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The Weekly Bernie, 11/21/16: A’s looking into Thames, others

During what was a slow week for Major League Baseball, A’s rumors started to trickle in, and an AL West foe made some impact moves, among other news.

San Diego Padres v Seattle Mariners Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Welcome back to The Weekly Bernie! It’s the best dance in the game, so let’s get rolling once more!

  • The A’s, in desperate need of outfield help, have shown interest in 30 year-old 1B/OF Eric Thames, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. Once one of the Blue Jays’ top prospects, Thames struggled at the big league level and found himself playing for the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization. Thames has since made a name for himself, clobbering a combined 124 home runs to go along with an absurd .348/.450/.720 slash line over the past three seasons. These numbers certainly seem exciting, but the talent level in the KBO is significantly lower than that of the MLB, so there’s no guarantee this production will translate. The San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays have also shown interest in the left-handed hitter. The A’s interest was initially reported by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, who also linked the A’s to outfielder Carlos Gomez.
  • The Atlanta Braves have reportedly shown interest in A’s righty Sonny Gray, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The Braves, having already inked veteran starters Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, are looking to restock and try to compete now that they have moved to their new stadium. The club has quite a bit of young talent and it’s not hard to envision a very solid trade package for Gray. However, the team may pursue a higher-caliber arm such as Chris Sale or Chris Archer instead, and the A’s may opt to keep their home-grown star.
  • The Houston Astros made the most noise in all of baseball this past week, making three significant additions to their club. First, they inked right-handed pitcher Charlie Morton to a two year, $14 million dollar contract. The 33 year-old was limited to only 17.1 innings in 2016 due to injuries, but up until that point he had been a reliable innings-eater. Next, the Astros sent young righties Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman to the New York Yankees in exchange for catcher Brian McCann. McCann will add some serious left-handed thump to the Astros’ lineup while also providing a steady presence behind the plate, replacing Jason Castro, who is now a free agent. Both pitchers the Yankees received are very young arms with some interesting potential, but both are very far away from the majors. Finally, the club inked former Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick to a four year, $52 million deal, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The deal is pending a physical. Reddick has developed into a very impressive contact hitter, which will be useful for an Astros squad that strikes out quite often. He will likely slot into left field, as George Springer currently resides in right. The Astros are looking more and more like the team to beat in the AL West.
  • Houston’s cross-state rival Texas Rangers made an interesting move this past week, signing right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner to a one year, $10 million deal, per Rosenthal. The deal is pending a physical. Cashner was once a high-upside flamethrower, but injuries and inconsistency have left him as nothing more than a back-end arm. However, the Rangers were very much in need of an arm or two to back up aces Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, so Cashner should help round out their rotation nicely.
  • The first big chip on the relief market has dropped, as left-handed pitcher Brett Cecil has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, per Passan. The deal, which is pending a physical, will pay Cecil $30.5 million over four years with full no-trade protection. The 30 year-old has quietly been an excellent left-handed reliever, striking out over a batter per inning in each of the last four seasons. That being said, Cecil was far from the top arm on a market that includes dominant closers such as Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman, so expect much more money to be flying around the relief market.

Bernie’s Weekly Deal: Sonny Gray to the Atlanta Braves for Mallex Smith, Kolby Allard, Mauricio Cabrera and Ronald Acuna

A deal for an arm like Sale or Archer would likely cost the Braves a big name such as outfielder Ender Inciarte or top prospects like Ozzie Albies and Sean Newcomb. Because of this, Atlanta may be more inclined to target Gray for his lower price tag. Don’t be fooled, though - the A’s would certainly still be receiving a haul for Sonny in this deal.

Mallex Smith is a 23 year-old left-handed hitting outfielder with tons of speed. Although his overall line from his rookie year in 2016 doesn’t look great, he did slash .295/.365/.453 against righties, making him one of our top targets in the offseason simulation. He should be more than capable of playing center field in a platoon role, and with experience may be able to start every day. Kolby Allard, Atlanta’s first round pick in 2015, is a 19 year-old left-handed pitcher with nasty stuff and good deception. He has a very high upside, and is even ranked two spots ahead of the A’s A.J. Puk on MLB.com’s list of top left-handed pitching prospects. However, durability is a bit of a concern, and he is far from a finished product.

Mauricio Cabrera is a 23 year-old right-handed reliever that averages 100 miles per hour with his fastball. While this is extremely exciting, he didn’t miss too many bats in his rookie season and struggled with command. He and Frankie Montas could eventually form an absurd back end of the A’s bullpen, but Cabrera is still very much a work in progress. Finally, Ronald Acuna is an 18 year-old outfielder that has many scouts excited. He has bulked up and is showing more power, and some believe he could one day end up a 20-20 player or better.

While this package is steep, keep in mind that the price for good starting pitching has been seriously inflated this offseason with so few viable free agent options. I would personally be willing to scale down this deal a little bit, but not much.

What to expect this week:

Again, I wouldn’t expect too much until the Winter Meetings, especially considering the ongoing CBA negotiations. An arm like Rich Hill could sign, and perhaps a top reliever like Mark Melancon, but I wouldn’t expect much more. Mike Napoli has received plenty of interest as well, so monitor that situation.

That’s all for this week. Feel free to dump any links in the comments below. Until next week - lean on, A’s fans!