The Oakland Athletics have traded right-handed starting pitcher Aaron Brooks to the Chicago Cubs for left-handed batting utility player Chris Coghlan, the club has announced. Coghlan, who turns 31 in June, played 99 games in left field, 21 in right field, and 15 games at second base in 2015 for the Cubs. Coghlan is a career .268/.340/.411 (104 wRC+) hitter with 46 home runs.
Coghlan batted .250/.341/.443 (113 wRC+) last season, and had 3.3 WAR on the FanGraphs scale, 1.9 on the Baseball-Reference scale. The difference can be explained by the different defensive metrics each site uses for grading defensive skill. In the outfield, FanGraphs gives credit to the 9.5 runs above average awarded by Ultimate Zone Rating, while Baseball-Reference rated him as average (0).
Coghlan will be a free agent after this season, and is earning $4.8 million in his final arbitration year. Aaron Brooks still has under one year of service time, has options remaining, and will not reach free agency earlier than 2022.
The move to trade Coghlan appears to facilitate a mic drop of a move by Cubs' President Theo Epstein:
Fowler deal announced as he walked on the field. Theo "I'll never top that" #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) February 25, 2016
Fowler apparently backed out (or an infamous Orioles physical forced him out) of a three-year deal with the Orioles to sign a one-year deal with a mutual option with the Cubs.
Where Coghlan will play
As to where Coghlan fits in this setup, it may actually be more as an offensive upgrade on Eric Sogard than as an infield upgrade, though Coghlan hasn't played that much infield in his major league career. The 23 games on the infield (2B, 3B, 1B) he played last year were a career high at the major league level, and the last time he's played more than a couple dozen games at second base professionally was 2008 in Double-A.
Asked about Sogard's place on crowded A's roster, Forst: "That probably will be answered in April. A lot can happen between now and then."— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) February 25, 2016
To do this requires some changes to one's assumptions about Jed Lowrie's comfort switching between infield positions, as without Eric Sogard, Lowrie would be the only backup shortstop on the projected opening day roster, with potential backups Tyler Ladendorf, Eric Sogard, and Chad Pinder presumably starting the year in Triple-A.
Given Marcus Semien started 147 games at shortstop last year, Lowrie will just have to rely on infield coach Ron Washington to help him get over whatever discomfort he has switching between positions for the few games he'd have to play there to rest Semien. Any longer absence from Semien due to injury would probably prompt a call up for a shortstop, anyway.
Also, despite Coghlan not playing center field the last two years, he has done so in the past with the Marlins. I wouldn't say he's my favorite choice to be a backup center fielder, but he's at least more likely to not need the careful health management Coco Crisp will need.
Forst says Coghlan a LH hitter A's had eyed since Dec. said he can fill in everywhere, including CF if need be depending on health of others— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) February 25, 2016
Of course, the A's could just make another trade and upset this whole apple cart once more.
Melvin praised Coghlan's versatility, acknowledged roster crunch right now. "Barring any health issues, it will be tough to pick the 25."— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) February 25, 2016
Why the deal happened, and what it means for pitching depth
The deal is basically a swap of betting on Aaron Brooks' upside and his six years of team control for one year of a more known quantity. Brooks came to the A's as part of the trade (with Sean Manaea) then sent Ben Zobrist to the Kansas City Royals last July. While he has five quality starts with the A's, his other four starts were not good, resulting in a 6.71 ERA with the A's over 51 innings (6.67 for the whole year, which includes his 4⅓ innings with the Royals).
Brooks brings a 92 mph fastball, change, slider, curve combo (Brooks Baseball) that intrigued Nico the second time he watched Brooks on television. Whether Brooks can even out his performances and become a major league quality pitcher in the coming years will be a question for the Cubs, now.
The deal does leave the club that much shorter in pitching depth. Excluding Felix Doubront as the swingman, the A's have seven starting pitchers on the 40-man roster expected to start the year at Triple-A or higher. One of those seven is Henderson Alvarez, who won't be ready to pitch until May at the earliest. The other is Jarrod Parker, who the club is being cautious with to try to avoid a recurrence of his elbow break or further complication from his Tommy John revision. After that you're looking at call ups for Sean Manaea or Dillon Overton.
For a club that had 10 pitchers make six starts or more in 2015, it's not the most comfortable starting depth situation.
This is a breaking news story, please check back for further analysis.