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Oakland A’s trade Wilmer Font to Rays

The A’s receive minor league reliever Peter Bayer.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s traded pitcher Wilmer Font to the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, the team announced. Font had been designated for assignment on Wednesday. In return, they received minor league pitcher Peter Bayer.

Font entered the season as a popular sleeper prospect for the Dodgers after an excellent 2017 in Triple-A. However, he got hammered in the majors to start this year and was eventually DFA’d and traded to the A’s in late-April. Oakland gave up a low-level prospect to give him a tryout, but it didn’t last long — he allowed runs in all four appearances and dingers in three of them, then was DFA’d again.

Font, 2018 LAD: 11.32 ERA, 10⅓ ip, 7 Ks, 1 BB, 5 HR, 8.33 FIP
Font, 2018 OAK: 14.85 ERA, 6⅔ ip, 9 Ks, 4 BB, 5 HR, 11.96 FIP
Font, 2018 MLB: 12.71 ERA, 17 ip, 16 Ks, 5 BB, 10 HR, 9.76 FIP

The 28-year-old could yet figure things out, but he’ll need more playing time in order to do that and he wasn’t going to find it in Oakland. The Rays have more space on their pitching staff, especially after also trading closer Alex Colome to the Mariners on Friday.

In return for Font, the A’s receive minor league reliever Peter Bayer. The right-hander was a 9th-round pick in 2016 out of Cal Poly Pomona, after years of training with Driveline. After his draft he struck out the world in Rookie Ball (12.4 K.9, 38.1%), then did so again in 2017 in Single-A (12.8 K/9, 31.5%). However, he’s struggled in High-A this year at age 24.

Bayer, 2016 RK: 0.83 ERA, 32⅔ ip, 45 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 1.67 FIP
Bayer, 2017 A: 4.84 ERA, 67 ip, 95 Ks, 48 BB, 5 HR, 3.96 FIP
Bayer, 2018 A+: 18.00 ERA, 4 ip, 6 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR, 12.92 FIP

One thing Bayer seems to have going for him is velocity. In 2016 he was clocked around 91-94 mph (with a “funky delivery”), and after that season Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs pegged him as high as 96 while praising his work in improving his stuff. In mid-2017 he reached 98 mph.

Bayer has a lot to prove before he becomes a serious prospect, but he’s plenty interesting as a consolation prize. To put things into perspective, the A’s traded away reliever Logan Salow to get Font, and then when Font didn’t work out they cashed back out for Bayer. In the long run, they essentially swapped Salow for Bayer.

As lotto ticket prospects go, this is about a wash. Salow was a 6th-round pick, and Bayer was a 9th-rounder the year before but is only six months older. Salow has the advantage of being a lefty and the Dodgers already moved him up to High-A, but he’s yet to do anything as impressive as what Bayer did in the strikeout column his first two seasons.

Salow, 2017 A-: 1.50 ERA, 22⅓ ip, 28 Ks 14 BB, 0 HR, 3.07 FIP
Salow, 2018 A: 3.27 ERA, 11 ip, 16 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 3.00 FIP
Salow, 2018 A+: 9.00 ERA, 6 ip, 8 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 3.11 FIP

The bottom line is that Oakland didn’t really lose anything for the opportunity of taking a look at Font. They had an intriguing but fringe relief prospect, and now they have a different intriguing but fringe relief prospect, of the same age and at the same level of the minors and with a similar high-K, high-BB stats profile. As an extra bonus, Oakland ends up with the best pun potential: The A’s turn to Bayer for relief.

Welcome, Peter! Good luck in Tampa Bay, Wilmer!