Danny Valencia, recently designated for assignment and placed on trade waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays, could be a good match for an Oakland Athletics team that has struggled against left-handed pitching and is in need of depth at third base and in the outfield. As a team, the A's rank 20th out of the 30 MLB teams in wRC+ against lefties, hitting .242/.312/.367 against them.
Why is Danny Valencia available?
Valencia is earning $1,675,000 this season, but remains under team control through 2017. It's unusual that a player like Valencia is in a trade him or lose him situation like this one, as you would expect a trade for Valencia to be finalized during the non-waiver trade deadline when every team could bid for his services.
However, the Blue Jays were still going to use Valencia up until they acquired Ben Revere, and that trade was not finished until there was about 90 minutes left to a chaotic finish to the non-waiver trade deadline with many other potential major deals up in the air.
AA: Valencia was shocked, but professional. He'll go on trade waivers today, eligible to be claimed Monday. #Bluejays expect a quick claim.— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness590) August 1, 2015
With Valencia going through trade waivers, however, and the A's very high in the priority list, there's a good chance the A's will be the only team the Blue Jays can trade with. The only leverage the Blue Jays will have is to threaten to give him away to a National League team with a worse record.
Could the A's use him?
Valencia, 30, plays in left field and at third base. The right-handed batter has always hit left-handed pitching extremely well, owning a career .326/.369/.497 batting line (137 wRC+) in 634 plate appearances against lefties and hitting .316/.366/.461 (129 wRC+) in 82 plate appearances against them this season.
While the A's won't be losing any of their remaining position players after this season, with Ben Zobrist already traded, Sam Fuld, Josh Reddick, and Coco Crisp are set to reach free agency after 2016.
Let's just take a quick look at who the A's might use in the outfield and at third base over this season and next:
|Billy Burns||All||S||Brett Lawrie||R|
|Josh Reddick||RF||L||Eric Sogard||L|
|Coco Crisp||LF||S||Max Muncy||L|
|Sam Fuld||All||L||Mark Canha||R|
|Mark Canha||LF||R||Renato Nunez||R|
If the A's option Muncy to Triple-A, as the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser believes will happen before Sunday's game to activate Coco Crisp, the A's will effectively have no backup at second, short, and third between Eric Sogard, Marcus Semien, and Brett Lawrie, though Mark Canha did get reps at third base during spring training.
At least for this season, if the A's insist that Sam Fuld merits a place on this team (a matter of some debate, of course), adding Valencia to the active roster probably would require the club to send down the hot-hitting Jake Smolinski. Valencia offers more positional flexibility than Smolinski, Jake's crash course at learning first base on a team with at least four first baseman already on it notwithstanding.
Valencia can spell Lawrie at third, which would either be a straight up rest or an opportunity to move Sogard around the infield to rest Marcus Semien at shortstop by playing Lawrie at second base.
Coco Crisp will require frequent rest to try to keep his frequent ailments in check, and could be spelled by Sam Fuld when a string of right-handers comes up. Crisp has in his career hit righties better than lefties, especially in recent years, making Valencia an excellent complement to Crisp in left field. Here then, is what the defensive alignment could look like:
|vs. LHP||vs. RHP|
|C||Josh Phegley||Stephen Vogt|
|1B||Mark Canha||Ike Davis|
|CF||Billy Burns||Billy Burns|
|RF||Josh Reddick||Josh Reddick|
|DH||Billy Butler||Billy Butler|
|BN2||Ike Davis||Mark Canha|
|BN3||Stephen Vogt||Josh Phegley|
This would be unfortunate for Jake Smolinski, of course, but he'll be back once rosters expand to 40 players in September, and will be in prime position to challenge for a roster spot, especially now that the A's will be free to option Rule 5 draftee Mark Canha to Triple-A in 2016 if they so choose.
Beyond Valencia's immediate value is also that he will still be under team control through 2017. The A's need as many inexpensive competent outfielders as they can get to bridge the gaps created by the departures of Sam Fuld, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick after 2016. The limited playing time Valencia has received this season should keep his arbitration raise low.
If the A's do want to acquire Valencia, they'll probably need to come first in trade waiver priority. Because Valencia was placed on trade waivers Saturday, the priority will be determined by the standings on Monday, with priority going first to American League teams from worst record to best record, and then to National League teams. Ties are broken by looking at 2014 records.
The A's have played the same number of games and are one game worse than both the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox. Both squads are in the bottom half of wRC+ against left-handed pitching, though the Mariners are probably more amenable to getting help in left field. Should the A's catch either of them, they risk losing a chance to claim the right to trade for Valencia. If the A's do make and win a waiver claim on Monday, they'll have two days to complete a trade with Toronto.
If a trade is not completed, the Blue Jays can either allow the A's to assume Valencia's contract for a small payment to the Blue Jays or else revoke those waivers and probably place Valencia on outright waivers. Outright waiver priority is based solely on team record regardless of league, are irrevocable, and there are still several National League teams with worse records than the A's.
In a negotiation, we get a bit of a staring match. The winners of the trade waivers claim are the only team that can give the Blue Jays anything more than the $20,000 claiming fee a National League team will give them for assuming Valencia's contract off outright waivers, but the Blue Jays are the only ones that can keep the National League teams away from claiming Valencia.
Tank for Danny?
With Sonny Gray on the hill, it would be fairly disappointing for the A's to lose on Sunday even with the silver lining of top trade waiver priority. So instead, root for the Mariners and Red Sox to win tomorrow. The Red Sox and Mariners games start first.