The Oakland A's made big news on a couple of fronts on Monday, announcing that left-hander Brett Anderson would be returning to the rotation for Tuesday’s game, marking his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery just 13 months ago. The A’s also traded for shortstop Stephen Drew, who is set to make his debut with the club on Tuesday, as well.
The A's gave up shortstop prospect Sean Jamieson to the Diamondbacks, who had spend the season at Low-A Burlington, where he hit .234, but got on-base a decent clip and had 10 home runs. Jamieson is also a strong defensive shortstop.
Drew, once considered one of the better young shortstops in the National League, is hitting just .193/.290/.311 in 40 games this year after returning from a broken ankle injury that forced him to miss just under a full year of action.
The former 15th-overall selection in 2004 had by far his best season in 2008, when he put together an 836 OPS and hit 21 home runs. He did so under current A’s manager Bob Melvin, who managed him in Arizona for just over three seasons. Since that year, Drew's numbers jumped up and down before the ankle injury. Oakland is hoping the 29-year-old can regain his old form and help get the team to the postseason.
Drew should fit in nicely to the A’s clubhouse, while representing an upgrade at a position where the A's had received a .190/.255/.294 slashline prior to the trade.
Even more importantly from the front office’s point of view, the A's didn’t have to give up a key prospect in the deal, which is something they might have done had they acquired him before the non-waiver deadline on July 31.
Moving Drew meant was a sizable salary dump for Arizona, who is now off the hook for the remainder of his $7.75 million this season, and his potential $10 million mutual option for next year. Drew would have to have a truly remarkable remaining six weeks of the season in order for the A’s to agree to pay that much for his services next year, however. But the club could decide to buy out his current deal for $1.35 million and sign him to a multi-year contract more typical of their low-budget habits.
With the acquisition of Drew, Oakland needed to clear room on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters. It came as somewhat of a surprise that the A's elected to option second-year infielder Jemile Weeks to Triple-A Sacramento to clear room on the 25-man roster for Drew.
Weeks was singled out during the offseason by A's executives as the lone untouchable in trade discussions. Weeks' .220/.305/.302 line this season left much to be desired, especially after his outstanding rookie campaign gave the A's the feeling that they had their second baseman of the future.
But the demotion of Weeks to Sacramento doesn’t necessarily derail that sentiment. He only played in 45 games at the Triple-A level before being promoted to the majors, making him one of the less seasoned hitting prospects that A’s had advanced in a while. Sophomore slumps are pretty typical and Weeks appears to be confident in his ability to return to the player he was as a rookie.
The wrench that idea, however, is the fact that Grant Green has gotten the lion’s share of time at second base lately with Triple-A Sacramento. Green, the former shortstop, has played well there, although he is far from a typical second baseman at 6’3”. But those in and around the organization believe his bat is very close, if not ready, to see major league pitching. Green and Weeks are both former first-round picks.
As it stands, there appears to be a competition for the A’s second base job going forward. So Weeks’ trip to Sacramento might be more than just a mental break to get out of his season-long slump. He may have to beat out Green and force the A’s to give Green another look somewhere else, either in the outfield, at third base or even back at shortstop. How Weeks responds will go a long way toward what will happen with both players during the offseason and toward spring training.
Starting pitcher Graham Godfrey was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Drew. Anderson will take Dan Straily’s spot in the A's rotation. Straily, the highly regarded rookie right-hander, was optioned to Sacramento on Monday. Catcher Anthony Recker was designated for assignment to make room for Anderson on the 40-man roster. The A's may not be expecting to retain Recker, as they signed veteran catcher Jason Jaramillo to a Triple-A contract on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, reliever Jordan Norberto was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to August 18 with shoulder tendinitis. Outfielder Seth Smith has been reinstated to the active 25-man roster after straining his hamstring and being put on the DL on August 3.
Anderson’s return is a welcomed one for Oakland, after the club has juggled one of the major’s youngest rotations for the majority of the season. But Anderson remains somewhat of a question mark. He is still working his way back from surgery and appeared far removed during his rehab outings in Sacramento from the form that had him tabbed as one of baseball’s best young left-handed starters.
Anderson is still working on commanding his pitches, notably his slider, and could have a couple rough outings while he is still ironing some of those issues out.
With September looming, the number of options for starting pitchers continues to grow for the A's should some of the starters’ health issues flare up again. A.J. Griffin has resumed throwing and should be sent on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Sacramento soon, while current River Cats' starters Brad Peacock and Tyson Ross have thrown well enough of late to garner consideration for starts in the major leagues on a as-needed basis.
And, of course, there is Straily, who should also rejoin the club in September. Straily pitched well in two of the three starts he made for the A's.
The A’s averaged seven runs per game in the series against the Indians, thanks in part to strong offensive performances from Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Carter and Josh Donaldson, who combined for 16 hits in the three games. On Monday, however, the A's scored just twice.
Anderson makes his season debut Tuesday against Cole De Vries (2-4, 5.04 ERA). De Vries made his first major league start in late May, and pitched pretty well against the A’s in his second big league outing, when he yielded just two hits in five shut-out innings.
But the right-hander hasn’t thrown well since his last win back on June 30, allowing a 5.82 ERA in nine appearances since. De Vries features a four-pitch arsenal, with a fastball that averages 90, with a slider, curve and changeup. The advanced metrics indicate his slider is far and away his best pitch, which is likely the reason why he throws it more than any of his other off-speed pitches.
De Vries doesn’t walk many, but he has averaged more than two home runs allowed per nine innings, indicating that he’s made a habit of leaving his pitches where hitters like it far too often.
Anderson hasn’t pitched in a major league game since June 5, 2011. In his five rehab starts with Triple-A Sacramento, he went 1-1 with a 4.63 ERA, but improved as he went along. His strikeout numbers increased in each start, and he finished with seven in his final outing in New Orleans over five innings.
The key for Anderson going forward will be to stay within himself and not rush the process. But that will be a difficult task, considering the A’s pennant race is foreign territory for the 24-year-old. Five or six quality innings will likely be the modest expectations for the A's former ace.
Tom Milone (9-9, 4.03 ERA) will toe the rubber in Wednesday’s final game of the series. The Twins announced on Tuesday that righty Liam Hendricks (0-5, 7.04 ERA) will get the nod in the final game of the series.
Milone is in desperate need of a good outing after allowing a combined 20 runs in his last four starts. His turn in the rotation was skipped during the A's road trip last week, with the hopes that it would give him some extra rest before taking on Cleveland last Friday. Milone was solid in his last start in each inning, except the fourth when he allowed a grand slam to Shelley Duncan. He was lifted before the A’s regained the lead in the eighth inning en route to the team's 6-4 win.
The lefty last pitched against the Twins in Minnesota on July 14, and he earned the win despite allowing 10 hits in six innings. He hasn’t won a decision since. Milone has buttered his bread with his outstanding fastball command all season. But when he’s unable to place it where he wants, he loses the effectiveness of his plus changeup. He is at his best when he’s able to throw his cutter and fastball to both sides of the plate to make his changeup that much more effective.
Hendriks last pitched in the big leagues on July 2, which was the first time in five outings he didn’t receive a loss. But he was solid once he was sent back to Triple-A, where he went 4-3 with a 2.40 ERA in nine starts. In two-straight starts on August 7 and 12, he combined to throw 14 shutout innings with eight strikeouts. He has not faced the A’s in his career.