the A’s have dramatically improved their pitch depth throughout the system. Five of their top 10 prospects are now pitchers (Waldichuk, Medina, Gunnar Hoglund, JT Ginn, Ryan Cusick) they’ve acquired in trades since March.
“I wouldn’t say that in any of the deals we’ve made since March we’ve necessarily targeted the pitch,” Forst said. “Ultimately, with the organizations we were dealing with, that’s kind of where we landed. The certainty after this deal, you look at the launchers that have been added to our system in the last two months and I feel really, really good about our depth going forward. … You add these three guys, it’s an exciting group of depth for our system.
Bowman, 22, was a fourth-round pick by New York in the 2021 MLB Draft. He flashed more speed at High-A Hudson Valley, where he swept 35 bases while slashing .217/.343/.355 with eight home runs and 15 doubles in 80 games.
The A’s still hold a few players whose names have been circulating in trade rumors recently, including outfielder Ramón Laureano and receiver Sean Murphy. As Tuesday’s 3 p.m. PT deadline quickly approaches, Forst said he expects trade talks to heat up around the league, including his ongoing discussions with other clubs.
“We’re going to look at the opportunities that are available to us,” Forst said. “As with everything, we balance the players who are here now by contributing with what we think we can achieve for future teams. I don’t have a checklist of things to do before [the Trade Deadline.] We will continue to keep abreast of opportunities.
“There is a chance for everything. The pace usually picks up in the last 24 hours with any deadline in this game. We will be ready for anything.
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