December 2013

A’s give up Blevins for speedy outfielder Burns

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The upper reaches of their organization lacking in premier talent, the A’s used a piece of their bullpen depth to get some on Wednesday afternoon, trading for speedy outfielder Billy Burns from the Nationals in exchange for lefty reliever Jerry Blevins.

Make that two trades in as many days for the A’s, who swung a deal for hurlers Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen while giving up Brett Anderson to the Rockies on Tuesday, and five trades in the last 10 days. Moreover, this marks the seventh trade consummated by the A’s and Nationals in the last three years.

Burns, 24, was named the Nationals’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2013, after batting .315 with a .425 on-base percentage and 96 runs scored in 121 games between Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He stole 74 bases in 81 attempts, and in his three professional seasons has stolen 125 bases and been caught only 17 times. He played 119 games in the outfield this season, between left field and center, and committed only two errors.

The switch-hitting outfielder, who fills the void left by the departed Michael Choice, was a 32nd-round Draft selection by Washington out of Mercer University in the 2011 Draft.

Blevins was the A’s longest-tenured pitcher, having just completed his seventh season in Oakland, going 5-0 with a 3.15 ERA and .218 opponents’ average in a career-high 67 games. His 281 career appearances with the A’s are tied for sixth most in Oakland history.

The always engaging southpaw served as the club’s player representative each of the last two and a half seasons and was very involved in the local community, making Tuesday’s news bittersweet for Blevins.

“I’ll miss Oakland,” Blevins said by phone. “It’s the only place I’ve known in the big leagues, and the fans have been so great to me. It’ll be a sad moment when I leave, but I’m excited for the opportunity.

“You know, trade rumors are just that, and I’ve always gone to the way of ignoring all of the rumor talk and waiting on facts, so it was definitely a surprise for me.”

The loss of Blevins could now entice the A’s to use the left-handed Pomeranz out of the bullpen, though he’ll also likely be in the mix for a starting spot.

A’s stay quiet on Day 1 of Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The A’s worked in fast fashion last week when reeling in five players in four separate moves in a matter of two days, so it’s of no real surprise they’re not exactly zealous to get another deal done this week at the Winter Meetings, which conclude Thursday.

The majority of Oakland’s front office members, including general manager Billy Beane, arrived in Orlando on Monday evening, whereas most other clubs’ officials landed on the scene Sunday. That left little time for work to be done.

“Obviously we haven’t been here very long and we did a lot of our work last week, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have ongoing conversations with clubs and agents,” said A’s assistant general manager David Forst. “We feel really good about the team and the things we did last week and where we’re at, but we always still look to make some tweaks and make some changes.”

Last week’s brought about enough to fill an entire offseason, as the club reeled in starter Scott Kazmir on a two-year, $22 million deal in advance of trades for closer Jim Johnson, reliever Luke Gregerson, and perhaps the most valuable part-time player in the game in speedy outfielder Craig Gentry.

Their Major League roster now essentially in place, barring what would likely be any minor adjustments, the two-time defending American League West champion A’s may now turn their focus on helping their farm system, in part depleted because of the loss of top outfield prospect Michael Choice in the Gentry trade and the promotion of top pitching prospect Sonny Gray to the Majors.

“You never feel like you have enough,” said Forst. “I don’t know the best way right now to supplement that, but obviously there is a gap in guys we see contributing in the immediate future. I don’t know that we’ll get four or five prospects no matter what we trade.”

But the A’s have potential to land one or two key pieces should they opt to move lefty Brett Anderson.

The southpaw, making $8 million in 2014, is one of seven starters occupying the A’s rotation, making him expendable. However, Anderson’s medicals could potentially be cause for concern for interested teams. The Rockies are already one known club who heavily inquired on the oft-injured lefty but backed off a bit when scouring medical reports that indicated Anderson’s stress fracture in his right foot may not be completely healed.

Multiple A’s sources said Monday there was absolutely no worry over the foot at season’s end. Still, Anderson’s track record — health issues, including Tommy John surgery in 2011, have limited him to only 162 innings over the last three seasons — could prevent other teams from pulling the trigger on a potential risk.

Forst said the team is “having ongoing conversations” when asked about potential trades, only generalizing on the topic.

“Free agents are expensive, there’s no doubt about that,” he said, “and there are a lot of ongoing trade conversations on both ends — teams that need starting pitchers and teams that have them. I think it’s pretty active.”

These talks could easily hasten as starters continue to fall off the free-agent market, which is steeper than ever. But the A’s are content staying pat for now, even as their AL West counterparts continue to add big names.

Forst joked he “could have done without [Robinson] Cano in our division,” referring to the second baseman’s impending $240 million pact with the Mariners, but also noted, “I would argue that our competitors have been doing that for more than just a couple of seasons.”

“We fully expect to be outspent by everyone in the division,” he said. “Obviously with the Astros now, it’s not quite everybody. But I don’t think that’s anything new. We’re really happy with the team we have now and the additions we’ve made, so we don’t expect to keep up with them dollar for dollar, but to compete with them as we have the past two years.”

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