We've reached July and the Oakland A's are bad again, which means it's time to stop worrying too much about wins and losses and start focusing on how the team can improve its future via the trade deadline. This is the second straight year that the A's have been sellers in July, which makes this the perfect time to look back on how last year's deals have worked out so far.
The A's made three meaningful trades last July:
From Royals for Ben Zobrist
LHP Sean Manaea
RHP Aaron Brooks
From Astros for Scott Kazmir
C Jacob Nottingham
RHP Daniel Mengden
From Mets for Tyler Clippard
RHP Casey Meisner
* * *
However, a couple of those players were quickly flipped in other deals last winter. With that in mind, here is a look at how each deal has worked out 11.5 months later.
Ben Zobrist for LHP Sean Manaea and UTIL Arismendy Alcantara
How did this happen? Aaron Brooks to Cubs for Chris Coghlan. A few months later, Coghlan back to Cubs for Alcantara.
Result: This still looks like a win for both sides. Zobrist won a ring in Kansas City, so they'll never regret it. Manaea is hitting some bumps in the road, or I guess more accurately the bumps are hitting him (all the way into the seats, specifically), but he's still a high-upside young starter pitching at the MLB level.
The back end of the deal has gone through some worthwhile renovations. Brooks was always a toss-in, more or less a replacement player, but the A's turned him into a legitimate MLB bat in Chris Coghlan when the latter got squeezed out of the Cubs' roster. When Coghlan ended up flopping, the A's caught another break when the Cubs took him back in exchange for Alcantara. The multi-position 24-year-old is probably a better get than Brooks was in the first place, and he's already played a few games in Oakland since arriving in the organization.
The A's had a big-name rental trade chip, and a year later it still looks like they turned him into a Top 100 prospect and a useful fringe player. The Top 100 guy has already graduated, albeit to unimpressive early results, and the fringe guy has been upgraded to one with more to offer and a higher ceiling. This was a good trade then and it still is today.
Grade: A then, A- now (b/c Manaea wasn't immediately awesome)
Scott Kazmir for RHP Daniel Mengden and OF Khris Davis
How did this happen? Jacob Nottingham to Brewers (along with another nominal prospect) for Khris Davis.
Result: This one might go down as one of Billy Beane's greatest, which is saying something considering his long list of lopsided trades. It doesn't hurt that the Astros got little from Kazmir, who was mediocre down the stretch and pedestrian in his only start in the team's ALDS loss, but schadenfreude isn't necessary to appreciate the deal. The A's acquired a pair of low minors lotto tickets and straight-up hit the double-jackpot on their return.
The first thing they did was bank some of the prospect value and reinvest it right back into the team. They did that by flipping Nottingham, a long-term project, for the mostly proven MLB slugger Davis. It was still a forward-thinking move, since they got four years of team control with Davis, but it took some of the risk out of the equation and replaced it with tangible big league production today. And the move has worked, as Davis has added the power he was brought in to provide (leads the team in homers) while hitting for an above-average line overall (107 wRC+). Again, it helps even more that Nottingham (92 wRC+) and toss-in Bubba Derby (4.97 ERA) have not yet made any noise in the minors, but the greater point is that Davis has been a positive addition.
And that's not even the half of it. The other prospect, Mengden, has panned out faster and better than anyone could have reasonably guessed. The 2014 draftee was still in High-A when the A's got him last summer, but he blew through Double-A and Triple-A in just two months this year to reach Oakland in June. He finally stumbled on Friday after five solid starts to begin his career, but he looks like he belongs in a big league rotation already and he could be here to stay.
The A's had an All-Star-level starting pitcher rental, and a year later it looks like they already replaced him with a new rookie mid-rotation starter and also got a productive slugger out of it. This was a promising trade then and it's a jackpot now.
Grade: B+ then, A+ now (b/c the two lotto tickets hit)
Tyler Clippard for RHP Casey Meisner
Result: Not much has come of this so far. Meisner was an excellent get in return for a good-not-great reliever, but he's having a rough 2016 season. He's still super young so he's far from being a dud yet, and so there isn't much to say about this trade yet. The idea was still right, but there's nothing to show for it at the moment.
The A's landed a quality lotto ticket, and a year later they're still waiting for the winning numbers to be announced.
Grade: A then, B+ now (b/c Meisner is struggling)
The deadline haul looked good right away, and it still looked good at the end of last season. A full year later, it looks even better, largely because the returns have already translated into MLB production.
The A's traded away three pending free agents, albeit all of them former All-Stars having good years, so they didn't give away any future value other than presumably a pair of compensatory draft picks via the QO system. But they have so much to show for it: two members of their current rotation, both of them promising rookies with mid-rotation upside or higher; a 1-2 WAR hitter with middle-of-the-order power, in his prime and under long-term control; a solid MLB-ready utilityman with a bit of potential upside left; and a low-minors lotto ticket.
The A's lost their trade mojo for a year or two there, but it looks like they're back on track with a couple of superb stars-for-prospects swaps. Let's hope they can repeat that magic this month!