A’s awake from offseason slumber with blockbuster Rangers trade

A’s awake from offseason slumber with blockbuster Rangers trade

It looks like the Oakland A’s have an interest in defending their 2020 AL West championship after all.

With star players Marcus Semien (Blue Jays) and Liam Hendriks (White Sox) departing Oakland without much resistance, it seemed the A’s were in the midst of one of their clichéd offseasons of passivity and penny-pinching.

In a move that puts the A’s squarely back in the conversation for another AL West crown, they have acquired shortstop Elvis Andrus, catcher Aramis Garcia and cash considerations from the Texas Rangers in exchange for designated hitter Khris Davis, catcher Jonah Heim and minor league right-handed pitcher Dane Acker.

In one fell swoop, the A’s addressed their dire need at the shortstop position and for more cash.

Andrus is a two-time All-Star shortstop who is a reliable table setter. He may actually be an upgrade over Marcus Semien in some areas. Andrus has a career line of .274/.330/.372 and has amassed 305 stolen bases during his 12 years in the big leagues.

He is coming off the worst season of his career, posting a line of .194/.252/.330 and playing in only 29 out of 60 games. The A's hope his remarkable durability prior to the truncated 2020 season is evidence of an impending turnaround. He played in at least 145 games each season with the Rangers from 2009-19, with 2018 being the lone exception.

If healthy and producing at his potential, expect Andrus to adequately fill the void at shortstop and assuage the anger of A’s fans still fuming over the departure of Marcus Semien. Andrus is also lauded by Rangers media and public relations as a good guy and solid clubhouse presence.

"I honestly believe this is the rare 'win-win' trade. The A's get a quality shortstop and a ton of cash to sign some pitchers and the Rangers get to see if a change of scenery gets Khris Davis back on track,” A's Insider and Bay Area Sports Wrap Contributor Ben Ross said. “Plus, we all know how well KD has hit in Arlington. Also, the Rangers get catching prospect Jonah Heim, who looked terrific in his limited time with the A's. It hurts for the A's to lose him, but with Sean Murphy and Tyler Soderstrom waiting in the wings, Oakland is fine at catcher.”

The cash considerations from the Rangers will help the A’s pay Andrus’ remaining salary for the next two seasons. Due to a vesting option in his contract that would kick in if he has 550 plate appearances in 2022 or 1,100 plate appearances in 2021-22 combined, Andrus could be in an A’s uniform through 2023.

The A’s also made short-term use of the money by re-signing Mike Fiers to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million. Fiers will continue to anchor the starting rotation and be a veteran presence in the A’s clubhouse.

The five-player trade with Texas marks the end of the Khris Davis era in Oakland.

Acquired in a 2016 trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, Davis became an A’s fan favorite, mashing a combined 133 home runs in his first three seasons with the team. After 48 home runs and an eighth place finish in the AL MVP voting in 2018, the A’s signed him to a two-year, $33.5 million contract extension early in the 2019 season.

The A’s rightly thought they were getting a bargain at the time. However, Davis turned in a mediocre and injury-riddled 2019 campaign with a line of .220/.293/.387 and 23 home runs. 2020 was not kind to Davis either, dropping as low as seventh in the A’s batting order and hitting a measly two home runs in 30 games.

The initial reaction to the trade from A’s fans on social media was a mixture of gratitude toward Davis for his five years of service with the club and relief that the A’s have found their starting shortstop. The lack of outrage is a testament to the intellectual honesty of A's fans.

"The A's knew they had to find a shortstop and add some relief pitching, and this trade allows them to do both,” Ross said. “It's unfortunate that their cheap ownership made this trade necessary, rather than just re-signing Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks, but that's life as an A's fan.”

The emergence of Mark Canha and Chad Pinder also made Khris Davis expendable. Now the A’s can free up more at bats and playing time for the likes of Canha, Pinder, and possibly prospect Seth Brown.

Davis was the last truly “one-dimensional” player Oakland had on its roster. He was widely known as a huge defensive liability with an arm well below major league standards. His departure will allow A's manager Bob Melvin to use several different players as a DH instead of keeping that role reserved for one player the entire season.

The A’s will likely spend some money to add one or two major league arms to the bullpen before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. There is a concern that the loss of Hendriks and Joakim Soria (Diamondbacks) could make the bullpen a liability for the A’s in 2021. That makes re-signing Yusmeiro Petit crucial as well as bringing in more reinforcements to keep Oakland's bullpen afloat.

Four days after Punxsutawney Phil arose from his hibernation to declare six more weeks of winter, it is good to see the A’s are waking up too.

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