After months of suspense, the sale has begun.
The Oakland A's traded All-Star pitcher Chris Bassitt to the New York Mets on Saturday, first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN and later confirmed by the team. This is Oakland’s first major deal since the lengthy MLB lockout ended two days ago, beginning a rebuilding process we’ve been expecting all winter.
In return, the A's receive two right-handed pitching prospects, J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller.
Ginn was a 2nd-round draft pick in 2020 and spent last year pitching well in Low-A and High-A at age 22 (he turns 23 in May). He was one of the Mets top prospects, ranking No. 4 in their system per MLB Pipeline and No. 6 per Baseball America, thanks to an arsenal featuring three plus pitches — a mid-90s fastball, slider, and changeup. He had Tommy John surgery in 2020 but has returned to action strong since then.
- Ginn, 2021 A-: 2.56 ERA, 38⅔ ip, 35 Ks, 10 BB, 3 HR, 3.78 FIP
- Ginn, 2021 A+: 3.38 ERA, 53⅓ ip, 46 Ks, 12 BB, 0 HR, 3.90 FIP
Oller has seen his stock rise substantially over the past year. Last winter he was selected in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, but he responded by earning Mets’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2021. He doesn’t boast standout stuff, with a fastball that only recently ticked up to the low/mid-90s and a decent slider and change, but he used them to post a monster strikeout rate in Double-A last season and then continued to succeed upon promotion to Triple-A, all as a starter. He turned 27 a few months ago and still hasn’t reached the majors, but he’s put himself on the prospect radar.
- Oller, 2021 AA: 4.03 ERA, 76 ip, 95 Ks, 29 BB, 8 HR, 3.61 FIP
- Oller, 2021 AAA: 2.45 ERA, 44 ip, 43 Ks, 18 BB, 1 HR, 3.34 FIP
Oller was on New York’s 40-man roster, which means he’ll now take a spot on Oakland’s 40-man.
The A’s entered the offseason with several stars on the trade block, and Bassitt is the first domino to fall. Fellow pitchers Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas, first baseman Matt Olson, and third baseman Matt Chapman are also expected to be available for the right price, with the only question being how many of them will go. In Bassitt, the win-now Mets get another All-Star arm for their already stacked rotation, though the right-hander does come with some injury risk.
Losing Bassitt is a bummer for Oakland fans, as he's been a star performer, team leader, and fan favorite, but this is the familiar rebuild cycle we've come to get used to. He was entering his final year of team control, and the A’s probably weren’t going to be able to contend without a lot going right, so now they’ve turned him into two new pitchers who can be controlled for six seasons apiece at cheap salaries.
In terms of the actual swap, this looks about right. They got two good prospects, one of them a legit top name to develop in the lower minors, and the other a quality sleeper who might be MLB-ready soon — click here for full scouting reports. It’s easy to see how it could work out well, with Oller contributing right away and then Ginn coming up as a star later, or one or both could bust, but as things stand now this is a sensible return package and right around what we should have expected to get.
It also signifies a proper rebuild, as the A’s received prospects instead of trying to retool with players who have already reached MLB and used some of their service time. That’s notable considering that Oakland reportedly checked on New York third baseman J.D. Davis before the lockout. In the past, the A’s have done much better with rebuilds than half-measure retools.
None of that makes it any easier to say goodbye to Bassitt, even though we knew this day was coming. Over seven seasons here he worked his way up from a long TJS recovery, became a breakout star, authored a memorable postseason performance, reached All-Star status, suffered a terrifying fluke injury, and then bounced back from that too, all while establishing himself as a vocal leader for the clubhouse and the fanbase. Athletics Nation will miss him dearly.
If there’s any consolation, it’s that Bassitt was himself a prospect acquisition in a star trade, for Jeff Samardzija in 2015. The same cycle that takes away our favorites is also the means by which we find them. Hopefully it will go that way again with the new prospects, until such time as simply re-signing our stars becomes an option.
Best of luck to Bassitt in New York, where he’ll join former Oakland teammates Mark Canha and Starling Marte! And welcome to the A’s newest pitchers!