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Trade Niconalysis: Jesse Chavez For Liam Hendriks

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

On a more superficial note, with no disrespect intended towards people named Jesse I do feel that in regards to first names the A's have upgraded. These things profoundly affect clubhouse chemistry and should not be discounted.

Cindi's analysis of the trade is very straightforward. She tweets, to Candi and Lori, "The Hotties just traded a Leo for an Aquarius. Enough said!" And I am strongly inclined to agree with her that I don't really want her to say any more.

However, baseball analysis has reached a groundbreaking place where we now have the ability to scrutinize trades beyond just focusing on first names and astrological signs. Here are my two cents on the Jesse Chavez for Liam Hendriks trade -- yes, it's an overpay, but that's what you have to do to get analysts to come to Oakland.


Chavez and Hendriks share similar career paths, in that despite coming up with good arms their respective careers stalled into and past their mid-20s. In Chavez' case, he bounced around organizations at a practically Dotelian rate until he found stability and success with Oakland for the first time at age 30. In Hendriks' case, his first good season was last season, when at age 26 he moved to the bullpen, added 4-6 MPH to his fastball, and transformed from "godawful" to "fantastic".

What both pitchers also share is that they have experience starting and relieving and this is where the two careers diverge. Chavez is a successful SP so long as the season ends at the All-Star Break while Hendriks' success has come exclusively as a reliever. Chavez has one year remaining on his contract, Hendriks four.

Where the A's have been exceptionally skilled is in turning good players into younger and cheaper versions that provide similar production. Here they have sort of done it, turning one year of a 32 year old Chavez projected to make close to $5M into four years of a turning-27 year old Hendriks paid league minimum. The difference being, Chavez has seen success as a swing man and SP, whereas in Hendriks the A's have presumably found themselves a reliever.

Bottom Line

While I have always thought Chavez had the stuff to be a very good reliever (he can hit 94MPH out of the pen), I think it's fair to say that Hendriks appears to be the better reliever -- better velocity, and now one season of filthy-dominance as his track record. Meanwhile Chavez is far and away the better SP, partly because Hendriks has been nothing short of awful in every stint.

So what the A's have swapped is a pretty good overall SP for one year in exchange for a potentially plus reliever for four years. And while a "pretty good SP," throwing 150+ IP, is arguably as or more valuable than a "very good RP" throwing 65 IP, when they are good enough relievers can be awfully valuable and the difference between one season and four seasons is huge.

In this regard, I think the trade is a win for the A's -- and potentially a win for a Blue Jays team with good reason to hope for a deep post-season run in 2016 and in need of starting pitching depth in order to get there. This, of course, relies on Hendriks to be "the real deal," which relies on a reliever to be able to replicate his success from one season to the next.

Let's be honest: Hendriks hasn't proven that you can expect his 2015 season to be the norm for the next four years. Knowing how it tends to go with relievers, what I might expect from him is two really good seasons,  one disappointing season, and one injury-marred season. Even that would give the A's two seasons out of four in which the back end of the bullpen was significantly fortified, during a stretch where presumably they are gearing up for a run of success.

For Chavez, who is 32, only under contract for one season, and with built-in questions about his durability as a SP, that's a good swap for Oakland. In fact one of the things I like about it, in contrast to the notion of using Chavez to acquire a "decent LFer," is that the A's still have a chance to add more than a "decent" LFer or 1Bman and I have been of the mind, all along, that in order to really call themselves a contender Oakland will need to add a position player who is more than a "nice complementary piece". Perhaps a chance to add that player still exists, and it wasn't going to come from trading Chavez.

In summary, I don't love this trade -- it's too small a trade to garner such strong emotions -- but i like it. The 2017-19 window just got stronger and the 2016 bullpen just got a lot better. Perhaps this is, indeed, the dawning of the age of Aquarius.