The Oakland Athletics just announced that they have traded infielder Mark Ellis to the Colorado Rockies for pitcher Bruce Billings and a player to be named later (the latter of whom seems to get traded A LOT!).
Ellis has been a fixture at second base for the A’s since 2002, but he has fallen off a cliff this year. Following his hamstring injury earlier this month he lost his job to Jemile Weeks, making him expendable. Ellis has played some first base since being activated from the DL, but will likely be used primarily at second base for the Rockies, who have had a heck of a time trying to find any kind of consistent production at the keystone.
Billings has pitched only one game in the majors. He’s 6-2 with a 4.47 ERA in 29 relief appearances at Colorado Springs this year. He strikes out batters at a pretty decent clip, but walks his share too. A pretty common story for a minor league reliever.
Remember Manny Banuelos? He was once a top pitching prospect for the Yankees and then, apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. Or at least it felt like it. Now he’s in the news, however, as the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract.
OK, Banuelos didn’t disappear. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, had a cup of coffee with them, pitching pretty ineffectively in seven big league games, was released by Atlanta in the middle of 2016 and then latched on with the Angels. This past season he posted a 4.93 ERA over 95 innings while being used mostly as a reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Banuelos pitched in the Future’s Game in 2009 and was a star in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. He was a top-50 prospect heading into 2011 before falling to Tommy John surgery in 2012. With Atlanta he suffered some bone spur problems and then some elbow issues that never resulted in surgery but which never subsided enough for him to fulfill his potential either. He suffered injuries. A lot of pitchers do.
It’s unrealistic to think that Banuelos will fulfill the promise he had six years ago, but he’s worth a minor league deal to see if the 26-year-old can at least be a serviceable reliever.