Oakland Athletics acquire INF Jurickson Profar, RP Joakim Soria in flurry of moves

The Oakland Athletics have acquired middle infielder Jurickson Profar from the Texas Rangers as part of a three-way trade, the team announced on Friday morning.

In the trade, involving Oakland, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Rangers, the A’s acquire Profar, a former top-10 prospect who hit .254 last season with 20 home runs and 77 RBIs, while the Rangers acquire Rays minor league relievers Brock Burke, Kyle Bird and Yoel Espinal, A’s minor league infielder Eli White and international slot money.

The Rays acquire reliever Emilio Pagan, who had a 4.35 ERA last year in 55 appearances for the A’s, and the 38th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Oakland. From the Rangers, the Rays also receive minor league pitcher Rollie Lacy.

Acquiring Profar, who primarily played shortstop and third base last season for Texas, fills the hole left by 34-year old free agent Jed Lowrie, the All-Star second baseman who was a finalist for a Gold Glove this season. Profar is a 26-year old with two more seasons of team control, and, general manager David Forst said, will be the A’s everyday second baseman, and has played first, second, third, shortstop and the outfield in the past.

“We have seen a lot of him over the years, and we feel like this is a guy who’s just getting to what he’s capable of,” Forst said. “He had a great year last year as a 25-year old. We’ve got him under control for two years at ages 26 and 27, and I feel like he’s really ready to break out as one of the stars of the American League … He has the versatility to play other places, but we see him as the everyday second baseman.”

Profar, playing in a career-high 146 games, set career-bests in nearly all offensive categories, slugging .458 with six triples and 35 doubles, with a .793 OPS and a career-high 2.0 WAR for a Rangers team that finished last in the American League West at 71-91. He made $1 million this past season, and is entering into his second year of arbitration eligibility.

Lowrie, the final member of the 2012-14 A’s playoff teams left on the roster and a key piece for the 2018 playoff team, had a career year in 2018, setting career highs in home runs (23), RBIs (99) and WAR (4.8). MLBTradeRumors.com estimated that Lowrie would get a three-year, $30 million deal this offseason.

“Jed was huge, and we’ve said it any number of ways, how great a year he had in 2018, how important he was in the middle of the lineup, him and Khris [Davis] in the three and four hole, being the rock of that lineup,” Forst said. “I can’t overstate how important Jed was to this team, and we certainly wish him nothing but the best as his career moves forward.”

Like Lowrie, Profar — who missed the 2014 and 2015 seasons with shoulder surgery — is a switch hitter, which indicates that the A’s aren’t quite sold on right-handed-hitting infield prospect Franklin Barreto being the everyday second baseman.

“It was definitely important to us [finding a switch-hitter],” Forst said. “Having had Jed in that position the last few years was important to our lineup, and we’re certainly aware that we’re very right-handed, so I would say the guys we targeted at second base were either left-handed or switch-hitting. Jurickson fit perfectly.”

Oakland, Forst said, still has “really high expectations,” for Barreto, who hit .233 in 32 games for the A’s last year, and hit .259 at Triple-A Nashville, a far cry from his .290 the year before with the Sounds. Barreto will be moved around more, positionally, than he has in the past, with discussions being had of playing him in the outfield.

“We’ve avoided that because we feel he can play in the big leagues in the middle infield,” Forst said. “That said, I think you’ll see him take on more of a utility role, and he’s capable of it. He’s played a little bit of outfield in winter ball, but he’s going to be a valuable guy for us. His bat is going to play, and I think we’re going to try and get him everywhere, certainly starting in spring training.”

Lowrie was projected to slash .254/.335/.407 in 2019, with an 11-percent walk rate, a 19-percent strikeout rate and 2.3 WAR for between $10 and $12 million.

Profar has been projected to slash .263/.342/.427, with a nine-percent walk rate, a 15-percent strikeout rate and 2.7 WAR, for $3.4 million. The money Oakland saves could very well go towards bolstering a starting rotation, which is also where their other announced move plays in.

The A’s also announced on Friday that they had acquired reliever Joakim Soria, signing the right-handed reliever to a two-year, $15 million deal. With 202 career saves, Soria’s signing echoes the bullpen acquisitions late last season of Jeurys Familia (who re-signed with the New York Mets this month) and Fernando Rodney, who is still under contract and set to earn $4.5 million next season for Oakland.

“He fits in really well,” Forst said. “A guy with a ton of closing experience, he went over to Milwaukee last year and pitched in a number of different roles in spots, and we need to get 27 outs every night. We’re going to have to find some creative ways to do that, and any time you can add a guy with Joakim’s experience and his success, to get some of those outs, we’re going to give Bob [Melvin] a really great weapon to use at the back of the bullpen.”

Soria’s acquisition allows the A’s to trade from their stocked bullpen in order to add to a starting rotation that is looking very thin. After their elimination in the Wild Card game by the New York Yankees, the A’s front office made plain that their priority was acquiring starting pitching, which they have yet to do this offseason.

The rotation options under club control at this point are Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Paul Blackburn, Chris Bassitt, Aaron Brooks, Tanner Anderson and Grant Holmes.

Mengeden returned from a foot injury last season and was exclusively used as a bulk man following an opener. Andrew Triggs, another starting option, is recovering from thoracic outlet surgery.

Ace Sean Manaea is out for the season with shoulder surgery. Jharel Cotton is coming off of Tommy John, as are prospects A.J. Puk, Daniel Gossett and Daulton Jefferies. James Kaprielian threw with the A’s instructional league team after recovering from Tommy John surgery and a shoulder injury. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed former Oakland starter Trevor Cahill to a one-year, $9 million deal, and Shawn Kelley, Mike Fiers (non-tendered) and Edwin Jackson have yet to re-sign with the club.

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