Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane answered questions about the trade acquiring Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar form the Tampa Bay rays for John Jaso, Daniel Robertson, and Boog Powell in a conference call with reporters Saturday afternoon.
Yunel Escobar gives the A's a lot of flexibility in letting Marcus Semien move around the diamond as an everyday player: "One of the benefits of a guy like Marcus Semien is his ability to play multiple positions. We see Marcus as an everyday [utility] player. With Escobar going everyday, we can move Semien to a different spot in terms of giving guys a day off or create match-up issues."
Ben Zobrist's versatility is also an incredible fit for Oakland. His ability "to hit from both sides of the plate and the way we do thing and the way try to create match up he's almost the perfect type of player for our club." He later added:
With a guy like Zobrist you don't even need to read about it to know. This is the kind of guy that everybody is going to have some interest in at some level. Literally within a few minutes of the deal being announced I had a couple other clubs calling me about getting him.
In addition to improving this year, Beane pointed out that this offseason overall has made the A's "a little bit deeper and a little bit younger," even with this trade (Zobrist is 33 and Escobar is 32). "Some of the acquisitions we made this winter gave us some depth in the middle infield." Those acquisitions enabled the A's to trade their #1 prospect, Daniel Robertson.
Beane also pushed back against the idea that fans will be turned off by the idea that there's no player on the club that the fans can be assured will be around long enough to consider buying a jersey:
No player lasts forever. We're trying to win as many games as we can under a little more challenging economic circumstances. I've been around when we've held onto some players and we didn't get wins. ... If it was just as easy as bringing back your favorite player my job would be easy.
On Escobar's previous reluctance to come to Oakland
Last August, the A's made a trade waivers claim on Yunel Escobar and tried to work out a deal. However, his agent, Alex Esteban, was at the time quoted as saying to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, "I am very concerned with Yunel having been selected on waivers by Oakland. While I believe Oakland is an excellent organization, I don't feel that it is the best organization for him."
That tune appears to have changed, Beane saying, "I spoke to his agent today and he thought it was a great spot for him and we're excited to have him." We can only speculate on what led to the August statement, whether it's something as benign as not wanting to uproot in the middle of the season or something more sinister.
Beane said that while Escobar's English is improving, he anticipates new assistant general manager Dan Kantrovitz, who speaks Spanish, as the main front office contact for Escobar.
Intrigue in the rotation
Near the end of the conference call, Beane answered a question about whether the front office has given any thought to who will be in next year's starting rotation. Beginning with a glib, "Yeah, we've thought about it," he continued, "We like our rotation. It was not very deep when the season ended. Graveman, Hahn, and Pomeranz are on the inside track." Jesse Chavez was mentioned separately as "also coming back."
We knew that there was going to be a great deal of competition for the back end of the rotation after Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, but it is surprising to hear Kendall Graveman as "on the inside track." Graveman made his major league debut last September in just his second professional season, pitching four and two-thirds relief innings for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Giving up Robertson and Powell
To get quality players like Escobar and Zobrist, Oakland had to give up quality players in Jaso, Robertson, and Powell. On Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell specifically:
It was really hard. All are outstanding young men, it was tough. In Boog's case, he's a 20th round pick that turned himself into a prospect. In Daniel's case, he's a guy that remind me of Mark Ellis. That's one of the costs of doing this kind of deal.
The deal could have involved a higher-tiered prospect that Powell if the A's had not thrown in cash, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports:
More moves ahead?
It does not appear there are any imminent moves on the horizon. Beane said, "Never say never. The other advantage [in this trade], too, is that we still have some flexibility if something came along. We could be [done], but we're looking for opportunities."