The Oakland A’s acquired pitcher Wilmer Font from the Dodgers on Wednesday, the team announced. In return, the A’s sent away minor league pitcher Logan Salow.
Font, who turns 28 next month, has bounced around several organizations (and even an independent league) over the last decade since signing out of Venezuela. He finally had a breakout last summer as a starter in Triple-A, but then washed out of Los Angeles quickly this year. He’s faced 48 MLB batters this season, and recorded seven strikeouts and five home runs (including dingers by Matt Chapman and Jed Lowrie).
Font, 2017 AAA: 3.42 ERA, 134⅓ ip, 178 Ks, 35 BB, 11 HR, 2.98 FIP
Font, 2018 MLB: 11.32 ERA, 10⅓ ip, 7 Ks, 1 BB, 5 HR, 8.40 FIP
For the full breakdown on Font’s career and the upside he brings, check out Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs. To summarize, the big right-hander boasts a mid-90s fastball along with a curve and a slider. According to Sullivan, Font’s recent success in the minors came when he began working his rising fastball up in the zone (sound familiar?) and throwing his curve for first-pitch strikes. The massive strikeout rate hasn’t yet translated to the big leagues, but there are reasons to hope he can be a late bloomer thanks to his significant shifts in strategy.
On the down side, Font is out of minor league options, which is why he was available in the first place after a DFA from Los Angeles. He also has Tommy John surgery in his past, for what that’s worth. And again, he’s been torched in the majors this year just as he was in a cup of coffee for the Dodgers last year. Including a few MLB innings with the Rangers in 2012-13, his career ERA is 11.42 in 17⅓ innings (9.03 FIP).
In exchange, the A’s shipped out minor leaguer Logan Salow. The lefty reliever was drafted in the 6th round last summer and was pitching for Single-A Beloit. The 23-year-old was off to a fine start this season (5⅔ ip, 1 ER, 8 Ks, 2 BB, 1 hit) and is a decent bullpen lotto ticket.
Since Font can’t be optioned back to Triple-A, a corresponding move will have to be made to add him to the 25-man roster. He takes the 40-man spot recently vacated by the loss of Renato Nunez.
This isn’t a huge move, but it makes plenty of sense. The A’s rotation is holding its own right now but could still use more depth, and Font is the kind of under-the-radar pickup they often have success with. Furthermore, his recent adjustment (the high/rising fastball) is something the A’s seem to believe in lately, so it stands to reason that they’d like this guy in particular. He’s far from a guarantee, but in terms of cruising the waiver wire in late-April you could do a whole lot worse.
I can’t help but be reminded of Renato Nunez, who’s roster spot Font coincidentally slides into. The slugger still had some promise but was out of options and the A’s lost him for nothing, and now they’re on the other side of the equation by picking up the out-of-options Font for a song. Hypothetical: If the A’s had simply traded Renato for Font, would we be talking about a totally reasonable swap of sleeper prospects? (Not to ignore Salow in all this, but the A’s have plenty of other low-minors relief prospects to sort through.)
Beyond the current five in Oakland’s rotation (Manaea, Mengden, Cahill, Triggs, Graveman, all of whom spent time on the DL last year), the immediate depth now includes Daniel Gossett, Brett Anderson, Wilmer Font, Chris Bassitt, and James Naile. Of that list, only Bassitt is on the 25-man roster at the moment (as a long reliever), with Gossett (and now Font) joining him on the 40-man. If I were to make a guess, I’d bet Bassitt goes back down to Triple-A and Font takes the long relief role.