The Oakland A’s got one more deal in before the MLB trade deadline today.
The A’s made a trade with the Washington Nationals on Friday, with Oakland acquiring catcher Yan Gomes and utilityman Josh Harrison plus cash. In exchange, the A’s sent three prospects to the Nats. The deal has been officially announced by the A’s, but it was first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN and Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News.
The three prospects going to Washington are catcher Drew Millas and right-handed pitchers Seth Shuman and Richard Guasch, all of whom were playing for High-A Lansing. The A’s will also have to make corresponding moves on the 40-man roster and the active 26-man roster to clear spots for their new additions, but those moves haven’t been announced yet.
Oakland gains two veteran role players who are both having strong 2021 seasons and both have All-Star berths on their past resumes. Both of them turned 34 years old in July, and they’re both two-month rentals whose contracts will expire at the end of the season.
In Gomes, the A’s get an upgrade for their second catcher spot. He was an All-Star in 2018 for Cleveland, then won a World Series ring with the Nationals in 2019, and continued hitting well for Washington the last two years.
- Gomes, 2021: .271/.323/.454, 105 wRC+, 9 HR, 5.5% BB, 20.0% Ks, .348 wxOBA
The MLB average for catchers is a 90 wRC+ this year, and Oakland has only gotten a 57 wRC+ from backup Aramis Garcia. According to Statcast, Gomes’ .348 xwOBA is higher than everybody on the A’s except Olson, Lowrie, and Canha.
On the other side of the ball, Gomes has a reputation as a plus defender, with positive DRS metrics for his entire career including this summer, and a high rate of throwing out base stealers. Statcast gives him poor marks for pitch framing the last couple years, but he’s also shown aptitude for that skill in the past.
Gomes spent a couple weeks on the injured list earlier this month due to a strained oblique, but he returned to action on Thursday and appeared in both halves of a doubleheader — he started the first game and hit the go-ahead homer to win it for the Nats, and then he pinch-hit in the nightcap. Before that injury, his last trip to the IL came a half-decade ago, in 2016 for a shoulder.
Meanwhile, Harrison made his name in a long career with the Pirates, including All-Star bids in 2014 and 2017. He slumped for a couple years after that but bounced back with the Nationals the last two seasons, returning to his past form with an above-average bat, on-base skills, and the ability to play basically anywhere on the field defensively. This summer he’s suited up at five different positions, and since 2020 it’s seven positions total, everywhere except pitcher and catcher.
- Harrison: .294/.366/.434, 117 wRC+, 6 HR, 7.0% BB, 13.9% Ks, .339 wxOBA
He’s capable of maintaining a decently high batting average, partly because he makes a ton of contact and rarely strikes out, and in Washington he’s increased his walk rate the last two years. He doesn’t bring much power but can pop one out now and then, and he’s not a burner in terms of speed but he can steal a base — five this year, in seven tries. Earlier in his career he posted double-digits in homers and swipes.
As for the prospects going the other way, they aren’t highly rated but all three are interesting 23-year-old sleepers who had their share of fans on Athletics Nation. Millas is a glove-first catcher who is showing great plate discipline with the bat in his pro debut this summer; Shuman was a 6th-round draft pick in 2019 who’s posted sparkling numbers this year as a starter; and Guasch was racking up strikeouts this summer and has long had the best slider in the A’s farm system according to Baseball America.
For more info on the prospects, click here for Millas, and click here for Shuman and Guasch. None of them made our preseason Community Prospect List Top 30 last winter, but all were likely candidates to crack the bottom of the rankings next year.
With all of the superstars flying around the league the last couple days, Gomes and Harrison are easy names to miss. But these are legit upgrades for the A’s.
It does make me nervous to switch catchers midseason on a club who’s pitching is its primary strength, but Gomes is a significant improvement over Garcia with the bat, and without necessarily sacrificing anything on the defensive side. Harrison is a more productive righty super-sub than Chad Pinder, who is currently injured anyway, and in Pinder’s absence they’ve called on emergency replacement players like Jacob Wilson to help with middle infield depth.
In other words, while Gomes and Harrison aren’t the flashiest names on the move today, they represent considerable marginal gains for Oakland because they are replacing roster spots that were each providing virtually nothing. It’s not a new MVP in the middle of the lineup, but it’s a subtraction of two notable roster holes. Want those rallies to last longer and produce runs more often? Replacing two auto-out lineup spots with two above-average high-contact veteran hitters should help — or really three, with the addition of outfielder Starling Marte earlier this week.
On the prospect side of the deal, personally I loved all three of these sleepers, so it’s a bummer to see them go. But that’s the price of getting MLB upgrades during a pennant race, and the truth is most High-A lotto tickets don’t pan out. We’ve already seen Jesús Luzardo go for a rental, and this is far less of a risk. The focus is squarely on the rest of 2021, and we’ll figure out the rest next winter.
Overall this was a good get at a reasonable price, and the contending A’s are better now than they were yesterday. Let’s hope it’s enough to make a difference.
No surprise, but Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes are regarded as great clubhouse guys. A theme of these recent A’s teams.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) July 30, 2021