clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Oakland A’s acquire reliever Jeurys Familia from Mets

The A’s send two prospects to New York.

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s have acquired relief pitcher Jeurys Familia from the Mets, the team announced Saturday. The right-hander was serving as the Mets closer, as he’d done for most of the last four seasons. In exchange, the A’s sent two prospects to New York: reliever Bobby Wahl and infielder Will Toffey, plus international slot money.

The 6’3, 240-pound Familia has spent his entire career with the Mets to this point. He debuted in 2012 but didn’t find a regular role until two years later as a setup man. In 2015 he took over the closer role, and the next season he led MLB with 51 saves and earned an All-Star berth. This summer he’s up to his usual tricks at age 28, with a low ERA, excellent peripheral stats, and a strong save percentage (17 saves, 1 hold, 4 blown, 81.8% success). He’s particularly adept at limiting homers, allowing only one in each of the last three seasons (total 143 innings).

Familia, 2018: 2.88 ERA, 40⅔ ip, 43 Ks, 14 BB, 1 HR, 36 hits, 2.54 FIP

In terms of stuff, Familia relies mostly on a sinker/slider arsenal and can dial the sinker up to the high-90s. According to Brooks Baseball, he’s averaging 96 mph on the pitch this season and has topped out at 99, and as recently as last year he touched triple-digits. As for health, he missed over half of 2017 with an arterial clot in his throwing shoulder but appears to have rebounded this summer, with only one brief DL stint this June for soreness in the same shoulder.

This move upgrades the A’s bullpen by increasing the late-inning depth. Closer Blake Treinen and setup man Lou Trivino are both having better seasons and bring superior stuff, but the addition of Familia provides another lockdown arm to choose from when protecting a lead. Treinen and Trivino have been worked hard this year, so having another top-notch setup man to share the load is a big boost to the whole group.

It’s only a short-term boost, though, as Familia is a pure rental. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, so the A’s are getting him for just over two months plus any postseason run they might make. This is a win-now move to capitalize on an unexpected chance at contention.

As for playoff experience, there’s good news and bad news. Familia has been all the way to the World Series before, playing a big role in helping the Mets get there in 2015. Along the way he posted eight scoreless outings and saved five games in the NLDS and NLCS combined. However, once in the Fall Classic against the Royals, he blew all three of his save chances in an eventual series loss.

One final thing that can’t be ignored is that Familia was arrested in 2016 in relation to an alleged domestic violence incident involving his wife. The charge was later dismissed by a judge, but Familia was still suspended by MLB for 15 games because his “overall conduct that night was inappropriate.”

Familia, career: 2.66 ERA, 321⅓ ip, 329 Ks, 129 BB, 14 HR, 2.93 FIP

Also: 123 saves, 27 holds, 20 blown, 88.2% success

In return for Familia, the A’s are parting with two prospects. Reliever Bobby Wahl is having an excellent season in Triple-A at age 26, with a monstrous strikeout rate and an overall line that can best be described as unhittable. He was drafted by Oakland in 2013 and made his MLB debut in 2017, but his career has been marred by a laundry list of frequent injuries.

Wahl, 2018 AAA: 2.27 ERA, 39⅔ ip, 65 Ks, 17 BB, 2 HR, 17 hits, 2.52 FIP

The other prospect is third baseman Will Toffey, who was drafted in the 4th round in 2017. He’s spent the season with High-A Stockton but missed over six weeks to a shoulder injury. His top skill is plate discipline and he also plays strong defense at the hot corner, but he still needs to show he can he can actually hit enough to turn that discipline into productive offense.

Toffey, 2018 A+: .244/.357/.384, 107 wRC+, 5 HR, 14.7% BB, 24.9% Ks

In addition to those prospects, the A’s also sent $1 million of international slot money to the Mets. That doesn’t mean they actually sent cash, but rather the ability to spend more money on the international market. Teams are tightly restricted in what they can spend in that department, so increasing their pool is a valuable commodity. However, the A’s are still under heavy penalties for past overspending, so the loss of this bonus pool money doesn’t affect them much — they had the allotment but weren’t allowed to use it on any big-ticket prospects anyway.

As for actual cash, the A’s will pay the remainder of Familia’s salary for the season, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. That amounts to around $3 million, out of the nearly $8 million total he was due to be paid this year. Previous reports had suggested the Mets were hoping to cover that payout in return for a better prospect return, but that’s not how things worked out in the end.

Next up for the A’s will be to make a corresponding move on their 25-man roster to make room for Familia, who is expected to arrive in time for Sunday’s game (via Slusser). To clear space on the 40-man roster, starter Daniel Gossett was transferred from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL as he deals with a strained elbow. Update: Lefty reliever Jeremy Bleich was optioned down to Triple-A on Sunday morning in order to add Familia to the 25-man.

Hot takes

I was bracing myself to not like this because I’m wary of overpaying for rentals, especially when reaching October is an optimistic hope rather than an odds-on likelihood. However, now that all the facts are in, it’s a pretty good trade. The A’s parted with a couple of quality lotto tickets, but not any crucial top prospects nor any of my favorite sleepers. In return, they made a legitimate upgrade in their push toward a Wild Card.

There are a few concerns. The domestic abuse issue casts a shadow over Familia, and he’s got a recent injury history. He’s also quite similar to what the A’s already have in the late innings, as a hard-throwing righty sinkerballer — they sure could use another lefty, for example, much less a starter. But even with the success of the bullpen so far they still needed to beef up the pitching staff one way or other, if only to help keep the top arms as fresh as possible over the long haul, and he’s undeniably a step up in that regard. Now they hopefully don’t need to turn to Treinen-N-Trivino every single time they’re in a close game.

The big loss here is Wahl. On one hand, perhaps Oakland could have simply brought him up to help the bullpen himself, but he is mostly untested at the MLB level and is completely unreliable health-wise. In essence they gave up the chance that he could be good for several years, in exchange for receiving his absolute ceiling in the form of a proven veteran All-Star for a couple months at a crucial moment in a playoff drive. It’s a win-now gamble, but a completely sensible one.

Toffey is also a solid prospect in his own right and even made our preseason CPL at No. 25, but the A’s are stacked at third base. If for some reason budding superstar Matt Chapman doesn’t have the position locked down for the next several years, they’ve also got Sheldon Neuse developing in Triple-A as another two-way performer. As noted above, the international money is a complete non-factor in my eyes, since Oakland couldn’t really use it properly this year anyway.

The A’s have invested heavily in rebuilding their farm system for an extended run of contention, and my hope has been that they don’t blow too much of it chasing a premature October. At the same time, though, they have a clear opportunity to make a push this season, and they owe it to their fans and players alike to take that seriously even if it’s a year earlier than expected. This trade strikes me as the perfect balance between those two concepts, as the upgrade is significant and the price is affordable — maybe even a downright steal.

It’s like Wahl ate a magical Toffey that supercharged him for the rest of the season but will cause him to leave afterward. That’s a gamble worth taking at this moment in time.