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Oakland A’s trade Sean Doolittle & Ryan Madson to Nationals for Blake Treinen & 2 prospects

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The Athletics have traded long-time team favorite Sean Doolittle and reliever Ryan Madson to the Washington Nationals.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics
Fan favorite Sean Doolittle was traded to the Washington Nationals with reliever Ryan Madson.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics have traded relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Washington Nationals for reliever Blake Treinen and prospects Sheldon Neuse and Jesus Luzardo. Neuse and Luzardo are the second and third rounds selections of the Nationals in the 2016 MLB Draft, respectively. The club officially announced the deal minutes after Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the news in two tweets.

Coming to Oakland

Neuse is a 22-year old shortstop and third baseman hitting .291/.349/.469 in 321 plate appearances in the Class-A South Atlantic League. He is the 6th-ranked prospect in the Nationals system in MLB.com’s rankings.

Luzardo is a 19-year-old left-handed pitcher who has struck out 15 and walked none in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League this year with a 1.32 ERA in three starts. He is the 10th-ranked prospect in the Nationals system in MLB.com’s rankings. He already has a Tommy John surgery on his resume, from before he was drafted out of high school.

Treinen, 29, is in his fourth major league season but has struggled this year to keep runs off the board despite his lowest walk rate (7.7%) since his rookie season in 2014. He has a 5.73 ERA but 3.75 FIP with 32 strikeouts and 13 walks in 37 23 innings. The A’s initially drafted Treinen in the seventh round of the 2011 MLB Draft before trading him to the Nationals in the three-team deal that brought John Jaso to the A’s from the Mariners.

Treinen takes one of the two active roster spots vacated by Doolittle and Mason, and the A’s have selected the contract of journeyman pitcher Simon Castro to take the other spot. Castro owns a 3.32 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 21 walks in 38 relief innings this season with Triple-A Nashville. Treinen is in his final pre-arbitration year, and is under team control through 2020.

Headed to Washington

Sean Doolittle signed his contract extension in 2014. His guaranteed deal ends in 2018, and the A’s have two club options that could have kept him at the club in 2019 and 2020 for $6 and $6.5 million per year, respectively. Injuries have kept Doolittle out for long stretches the last few years, he recorded just 12 and 44 appearances in 2015 and 2016, respectively. He was also out for the entire month of May through the first week of June.

The fireballing lefty has had to reinvent his game a little bit after shoulder injuries reduced his velocity a bit, with a new slider finally becoming an effective second pitch this year.

In all, Doolittle finishes his career in Oakland with a 3.09 ERA, 2.45 FIP, and 36 saves in 254 appearances over 253 innings with exactly 300 strikeouts, 47 walks, and 22 home runs allowed.

The 36-year-old Ryan Madson was on his second deal since beginning his comeback to baseball in 2015 with the World Champion Kansas City Royals. He signed a three-year, $22 million contract with the A’s that started in 2016 that pays him $7.5 million each in 2017 and 2018. Madson had a 3.03 ERA, 3.44 FIP, and 31 saves in 103 appearances over 104 innings with the A’s with 88 strikeouts, 26 walks, and nine home runs allowed. He has a 2.06 ERA this year.

Quick Hot Take

As the longest-tenured member of the A’s—Sonny Gray now holds that crown for as long as he’s here—losing Sean Doolittle is obviously a heartbreaker. Fans have adored him and he has loved them right back at the same he uses his fame and fortune to support worthy causes. He is a team leader and will be sorely missed.

The A’s brought on Madson in 2016 hoping to bolster a bullpen that had failed them in 2015 and perhaps with some good luck on the injury front find their way back into the postseason. Madson performed his role admirably, but the A’s could not find their way back to the postseason, earning the No. 6 draft pick in the process.

Since missing out on signing Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason, it’s been clear that this season was going to be about giving the top prospects in Triple-A a little bit of time to get comfortable hitting there and then start bringing them up midseason. Though only 6.5 games out of a postseason berth in a tight AL Wild Card race, they have to pass eight other teams just to get there.

The way to make sense of the trade, setting aside emotions, is this. Sean Doolittle has a lot of injury risk and Ryan Madson has a lot of age risk. Treinen comes with team control to soften the loss to the bullpen, and those two prospects have started their young professional careers well. A new stadium will, at the very earliest, be on track to open in 2020.

This is the rebuild. These last two seasons have been the rebuild, and now it’s time for the A’s to enter the final phase of the rebuild that should culminate in the literal building of a new stadium in Oakland. Good wishes to Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, and thanks for everything.