A’s pull trigger, trade Sonny Gray to Yankees

Trade rumors swirl around A's ace Sonny Gray. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

After what seemed like an endless standoff, the Oakland Athletics brain trust of Billy Beane and David Forst came to terms with Brian Cashman and pulled the trigger on a deal to send Sonny Gray to the New York Yankees.While the Yankees wouldn’t trade potential star outfielder Clint Frazier or shortstop Gleyber Torres, they did send three major pieces to Oakland in return. Pitcher James Kaprielian, infielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder Dustin Fowler were all featured on numerous lists among the top 10 Yankee prospects.

The A’s hope Fowler can fill the void in center field for the up-and-coming core of young talent. Fowler, who will turn 23 in December, amassed a .281 batting average throughout five years in the minor leagues. He was in the Yankee lineup for his MLB debut against the White Sox on June 29, but after a three-hour rain delay, he crashed into an outfield wall in the first inning and ruptured his patellar tendon. He is expected to make a full recovery in time for Spring Training.

Fowler’s one main concern is plate discipline, as his career Minor League on-base percentage sits just 34 points higher than his batting average. Nevertheless, he is a logical candidate to fill the center field and leadoff hole for the A’s beginning in 2018.

Mateo joins a system that’s already full of shortstop and middle infield prospects, accompanying Franklin Barreto, Chad Pinder, Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock. The 22-year-old Mateo is batting .300 with an on-base percentage of .381 while slugging .525 at Double-A Trenton. Mateo has also stolen 236 base in six minor league seasons.

Like Fowler, Kaprielian is currently injured but has a high ceiling. A Southern California native, he was UCLA’s closer on their 2013 national championship team before starting over the next two seasons. Kaprielian was drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. He pitched in three games in the Yankees system in 2016 while battling an elbow injury and also pitched in the Arizona Fall League. He underwent Tommy John surgery in April, and will likely return in late 2018.

While two of the three pieces the A’s added are dealing with injuries, all three have extremely high potential. Perhaps the most interesting piece is Mateo, as the Oakland farm system is already full of middle infielders. While Yairo Munoz has been learning center field, the position is one of surplus at the moment, and some of those pieces could be on the move at the Winter Meetings if the A’s need to fill a hole at other positions.

The instant comparison for Gray’s return will be the package the Texas Rangers received from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Yu Darvish. Darvish, who will be a free agent after the season, was traded for a trio of prospects, headlined by infielder Willie Calhoun, who was ranked fourth in the Los Angeles system. However, the Dodgers did not part ways with outfield prospect Alex Verdugo or pitchers Yadier Alvarez or Walker Buehler.

In a much lower-profile move, the A’s traded utility man Adam Rosales to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league pitcher Jeferson Mejia. Rosales was batting .234 with four of his trademark sprints around the bases following home runs. He was likely out of a spot with Chad Pinder returning from the disabled list, and Arizona had a dire need at shortstop. Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed are currently on the disabled list, and Ketel Marte is on bereavement leave.

Mejia was pitching at Low-A Hillsboro. Across 208 1/3 minor league innings, he had struck out 208 batters and allowed only 189 hits, but he has walked 136 batters.

The A’s did not move veterans Yonder Alonso, Rajai Davis or Jed Lowrie, though all three could be available in waiver deals in August.

Following Monday’s trades, the A’s activated Pinder from the 10-day disabled list and recalled long reliever Michael Brady from Triple-A Nashville. Pinder can platoon with Matt Joyce in right field and fill in on the infield, while Brady will provide depth in a bullpen that threw 18 innings over the weekend against the Minnesota Twins.

Paul Blackburn is likely to start Monday night’s game. Blackburn will be on normal rest as Jharel Cotton was activated to start Sunday’s game.

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