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A’s trade Christian Bethancourt to Rays for two prospects

OF Cal Stevenson and RHP Christian Fernandez

MLB: JUN 11 Athletics at Guardians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Trade season got started a bit early for the Oakland A’s this year.

The A’s traded veteran hitter Christian Bethancourt to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. The deal was first reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times and Jeff Passan of ESPN, and was later confirmed by the team.

In return, Oakland receives two prospects from the Rays, outfielder Cal Stevenson and right-handed pitcher Christian Fernandez.

Thus ends the brief but fascinating tenure of Bethancourt with the A’s. He hadn’t appeared in the majors since 2017, but he signed a minor league contract with Oakland last winter and by mid-April he had found his way up to MLB for the first time in five years. Now age 30, he provided a useful bat and versatile defense in 56 games for the rebuilding club.

  • Bethancourt, OAK: .249/.298/.385, 99 wRC+, 4 HR, 4 SB, 5.5% BB, 22.5% Ks

While those numbers don’t jump off the page, they rank as the third-best batting line in the A’s weak lineup, and Statcast raves about all the hard contact he was making. On the other side of the ball, the longtime catcher spent the bulk of his defensive time this year playing first base, and he even took the mound to pitch a scoreless inning in June.

That resurgent performance by Bethancourt was enough to get the attention of the Wild Card-contending Rays, and to fetch Oakland a couple younger players in return.

Stevenson is an outfielder who’s spent this summer in Triple-A, and he’ll stay at that level and report to Las Vegas, reports insider Martin Gallegos. Defensively he gets most of his action in CF, and he’s maintained an above-average batting line each season of his pro career so far.

  • Stevenson, 2022 AAA: .265/.376/.353, 104 wRC+, 2 HR, 9 SB, 15.3% BB, 20.7% Ks

He doesn’t hit for much power, but he’s drawn tons of walks throughout the minors, and once he’s on base he can swipe some bags. The 25-year-old is a local Bay Area product, as he was born in Fremont and went to high school there, and later attended Chabot College in Hayward.

Fernandez is lower down the farm system, as he’ll slot into the rotation at High-A Lansing. That marks a promotion for him, as he was pitching in Low-A for the Rays organization, and the bump up appears well-earned based on his strong numbers this summer.

  • Fernandez, 2022 Low-A: 2.79 ERA, 58 ip, 87 Ks, 25 BB, 6 HR, 3.72 FIP

The right-hander brings a “four-pitch mix with a good changeup,” notes Gallegos. Fernandez will turn 23 next month.

Neither of these newcomers register on the A’s Top 30 prospect list according to MLB Pipeline, but they’re a couple of interesting lotto tickets with some success on their track records. You wouldn’t normally expect to get anything at all in return for a veteran you signed off the scrap heap just a few months prior, so getting something is an impressive return.

Welcome to the new prospects, and best of luck to Bethancourt on his new club!