Chris Coghlan is just the most recent player to be shipped from Oakland to the northside of Chicago. He doesn’t seem to resent the move, though. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Eight former Athletics relish chance to play for best team in MLB

OAKLAND — Standing in the visitor’s clubhouse of the park he briefly called home, Chris Coghlan didn’t bother to hide his excitement to be back with the Chicago Cubs.

“I mean, we’re the best team in baseball right now,” Coghlan said with a big grin. “It’s tough to beat. One team’s been one way and another team’s headed a different way.”

The utility man has experienced both extremes of the baseball universe in 2016.

Coghlan started the season as a Cub before the Oakland Athletics traded for him at the beginning of spring training. Just over three months later, the last-place A’s sent him back to the winningest team in baseball.

“I was excited, but I was shocked too. I didn’t think it was going to happen that quick,” explained Coghlan who hit .146 in his 51 games in Oakland. “[I] felt bad too because I didn’t perform the way that I should have and the way that I had in years past when I was [with the Cubs].”

Coghlan is one of eight former A’s players on the Cubs 40-man roster. Even the 31-year-old vet had to admit that number seemed high.

“I played for an organization that was similar to the A’s philosophy in the Marlins,” said Coghlan, who was the Marlins’ first-round pick in 2006. “And you’ve just got ex-Marlins and ex-A’s everywhere.”

Since Coghlan’s trade in June, Josh Reddick and Rich Hill are the two most prominent players who have joined that fraternity.

“The A’s just [have] a lot of turnover,” Coghlan said. “And it’s tough to have stability in an organization like that. I know they have their reasons of why they do that and that’s their decision not mine.”

Two of those ex-A’s — shortstop Addison Russell and second baseman Ben Zobrist — are fixtures in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup. A third — lefty Jon Lester — dismantled his old club on Friday night.

“I think he had an impact on quite a few guys here,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Lester, who struck out eight in his first start back in Oakland. “He’s an experienced guy who had quite the track record of winning.”

Lester’s most famous contribution to the A’s was his inability to work out of the eighth inning in the team’s wild-card game collapse to the Kansas City Royals in 2014.

“Obviously, I would have liked things to have gone a little bit different when I was here,” Lester said. “But they’ve got a great coaching staff and the guys that — there’s not many guys left that I played with. So, it was a good time and [they have] great fans. It was unbelievable to be a home player.”

The carousel back and forth between the Coliseum and Wrigley has spun so furiously that Melvin has lost track.

When asked if it was bittersweet to face off against Lester after the team had traded such a big piece to acquire him, Melvin momentarily confused the Yoenis Cespedes and Russell trades from the summer of 2014.

“Yeah and he’s over there in [the other dugout],” Melvin said. “Oh, that was the other deal.”

Russell can’t keep up with all the trades either. When he arrived for the weekend series, it was the first time in over four years that Russell had stepped foot in the Coliseum.

“It brings a lot of memories back,” Russell said. “The first time I was here and the last time I was here, I was 18 years old after the draft and I came here to sign.”

The franchise’s one-time shortstop of the future said he still keeps in touch with A’s players like Ryan Dull, Bruce Maxwell and Tyler Ladendorf. Russell even included Billy Burns on the list before being informed that the speedy outfielder had also been dealt.

“He was just traded? Russell said. “Wow. That’s the reason I didn’t see him.”

Started at the Coliseum, now they’re here

  1. Addison Russell was traded to the Cubs with Billy McKinney and Dan Straily in July of 2014 for Jon Lester and Jason Hammel.
  2. Jon Lester spent a brief amount of time in Oakland after being acquired as a rental at the 2014 deadline. He’s thrived this year.

  3. Ben Zobrist was Oakland’s major trade chip at last year’s deadline. The team sent him to Kansas City for Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks.

  4. Jason Hammel was a part of the Lester deal in 2014. He returned to the Cubs that offseason, signing a two-year deal.

  5. Chris Coghlan is the most recent player to follow the Oakland-to-Chicago path. He was bad for the A’s, hitting .146/.215/.272 over 51 games.

  6. Trevor Cahill was drafted by the A’s in the second round of the 2006 draft, traded from Oakland to Arizona in 2011 and signed with Chicago in December.

  7. RJ Alvarez was traded with Jesse Hahn from San Diego to Oakland in exchange for catcher Derek Norris and Seth Streich in the 2014 offseason. He was claimed off waivers by the Cubs in mid-June.

  8. Aaron Brooks was traded before this season to the Cubs in exchange for utility man Chris Coghlan, who re-joined the Cubs via trade this season.

Addison RussellBen ZobristBob Melvinchris coghlanJon LesterMLBOakland Athletics

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