Typically teams prefer not to trade within their own division, but Billy Beane and Jon Daniels eschewed that notion today with a rather surprising move. The A’s have sent top prospect Michael Choice along with minor league infielder Chris Bostick to Texas in exchange for speedy outfielder Craig Gentry and pitcher Josh Lindblom. The shock of this deal doesn’t lie simply with the fact that it was an intra-division deal, but that the A’s parted ways with a prospect like Choice for what on the surface appears to be a backup outfielder and a back end of the rotation starter.
That isn’t to say that Gentry isn’t a capable player, but he hasn’t gotten a chance to prove himself as an everyday player, and he may not get that chance with Oakland either. The outfield is still rather crowded, with Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick seemingly established, and Seth Smith serving as the fourth outfielder. Gentry will likely slot in as the new fourth outfielder, with Smith getting playing time as a DH primarily. This is all projecting with the roster as it is currently constituted, which is highly unlikely to be the case if the ongoing rumors are true.
Gentry isn’t really a platoon player either, his splits are nearly identical, with a little higher OBP and SLG against lefties. In trying to figure out why the A’s just traded away a very good prospect like Choice, this move appears to have the short term and the long term success of the team in mind. Coco Crisp is a free agent after 2014, and Gentry is under team control through 2016, so he will in all likelihood patrol center field in 2015-16. In 2014, he’ll serve the Chris Young role, and spell the outfielders when they are out of the lineup for whatever reason.
Josh Lindblom is most famous in Oakland for giving up the missile walk-off home run to Yoenis Cespedes when he was with the Dodgers in 2012, and now he and Cespedes will get a chance to reminisce about that afternoon. Lindblom figures to be another body in the competition for a rotation spot, but nothing more than that. He posted a 5.46 ERA last season in 31.1 innings, making 5 starts for the Rangers. He’s still just 26, so there is time for him to figure it all out.
The return itself isn’t disappointing, as I think Gentry will be extremely useful for the A’s. He also won’t get to play against the A’s anymore, against whom he batted over .300. The price tag is a little hefty though for my taste. I would have only endorsed dealing Choice if it were for an impact player of some type. Gentry has tremendous speed, and is a plus defender, but he isn’t an impact player. Think Mike Trout, but without the power. My gut feeling is that this move was done because of other moves coming down the pipeline. I don’t think Billy Beane would just hand away one of his best trade chips if it wasn’t part of a bigger plan. Be it a trade for a big bat, or backing up the Brinks truck for Nelson Cruz, the A’s aren’t done. The rumors continue to swirl, and we may know more by day’s end.