We’re still waiting for the 2020 MLB season to get going in July, but we got some actual baseball news on Tuesday. The Oakland A’s traded infielder Jorge Mateo to the San Diego Padres, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN.
The A’s will receive a player to be named later in the deal. For now, the move clears a spot on their 40-man roster, and in their 60-man player pool, though whoever they get as the PTBNL will have to join the pool (and maybe the roster depending who it is).
Oakland first acquired Mateo in 2017, from the Yankees as part of the Sonny Gray trade. He’s been ranked on national Top 100 lists in the past due to his explosive raw tools, including elite 80-grade speed, but his stock has fallen in recent years as he’s struggled to translate that talent into production on the field. This past winter, Athletics Nation ranked him No. 9 on our Community Prospect List, a drop of three spots from the previous year.
After bursting onto the scene in the A’s farm system in late-2017, Mateo’s bat went silent in Triple-A. In 2018 the team’s affiliate was in extremely pitcher-friendly Nashville, and then in 2019 they were in extremely hitter-friendly Las Vegas, and both times he posted below-average batting lines. His overall numbers from the last two seasons (in 1,076 plate appearances):
Mateo, 2018-19 AAA: .261/.306/.433, 80 wRC+, 5.4% BB, 26.4% Ks
Included in those numbers are 22 homers and 30 triples, as well as 49 steals in 70 attempts (70% success, which is low). However, to his credit his defense at shortstop is considered at least solid and maybe better, helping add to his value.
We’ll have to wait to find out what the A’s are getting in return for their high-risk, high-ceiling prospect. Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle notes the following about why they might have chosen to make the swap for a PTBNL: “One reason to hurry it up and do PTBNL is to prevent Mateo from having to go to Oakland and then on to SD in a week or two or whatever the timeline would have been. A considerate gesture.”
This is the second trade the A’s have made with San Diego since the end of last season. In December, they sent second baseman Jurickson Profar to the Padres in exchange for catcher Austin Allen and outfield prospect Buddy Reed.
This trade might not come as a big surprise to many in the AN community, as one of the top story lines of the team’s offseason was the infield logjam. There were three young prospects battling for spots on the Opening Day roster, and none of them could be sent down to the minors — Mateo and Franklin Barreto are out of options, and Vimael Machin is a Rule 5 draft pick who must stay in MLB all season.
Even with the expanded 30-man rosters to start this season, there still wouldn’t be enough playing time for all of them. Something had to give, and Oakland is making the call now while they still have negotiating leverage instead of waiting until it’s too late and losing one of these players for nothing in return.
Mateo is still an enticing prospect, but he didn’t have a clear path to playing time in Oakland and he just turned 25. The clock is ticking toward his prime, and now he can continue his development with a San Diego club that’s trying to build its next contending roster.