The Oakland A’s have traded second baseman Jurickson Profar to the San Diego Padres, reports MLB insider Robert Murray. In exchange, the A’s receive catcher Austin Allen and a player to be named later, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN.
The A’s acquired Profar last winter, but the 26-year-old struggled through a disappointing 2019 season for Oakland. He had big shoes to fill, replacing outgoing All-Star Jed Lowrie, but he never found a groove on either side of the ball. Despite solid power and plate discipline, his batting line remained well below-average all summer long, and he completely collapsed on defense, specifically by losing the ability to make a simple throw to first base.
Profar, 2019: .218/.301/.410, 89 wRC+, 20 HR, 9.3% BB, 14.5% Ks
Overall he at least managed to exceed replacement-level value, racking up 1.3 fWAR and 0.8 bWAR. But that was a notable drop from the previous season (when we was with the Texas Rangers and posted 2+ WAR), and was surely not what the A’s were hoping for from a player who was once the No. 1 prospect in the entire sport and just entering his likely prime years.
This move does not come as a particular surprise. Profar is entering his final year of salary arbitration, and is estimated to command $5.8 million. For a small-budget team like the A’s, that’s quite an expensive gamble for a bounce-back candidate coming off a poor performance, especially as they try to construct another win-now roster after reaching the postseason in each of the last two years. Indeed, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported last week that Profar was on the trade block.
As for Allen, he’s a catcher who bats left-handed, which is currently a specific need for the A’s. In 2019, at age 25, he had a monster year in Triple-A, albeit in one of the most ridiculous hitter’s parks in by far the most ridiculous hitter’s league in all of baseball. He made his MLB debut in May and found his way to 71 plate appearances, though without much success.
Allen, 2019 AAA: .330/.379/.663, 143 wRC+, 21 HR, 7.4% BB, 18.8% Ks
Allen, 2019 MLB: .215/.282/.277, 39 wRC+, 0 HR, 8.5% BB, 29.6% Ks
Prior to 2019, Allen also topped 20 homers in 2017 in High-A, and in 2018 in Double-A, so he wasn’t a complete product of the Pacific Coast League this summer. He was a 4th-round draft pick in 2015, and still has two minor league options remaining. On the down side, there are big questions about his defense behind the plate.
The decision to move on from Profar was even easier given the A’s wealth of in-house options at second base, which had grown to the point of an outright logjam:
- Franklin Barreto is a former Top 50 national prospect who has appeared in the majors each of the last three years, though he hasn’t yet played well enough to stick. He still has a lot to prove on both sides of the ball, but he’ll still be only 24 next season and he’s packed with talent.
- Sheldon Neuse tore up Triple-A this summer and forced his way into a brief MLB audition. He didn’t hit much in 64 plate appearances, but he held his own on defense after making a sudden switch from 3B to 2B (as he’s blocked from 3B indefinitely by Matt Chapman). He’ll turn 25 next week.
- Jorge Mateo is another former Top 100 prospect who is loaded with physical tools, but he ran hot and cold in 2019 and didn’t quite do enough to reach the majors yet. He has elite speed and should be decent or better on defense (at 2B or SS), but still has work to do at the plate, including making more consistent contact.
Of that trio, Barreto and Mateo will be out of minor league options in 2020, so if they’ll either have to make the MLB club or be moved via trade or DFA. In addition to them, super-sub utilityman Chad Pinder also has extensive experience at 2B, though he is significantly better in the outfield than in the infield.
However, one problem with that list is that everyone on it bats right-handed, as does nearly all the rest of the A’s lineup. Finding a left-handed hitter to play 2B would be ideal, to provide some balance with all those righties, and there are several targets to consider this winter.
Trading Profar is unquestionably the right move. He was a shrewd addition last winter, but sometimes the best-laid plans go awry, and this was one of those instances. There’s no accounting for the defensive yips, nor for the inconsistencies of BABIP — add 40 points to his batting average and his line would be virtually identical to his productive 2018 (.254/.335/.458), and Statcast’s xwOBA says he was about the same in hitter in 2018 as 2019 (around average).
Profar, 2018: 20 HR, 9.1% BB, 14.8% Ks, .325 xwOBA
Profar, 2019: 20 HR, 9.3% BB, 14.5% Ks, .323 xwOBA
This makes sense for both teams. The A’s need production now, and on top of that they couldn’t afford this pricey of a lotto ticket. It was time for a change. But the Padres, who went 70-92 and finished in last place, are in more of a rebuilding position. This is exactly the kind of buy-low gamble they should be making, in the hopes that 2019 was a fluke and Profar can get back on track toward being a quality everyday player. It’s absolutely possible he could be good in 2020.
It doesn’t even really matter what the A’s get in this trade. Profar would presumably have been non-tendered at today’s arbitration deadline and simply released, so anything they net from San Diego is a complete bonus. It turns out to be Allen, who is an interesting prospect and fits Oakland’s needs perfectly, and there’s still one more PTBNL yet to be revealed. Not paying Profar (and easing the 2B logjam) was already a win, but getting Allen out of the deal makes it even better.
At worst this is fine, addition by subtraction. At best it’s downright exciting, getting something good for basically free despite having almost zero negotiating leverage. Our friends at Baseball Trade Values call it an absolute steal for Oakland, so lopsided that the system won’t even let you validate the offer without pretending the A’s sent a bunch of cash too (which they didn’t).
Best of luck to Profar in San Diego! And welcome to Allen!