The Oakland A’s have one of the best records in baseball, sitting at 22-12 prior to the team’s postponement of its series against the Seattle Mariners.
So true to form, Oakland made no splashy moves at the Aug. 31 deadline, but worked within the margins to scoop up two key veteran players, acquiring left-handed starter Mike Minor from the Texas Rangers and infielder Tommy La Stella from the Los Angeles Angels. Both are on expiring contracts.
The cost: Franklin Barreto and two 2019 draftees, outfielder Marcus Smith and third baseman Dustin Harris -- along with some international bonus slot pool money. The reward: the A’s raised their floor a few inches as they look to pursue a deep postseason push.
Let’s start with the basics. Minor, 32, is in the final year of a three-year, $28 million contract. The Rangers sent the A’s some cash in the deal, which will cut into the $1.4 million the Oakland A’s owe him for the season.
In seven starts this year for the Rangers, Minor has a 5.60 ERA with 35 strikeouts and an 0-5 record. That sits in stark contrast to the 3.59 ERA he held in an All-Star-caliber 2019 season. Still, he’s been one of the better starters over the last two seasons, accounting for 7.6 Wins Above Replacement. That’s tied with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander for third in MLB, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
His 2020 struggles mirror those of Sean Manaea’s; he runs into trouble a second time through the lineup. Where he holds a .000 opposing average in third innings, he climbs to a .323 opposing hitter average in the fourth inning (the cutoff for when a lineup usually flips).
Tommy La Stella
With the Angels, the 31-year-old All-Star has slashed .273/.371/.475 with a .845 OPS and four home runs. He’s comes to Oakland on the last half of a one-year, $3.25 million contract, pro-rated to $556,928 with the A’s.
The draw: La Stella does not strike out.
In 102 at bats (including three with the A’s), La Stella has struck out a total of seven times. That’s the least among all qualified players this season.
Of course, his 6% strikeout rate leads all hitters in both leagues. Colorado Rockies’ star third baseman Nolan Arenado comes closest with a 6.9% strikeout rate.
“He’s a really good fit for us right now,” Forst said on a call with reporters Friday. “One of the best contact rates in the league. Real threat from the left side. A guy with versatility who can play in different spots. Top 1% in terms of strikeout rate.”
The squad he joins in Oakland has a tendency to strike out, to put it mildly. The A’s lead MLB in strikeouts with 340 total and boast a whopping 26.5% strikeout rate – which ranks as the third highest in baseball.
“I don’t remember seeing him strike out,” manager Bob Melvin said of La Stella. “You’re always trying to improve upon what you have. We strike out from time-to-time, so adding a guy like that is probably a good thing and probably factored into the trade.”
La Stella also holds a .303 average and .791 OPS with runners in scoring position. The A’s hold a .214 average with runners in scoring position, which is second-worst to the Rangers’ .212 average with RISP. They have a .777 OPS with RISP, which falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.