Sunday the Oakland Athletics traded their only 2017 All-Star, Yonder Alonso, to the Seattle Mariners. There are many reasons this trade is surprising but let’s start with why it’s not. After all, the A’s do have a long history of trading away their All-Stars.
Given that the team is headed towards a third consecutive season with at least 90 losses, are in full-on rebuild mode and Alonso is having a career year on the eve of becoming a free agent, the first major waiver trade of the 2017 seasons seems that much more predictable.
Given all the reasons trading Alonso made sense the A’s placed him on waivers. When a player is placed on waivers each team is given each team a chance — beginning with the team with the worst record — a chance to claim that player. Each time a team passes the player is offered to the next team. If a player makes it through each of the 29 other teams without getting claimed he has “cleared waivers” and his original team can keep the player or still try and trade him until the August 30 deadline.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, Alonso did not clear waivers, he was claimed by the Seattle Mariners and here’s where things become a little unusual.
Once a player is claimed by a team, the two teams then have two days to work out a trade. The A’s and the Mariners moved rather quickly and a deal was made, often deals of this nature come down to the wire if they are made at all. The fact that the deal was done easily is a somewhat unique circumstance.
Plus, these two teams are not the likeliest trade partners, both being in the same division. Historically, A’s vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, doesn’t trade with teams where that trade to literally come back to haunt him and the A’s. Which is likely why starting pitcher Sonny Gray ended up with the New York Yankees and not the Houston Astros, at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Teams in the same division play each other 19 times a year so, if Alonso were to re-sign with the Mariners this off season, his hitting ability and great defense at first base could be a factor in games played against the Athletics.
Yet, that possibility is only still — just that — a possibility. Alonso could easily sign with any team once he comes a free agent.
So, while some of the aspects of this first big waiver-trade of 2017 may seem surprising, they were simply the warm-up to the big shocker and that was the A’s return in this trade.
In return for All-Star Yonder Alonso the A’s received outfielder Boog Powell, of course he isn’t the actual Boog Powell that you may remember from as the Baltimore Orioles’ great from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. That Boog Powell won two World Series with the Orioles, was the MVP of the 1970 season and a four-time All-Star.
This Boog Powell’s actual name is Herschel. He was originally drafted by Oakland in the 20th round of the 2012 draft and traded in 2015 to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the deal that brought Ben Zobrist to Oakland.
He was then traded that same year to the Mariners in the trade that brought 2017 All-Star candidate, who like Alonso, plays first base and who is also having a breakout season, Logan Morrison to the Rays.
Last June Powell was suspended 80 games for the use of PED’s and did not make his MLB debut until April 29 with the Mariners.
He lasted all of 23 games in the big leagues, making 43 plate appearances and batting just .194/.310/.194 with 2 RBI before being demoted to Triple-A Tacoma where he has been for the remainder of the season.
So you can see why this deal is so perplexing for the Athletics to make — and in a relatively quick manner.
They didn’t seem to need to think it over, even though Powell had already been suspended for PED use or that his only performance in the majors was abysmal. They didn’t seem to want to ask for more when they were letting go of — or in this case, seemingly, giving away their only All-Star from 2017. Not to mention the fact that the team and the team’s farm system isn’t exactly short on guys who can play in the outfield.
Under normal circumstances, wouldn’t these be important parts of the decision-making process when deciding to trade away an All-Star? It’s confusing, to say the least and surprising at best.
The only upside about Powell’s return to the A’s organization are his numbers since returning to Triple-A Tacoma. Powell had more walks than strikeouts, along with a .340 batting average. It’s an upside but it is also Triple-A, a place very different from the major leagues.
Many thought that the A’s did not get a big enough return for Sonny Gray from the Yankees just weeks ago. What do the A’s fans think of this trade?
They’re probably not entirely shocked but the whole transaction is simply just bizarre — trading Yonder Alonso who hit more home runs in the first half of the season than he ever had in a full season in his career and who has always shown excellence as a defender at first base for a kid who has already been suspended for what is considered the worst infraction, after gambling, that you can be in trouble for in MLB.
There is no real possible upside for the A’s in this situation, however, they may have just handed the Mariners a key piece needed in their quest to end their long playoff drought. Wouldn’t you have asked for more?