Not satisfied with acquiring Reds ace Johnny Cueto for three minor leaguers, now the Royals have pulled off another major trade for an impending free agent.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the A’s have traded 34-year-old infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist to the Royals in exchange for pitching prospects Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks.
Zobrist has played just about everywhere defensively during his career, but the A’s mostly used him at second base and in left field. Those two spots are areas of need for the Royals too, as left fielder Alex Gordon is out until September with a groin injury and second baseman Omar Infante has struggled offensively all year.
In addition to the defensive versatility Zobrist brings to the Royals he’s also a switch-hitter with a lifetime .784 OPS, including hitting .268 with six homers, 20 doubles, more walks (33) than strikeouts (26), and an .801 OPS in 67 games this season.
Kansas City has the AL’s best record and now the Royals have added a top-of-the-rotation, Cy Young-caliber ace and an .800 OPS switch-hitter who can play anywhere. General manager Dayton Moore is not messing around.
Manaea was a Royals first-round draft pick in 2013 and the 23-year-old left-hander ranked as a consensus top-100 prospect coming into the season. He’s been limited to just 32 innings due to injuries and has a history of health problems, but Manaea has top-of-the-rotation upside and 185 strikeouts in 153 pro innings.
Brooks had brief stints with the Royals in 2013 and 2014 as a reliever, but the 25-year-old right-hander has been a starter in the minors with a 3.81 ERA and 189/46 K/BB ratio in 246 total innings at Triple-A. He lacks big upside, but should find a role with the A’s soon.
The Angels have been in the market for an outfield bat for a while now and they finally landed some help tonight by acquiring Shane Victorino from the Red Sox for infielder Josh Rutledge. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes that the Red Sox will also cover $3.8 million of the roughly $4.9 million remaining on Victorino’s contract.
Hamstring and calf injuries have limited Victorino to just 33 games this season and he hasn’t been all that productive when healthy, putting up a .245/.324/.298 batting line over 106 plate appearances. Still, Angels left fielders have combined to hit just .212/.277/.312 so far this season, most of it coming from Matt Joyce, so I guess you can call this an upgrade. The 34-year-old Victorino is due to become a free agent this winter.
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports hears that the Angels view Victorino as a fourth outfielder, so this doesn’t necessarily rule them out from acquiring another outfielder. The Angels have been linked to Jay Bruce of the Reds and Ben Zobrist of the Athletics in recent days.
Rutledge was acquired from the Rockies over the winter, but he has spent the entire 2015 season in Triple-A. The 26-year-old has an 83 OPS+ over 947 plate appearances in the majors and has experience at both middle infield spots and third base.
Houston just made the first big splash of trade deadline season, acquiring left-hander Scott Kazmir from Oakland to bolster the rotation in exchange for minor leaguers Jake Nottingham and Dan Mengden.
Kazmir went from 22-year-old All-Star and Rays phenom to totally out of the big leagues in 2012, but resurrected his career with the Indians in 2013 and has been brilliant for the A’s since signing a two-year, $22 million deal as a free agent last offseason. Kazmir posted a 3.12 ERA in 50 total starts for Oakland, including a 2.38 ERA and 101/35 K/BB ratio in 110 innings this season with a big payday via free agency waiting around the corner.
He’s a legit top-of-the-rotation starter and now pairs with Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, who was arguably the AL’s best pitcher in the first half. Houston is pushing some of their chips into the middle of the table after going from rebuilding to contending much more quickly than expected, starting the season 53-43 after losing 92, 111, 107, and 106 games during the past four years. They have tons of young talent headlined by rookie shortstop Carlos Correa, the Astros lead the league in homers and are third in runs scored, and now they have a pair of excellent southpaws atop the rotation. General manager Jeff Luhnow and company are going for it.
Neither minor leaguer the A’s received for Kazmir is considered a top prospect, but that’s to be expected given his impending free agency in two months. Nottingham was a 2013 sixth-round pick who struggled in his first two pro seasons, but the 20-year-old catcher/first baseman has hit .326 with 14 homers and a .941 OPS in 76 games at Single-A this year. Mengden was a 2014 fourth-round pick who’s pitched well at Single-A this season as a 22-year-old, throwing 88 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 84/26 K/BB ratio.
Next up for the A’s: Trading fellow impending free agent Tyler Clippard and Ben Zobrist.
Via Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News …
The Mets have gotten as far as discussing pieces with the A’s for a possible deal for Ben Zobrist, a source told the News Tuesday afternoon.
The A’s have identified the prospects they would need to send the veteran utility man to New York, but nothing is imminent, the source said.
Zobrist is also reportedly drawing interest from the Yankees, Giants, and Nationals, but the Mets are said to be willing to overpay to get him from the A’s because how desperate they are for an upgrade on offense. Zobrist is capable of playing just about anywhere on the diamond defensively, which makes him a fit for any and every contending team.
The versatile 34-year-old has a .768 OPS (114 OPS+) in 61 games this season for the A’s, who stand just 43-51 and should be one of the more active sellers ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. Scott Kazmir, Josh Reddick, and Eric O’Flaherty are some of the other Oakland players who could be on the move.
Via Nick Cafardo’s Sunday notes in the Boston Globe …
Ben Zobrist, OF-INF, Athletics — Despite not having the best of years, Zobrist remains sought-after, including by the Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Nationals. Zobrist, 34, has played three positions this season — 25 games in left field, 25 at second base, and three in right field. Zobrist has played only four career games at third base but could play there if needed.
That defensive versatility is what makes Zobrist a fit for just about any contending team. The 34-year-old has posted a respectable .771 OPS (115 OPS+) with five home runs and 31 RBI in 57 games this season for the A’s, who entered play Sunday with a disappointing 40-50 record. They will probably be one of the most active sellers ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. Scott Kazmir, Josh Reddick, and Eric O’Flaherty are among the other Oakland players who could be on the move.