The Athletics have confirmed the report by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, officially announcing that Oakland has acquired Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar from the Tampa Bay Rays, sending John Jaso, Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell, and some cash to Tampa.
After this acquisition, the Fangraphs depth chart projection improves Oakland's estimated performance from 35.0 WAR to 37.1 WAR. Their projected standings, which accounts for strength-of-schedule, improves the A's from 82-80 and third place in the AL West to 84-78 and a tie for second place, only five games behind the Seattle Mariners projection of 89-73. Or as August Fagerstrom puts it:
As with any projection, it's good to remember that there will be some teams that exceed expectations, some teams that fail to meet them, and some that hit them right on the nose. Because we don't know which ones those are until the games are played, however, the median projection will have to do for now.
Projected playing time
The A's will upgrade significantly at second base, shortstop, and left field as a result of the trade.
Shortstop and second base
The addition of Yunel Escobar to this deal gives the A's the chance to move Marcus Semien to second base, who will take plate appearances away from Eric Sogard.
The right-handed batting Escobar is projected to get 525 plate appearances and produce 1.5 WAR at shortstop, with Marcus Semien and Ben Zobrist to pick up the other 200 or so for 0.9 WAR, making shortstop a 2.4 WAR position.
Moving Marcus Semien to second base resolves questions about Semien's defensive abilities and greatly improves the depth at that position. Marcus Semien and Ben Zobrist will split the playing time there and are projected to combine for 3.3 WAR.
Fangraphs projects Zobrist to play some left field for the A's as well, taking plate appearances from Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry. Left field is now a 1.9 WAR position. Fuld and Gentry should pick up the rest of the left field production.
At least according to the Fangraphs projection, little was lost in sending John Jaso to the Tampa Bay Rays. Jaso was the odd-man out after a series of trades placed Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley ahead of him in the catcher depth chart; Billy Butler ahead of him in the designated hitter depth chart; and Butler, Vogt, Ike Davis, and Mark Canha ahead of him against a potential move to first base.
Payroll goes to around $78-80 million for opening day, and around $73 million for 2016. It is not yet known how much cash the A's are sending to Tampa, but John Jaso was projected to earn $3.3 million at arbitration according to Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors. Ben Zobrist will earn $7.5 million heading into his walk year and Yunel Escobar will earn $5 million this year and $7 million next year. The A's add about $9-10 million this year, and $7.5 million in 2016.
This trade moves the A's from "makes the Wild Card if they get really lucky" to "excellent chance to make the postseason and good chance at the division." While losing Daniel Robertson hurts, Oakland's off-season moves still gives plenty of future options for the A's to work with include Joey Wendle from the Indians, Franklin Barreto from the Toronto Blue Jays, and Chad Pinder the 2013 2nd round draftee. If Zobrist continues his incredible production, a qualifying offer also nets the A's a supplemental first round draft pick for the 2016 draft.
Update: This post was updated at 5:47 pm Saturday to reflect adjustments since made to the Fangraphs projections with the removal of Andy Parrino from the depth charts.