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Oakland A’s trade Ryon Healy to Mariners

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As usual, the A’s get their offseason started early.

Sep 6, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Ryon Healy (25) during the game against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Farewell, sweet prince.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s traded slugger Ryon Healy to the Mariners on Wednesday, the team announced. In return they received RHP Emilio Pagan and minor league infielder Alexander Campos.

The departure of Healy is no surprise, as he had publicly been on the trading block this winter. After a breakout rookie season in 2016, the 25-year-old suffered a relative sophomore slump this past year. Despite knocking 25 homers, he struggled to get on base and measured out as merely a league-average hitter, while providing little-to-nothing on defense as a DH, 1B, and occasional 3B. Overall he graded somewhere between replacement-level (0.2 fWAR) or marginally above (1.0 bWAR).

The A’s have a logjam of high-power, low-OBP bats at the corner/DH positions, and removing one from the equation opens the door to find a better lineup balance. Specifically, Khris Davis makes more sense at DH than in LF due to his poor throwing arm, and now there appear to be more at-bats available for him at that spot. Even if the A’s turn around and add another right-handed outfield bat, as has also been rumored, they still stand to improve the overall defense and versatility on the roster.

Meanwhile, Oakland’s return package gives them their first step toward a necessary bullpen revamp. Emilio Pagan pitched 34 games for Seattle last year, with an impressive line that included a 3.22 ERA, more than a strikeout per inning, and a 7.0 K/BB. He often threw multiple frames at a time, twice going four scoreless innings. Most of his work came in middle relief, but the rookie did convert 8-of-9 hold opportunities when tasked with protecting leads (generally in the 7th inning). The righty throws a 94 mph fastball (tops 97) and frequently mixes in an 84 mph slider.

Minor details: Pagan will turn 27 early next season. He is from South Carolina, was drafted in the 10th round in 2013, and still has six years of team control. Here’s more from Lookout Landing, including GIFs and a full scouting report.

Pagan, 2017: 3.22 ERA, 50⅓ ip, 56 Ks, 8 BB, 7 HR, 3.28 FIP, 56.9% flyballs

The A’s also picked up 17-year-old Alexander Campos, who was Seattle’s top international signing of the last couple years according to Baseball America (signed for $575,000 out of Venezuela). MLB Pipeline ranked him 15th in the Mariners’ weak farm system, offering a scouting report that includes an “advanced defensive skill set at shortstop” and the potential to stay at that position long-term. In terms of offense, Pipeline talks about line drives, gap power, and on-base skills, in addition to speed. That profile earned him grades of 55 in speed, arm, and fielding, with a 50 Hit tool but only 35 for power.

Campos played Rookie Ball in 2017, in the Dominican Summer League. I don’t much care about stats at the Rookie Ball level, but for what it’s worth he posted a strong 136 wRC+ on the strength of a high OBP. The one thing I take note of in his numbers is that he walked more than he struck out.

Hot takes

I’m happy with this trade. Someone had to go from the corner logjam, and it probably had to be either Healy or Khris Davis. I want to keep Khrush for now because frankly he’s the better player and worth the extra salary, so Healy was the odd man out, especially with Matt Olson and Matt Chapman seemingly entrenched ahead of him at 1B/3B. I would have liked to stash him in Triple-A, but I recognize that was probably not a great allotment of available resources. And that’s all before considering what to do with yet another righty slugger in Renato Nunez, who will be out of options next year.

It always made the most sense to cash in Healy’s value this winter. Getting back a reliever was the most reasonable thing to expect here, since decent righty DH/1B bats are not in high demand, and Pagan is certainly promising. You don’t have to squint to find the quality in his initial MLB numbers, and before that he racked up Ks throughout the minors. He is exactly the kind of arm I like to acquire, having passed his first tests but still unknown enough to buy low. I don’t have much to add about Campos, but he’s more than a nominal throw-in even though I doubt he’ll crack our stacked Community Prospect List Top 30.

In other words: I grudgingly agree with trading Healy, I think they targeted the right thing by getting relief help, and they picked a good one in Pagan. Well played.

This marks the third time in the past year that Seattle has acquired a 1B from the A’s. They previously traded for Danny Valencia last November, and then for Yonder Alonso in August. All told, Oakland’s 2018 squad could include starter Paul Blackburn, reliever Emilio Pagan, and outfielder Boog Powell, all thanks to the Mariners’ never-ending quest for power at a position where power is easy to find and in an era when it’s cheap to buy. Dipoto gonna Dipoto.

Having said all that, though, Athletics Nation will definitely be sad to lose Healy. He’s a positive, smiley, fun-loving player, always the first guy on the scene to wildly celebrate his teammate’s big hit or walk-off with hyper-animated child-like wonder. He also seemed to get along great with the rest of the A’s youth movement, having come up through the minors with many of the other rookies, and you hate to lose that clubhouse camaraderie. But there are only 25 spots on the roster and nine in the lineup, and not everyone can stay.

Best of luck to Ryon in Seattle! Well, not too much luck, but like, a solid amount; he’s still in our division, after all.

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 07:  Ryon Healy #25 of the Oakland Athletics is interviewed after he hit a walk-off home run in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on May 7, 2017 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
We’ll miss you, Captain Dubble Bubble.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images