The Oakland A's traded Chris Coghlan to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday in return for utilityman Arismendy Alcantara. The 24-year-old Alcantara played in the majors for Chicago in 2014 and 2015 but has been in Triple-A all of this season. He will report to Triple-A Nashville.
Coghlan was acquired from the Cubs on Feb. 25 in exchange for pitcher Aaron Brooks, so he is returning to familiar territory. He played for Chicago for two seasons from 2014-15 and posted a .793 OPS (119 wRC+) with good power and plate discipline, but he simply did not repeat that production in Oakland. In 51 games for the A's, Coghlan batted .146/.215/.272 (31 wRC+) with five homers and a 27.3% strikeout rate that was half-again what it had been in Chicago (18.7%).
Coghlan, who turns 31 later this month, played multiple positions for the A's including 2B, 3B, and the outfield corners. However, he was a below-average defender at all of them and had particularly been struggling lately in RF, where he'd been playing every day in place of the injured Josh Reddick. The A's have yet to announce who will be called up to replace him on the roster.
Alcantara was once a Top 100 prospect as recently as pre-2014, though he hasn't done much the last couple years. He has some power, but a lack of contact has been his downfall so far. The last time he hit well was in Triple-A in 2014, when his 126 wRC+ earned him a debut in MLB. But he didn't hit well in 70 games for the Cubs, and then he struggled the next year both in Triple-A and in a brief cup of coffee in the bigs. This year he's bounced back about halfway (98 wRC+).
In the field, Alcantara has played many positions in his career: 2B, 3B, SS, and all three outfield spots. His primary position now is 2B, and indeed he's played there exclusively in 2016. In a scouting report this past winter, Rob Hoff of Bleed Cubbie Blue described Alcantara as a plus defender at 2B with the chance to become solid in the outfield (though there are conflicting reports about his quality at 2B). Coghlan was often labeled with the "mini Ben Zobrist" tag due to his versatility, and perhaps that description could fit Alcantara as well.
Instant reaction: Good trade, in that "sure, why not?" kind of way. Coghlan was a win-now player who was playing like garbage on a losing team. He was an absolute zero at the plate, and he was starting to affect games negatively on defense too. He can be a free agent after this season, so there wasn't a whole lot of point to keeping a struggling veteran around for the rest of the year. And his performance was so abysmal that there wasn't much point in holding on to him until trade season in July. In fact, I'm kind of surprised they got a player for him at all as opposed to cash considerations, much less a player I've always kind of wanted in Alcantara.
Both of these guys could probably use a change of scenery. Coghlan goes back to the last place he succeeded, and Alcantara goes ... anywhere else at all after stalling in his development. The A's are likely to be sellers this summer given that they're already nine games below .500, but don't take this deal to mean that trade season is starting early. More likely, this was just the A's shaking things up after getting dominated by the awful Brewers, cutting an ineffective player while they have the chance to get something in return. They should also save at least $3 million by shedding the rest of Coghlan's salary.
If you take a step back and remove the middleman, the A's essentially traded Aaron Brooks straight up for Alcantara. Brooks has not yet pitched in 2016 due to a hip contusion, but even ignoring that I think most of Athletics Nation would still have made that swap. Alcantara may never pan out, but at least he's still young enough to be worth a shot.