The A’s pushed a reset button this spring by trading away a handful of stars with an eye on the future. With one of the names of the 2022 trade deadline in Frankie Montas, the rebuild continued on Monday, with the righthander going to the Yankees along with reliever Lou Trivino for four Minor Leaguers.
Montas, whose fast-growing trading stock took a serious blow after taking a beating just before the All-Star break, recovered his value with some solid forays on his return. For the season, Montas is 4-9 with a 3.18 ERA in 19 starts and strikeouts 109 in 104 2/3 innings. His 1.14 WHIP ranks 10th among the American League starters.
Montas will be under team control until the 2023 season, which A’s general manager David Forst cited multiple times as the reason why there was no rush to trade him. The A’s wanted a good return for what they believed to be arguably the best pitcher on the market, and they got a pack containing left-handed Ken Waldichuk’s head—a product of nearby Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, which was rated as the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect and the No. 70 overall prospect in MLB Pipeline’s most recent rankings. Also, righthander Luis Medina (Yankees’ No. 10 prospect), left-handed JP Sears (No. 20) and second baseman Cooper Bowman (No. 21) come over from New York.
All four make it into the A’s Top 30 rankings on MLB Pipeline: Waldichuk at No. 3, Medina at No. 7, Sears at No. 19 and Bowman at No. 29.
“We have three pitchers who are very close, if not already, to the Major League,” said Forst. “Sears has played in the major leagues and we saw him up close and personal in New York a few months ago. All three guys we think are close to being in a major league rotation, and Bowman is a guy who’s having a fantastic first full year out of the Draft. Excited to add them all to our system.”
The A’s got a lot of interest from several teams during Spring Training about Montas, who was seen as Oakland’s next star on the move after Chris Bassitt, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Sean Manaea traded out within three weeks. Despite an encouraging improvement in the game over the past month, the focus is on continuing to strengthen a farm system that now offers several promising prospects that are expected to help the A’s return to the playoffs in the coming years.
Montas, 29, was originally traded from the Dodgers to the A’s in August 2016 and battled some ups and downs as a young pitcher before fully evolving from just a hard pitcher to a top-notch pitcher. In six seasons with Oakland, Montas went 35-30 with a 3.70 ERA in 114 games (89 starts) and has developed a splitter that has become one of the most dominant fields in the game.
Drafted by the A’s in the 11th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Trivino started the year as the closest to Oakland, but eventually lost that role after a shaky start. He has a 6.47 ERA this season with 10 saves in 39 relief appearances.
Waldichuk, 24, will report to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was a Yankees fifth-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft after starring at Saint Mary’s and has a 3.00 ERA in 50 Minor League games (48 starts) with 328 strikeouts in 215 2/3 collection. After dominating in Double-A Somerset to start the 2022 campaign with a 1.26 ERA in six starts, Waldichuk was quickly promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he holds a 3.59 ERA in 11 starts with 70 strikeouts over 47 2/3 innings.
Waldichuk brings a four-seam fastball that sits around 92-95 mph with an impressive carry-up in the zone that leads to plenty of swing-and-miss. His fading low-80s change-up and sweeping slider are also prized as a plus when at their best, and the lefty has also worked on adding more depth to his curveball. Overall, it’s a mix of four pitches that puts him almost ready to fit into Oakland’s starting rotation.
Sears, 26, split time this season between Triple-A and the Major Leagues and did well in seven games (two starts) with the Yankees, posting a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings. He is 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA in 11 games (nine starts) at Triple-A. Given his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame, Sears profiles himself as more of a multi-inning reliever than a rotational piece. Sears will also report to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Medina, 23, is a big-armed fastball whose fastball hits 96-99 mph and is clocked up to 103 mph with slashing action. He battled command problems this season at Double-A Somerset, where he is 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA and strikeouts 81 with 40 walks in 72 innings. If Medina can overcome his command problems, he is seen as a potential front-line starter. If not, the bullpen is his likely destiny as a major leaguer. For now, he joins the starting rotation at Double-A Midland.
Between the spring trades and Monday’s move, the A’s have significantly improved their pitching depth throughout the system. Five of their Top 10 prospects are now pitchers (Waldichuk, Medina, Gunnar Hoglund, JT Ginn, Ryan Cusick) who have acquired them in trade since March.
“I wouldn’t say that in any of the deals we’ve made since March, we necessarily went out to pitch,” Forst said. “Eventually, with the organizations we were dealing with, we got there. Confidence after this deal, you look at the pitchers that have been added to our system over the past few months and I feel really good about our depth going forward. … If you add these three guys, it’s an exciting group of depth for our system.”
Bowman, 22, was New York’s fourth-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. He flashed plus speed in High-A Hudson Valley, hitting 35 bases while hitting .217/.343/.355 with eight home runs and 15 doubles in 80 games.
The A’s still own a number of players whose names have been circulating in trade rumors of late, including outfielder Ramón Laureano and catcher Sean Murphy. With Tuesday’s 3 p.m. PT deadline fast approaching, Forst said he expects trade talks to heat up across the league, including his current talks with other clubs.
“We’re going to look at the opportunities out there,” Forst said. “As with everything, we are balancing the players contributing here now with what we think we can achieve for future teams. I don’t have a checklist of things to do first [the Trade Deadline.] We stay informed of where the opportunities lie.
“There is a chance for everything. The pace usually increases in the last 24 hours with a deadline in this game. We are prepared for anything.”