After (at least) 24 hours of negotiations, the Oakland Athletics made another move on Wednesday: they traded infielder Brett Lawrie to the Chicago White Sox for two minor-league pitchers.
21-year old left-hander Zack Erwin, a fourth-round pick by Chicago in the 2015 Draft out of Clemson University, joins the A's organization along with Jeffrey 'JB' Wendelken, a 22-year-old right-hander who just so happens to be an old friend and teammate of A's right fielder Josh Reddick:
#Athletics acquire RHP J.B. Wendelken and LHP Zack Erwin from the Chicago White Sox for IF Brett Lawrie— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) December 10, 2015
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Trading Lawrie wasn't a surprising move, considering many expected Oakland to trade him somewhere ever since reacquiring Jed Lowrie a few weeks back. The A's projected infield was too crowded with Lowrie, Lawrie, Danny Valencia and Marcus Semien vying for three starting spots, so somebody had to be the odd man out.
Hate to see @blawrie13 leave. Love that guy. But welcome a friend and fellow alumni of SEHS JB Wendelken. Same hometown. Same MLB team— Josh Reddick (@RealJoshReddick) December 10, 2015
In dealing the 25-year-old Lawrie, the A's gave up one of the pieces they obtained from the Toronto Blue Jays in last offseason's surprising Josh Donaldson trade.
As for their return in THIS trade, the A's continued their quest to improve organizational pitching depth in the minors...though GM David Forst told the media after the trade was made official that the team thinks Wendelken could appear at the big-league level in 2016:
In 2015, Wendelken pitched for Chicago's Double-A and Triple-A levels, posting a 2.72 ERA with Double-A Birmingham before being promoted to Charlotte for 12 games toward the end of the season. Erwin, meanwhile, pitched in rookie ball and at Single-A Kannapolis in 2015, throwing 19 innings of work and posting a 1.89 ERA in that span. He's obviously still a ways away from being seasoned enough for the Majors, though Wendelken seems a much easier bet to make a difference sooner rather than later. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle summed up the A's expected plans for Erwin as follows:
Wendelken had good year last year and Forst thinks he could contribute in #Athletics pen sometime in '16— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) December 10, 2015
Of course, outsiders may look at this trade and scoff at the A's dealing away Lawrie, whom some may have considered the 'centerpiece' of the Donaldson trade. However, the A's also obtained young pitchers Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and low-level infielder Franklin Barreto - who is now considered one of Oakland's top prospects - in that deal. Here's another way to look at the Donaldson trade, as Jesse Spector of the Sporting News pointed out:
Erwin likely to join bunch of starters drafted last year A's like so much. A's saw him at Clemson, liked in draft, didn't land him then.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 10, 2015
Forst said that the two trades don't necessarily have anything in common, as quoted by Slusser and Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area after his conference call with the media:
That's 12 more years of player control for the A's on the Josh Donaldson trade tree.— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) December 10, 2015
A's catcher and 2015 All-Star Stephen Vogt, who has now been with the club long enough to witness more than a few offseason makeovers, reacted to the trade as follows:
Forst says #Athletics don't look at this trade as having any bearing on last year's Donaldson deal - just a continuation of it.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 10, 2015
Forst points out the other 3 players got from Jays and that they now add to minor league pitching depth w/Lawrie trade. #Athletics— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) December 10, 2015
Lawrie bid farewell to the A's on Twitter after the deal went down - note the quotation marks around 'front office' in his message:
Vogt on Lawrie trade: "I kind of feel like I say the same thing every winter. It's no fun when you see teammates leave." #Athletics— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) December 10, 2015
With this transaction out of the way, the A's are probably not finished making moves, as they've had a flurry of activity over the past couple of weeks revamping their bullpen and finding a suitor for Lawrie.