On Monday afternoon, with just over 24 hours until the Major League Baseball 2022 trading deadline, the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics completed a transaction including six players. For the left-handed pitcher’s JP Sears and Ken Waldichuk, the right-handed Luis Medina, and the second baseman Cooper Bowman, the Yankees received Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino.
On Monday, the Yankees acquired relief pitcher Scott Effross from the Chicago Cubs. He’ll have help from Montas and Trivino as they shore up a depleted roster due to injuries. The A’s have added a package full of almost ready arms to continue a rebuilding process that began over the winter.
We at CBS Sports are never shy about giving our opinion, and that includes providing timely commentary on the year’s biggest moves. The Yankees’ and Athletics’ grades, along with justifications for those marks, are shown below.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can start by reviewing the agreement:
- RHP Frankie Montas
- RHP Lou Trivino
- LHP JP Sears
- LHP Ken Waldichuk
- RHP Luis Medina
- 2B Cooper Bowman
An A for the Yankees.
Despite having the best record in the majors, the Yankees entered the trade deadline wanting to bolster their starting rotation. Monday’s acquisitions of Effross and, more recently, Montas and Trivino have been equally beneficial. However, to acquire Montas, the Yankees had to part with three of their top 10 prospects, including their fifth and ninth best youth, according to Baseball America.
Last Friday, the Seattle Mariners acquired starting pitcher Luis Castillo, making Montas the clear frontrunner for the starting job. He’s a 29-year-old with one more year of team control, and in 91 career appearances stretching back to 2018, he’s posted a 3.49 ERA (117 ERA+) with a 3.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Montas is an unconventional starter because he relies so much on physical strength. His splitter clocks in at 86 mph, and his fastball tops out at 96 mph. That counterintuitive strategy of going fast and then faster still serves him well. He has a high rate of swinging strikes and extra-base hits.
Some critics still have doubts about Montas’ worthiness, though, because of his inconsistencies. Just the second time in his major league career, he will make his 20th start of the year in his next start. (Though, to be fair, he did get the nod 11 times in the 2020 season that was cut short due to a pandemic.) Injuries and suspensions have kept Montas from reaching that mark in the past, and his recent absence due to shoulder problems has raised eyebrows in the league. He has now made two more appearances, with the Yankees and possibly other teams feeling confident in his status based on these outings.
For a Yankees team that may lose Jameson Taillon to free agency this winter, having an extra year with Montas under team control is an underestimated asset.
Trivino’s seasonal results aren’t nearly as impressive as Montas’, and his name recognition isn’t nearly as strong. He made 39 appearances this year, and his 6.47 ERA was the worst of his career. Despite this, CBS Sports recently labeled him as one of the top unheralded trade candidates due to the quality of his new sweeping slider and the expected regression of his unsustainable batting average on ground balls.
The Yankees have a history of successfully rehabilitating relief pitchers like Clay Holmes and Michael King through their coaching staff. Don’t be too shocked if Trivino turns out to be the next one. With a fastball that can reach the upper 90s and a sweeper that has produced a 52 percent whiff rate to date, he should focus on the latter as his primary offering going forward.
Performance in sports: C
As soon as the owner-imposed lockout was lifted, the Athletics began the current rebuild by dealing away key players such as Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, and Sean Manaea. Anyone who has been keeping tabs on the situation saw Montas’ exit coming a mile away. It’s tough to put a price on the return, though.
Others believe the A’s are prioritizing number over quality by signing so many players, and that they should have paid more attention to veterans like Montas and Trivino. However, the players are a good fit for Oakland’s style of play and preferences, which bodes well for them to outperform arbitrary projections and predictions. (If we had a more advanced grading system, we may say this is a C that is about to look like a B.)
To demonstrate, let’s analyze Sears and Waldichuk, the two most significant components of the payoff.
Sears, at age 26, is the only one of the four to have played in the major leagues. He has a 3.0 K/BB ratio and a 2.05 ERA (190 ERA+) over 7 innings of work. The sums in question are irrelevant. What’s important is that he has everything he needs to be successful and signs that indicate he may be a starting quarterback.
Due to his arm slot, height, and speed with which he can descend the mound, Sears has an abnormally flat release point to the top of the zone. He is only 5 feet, 11 inches tall, yet his extension (the distance from the pitcher’s rubber to the point of release) is 6 inches. His fastball’s harder angle and coverage of ground allow it to play far beyond its low-90s velocity.
Although Sears’ fastball doesn’t have a lot of natural or created vertical breaks, it does have some of the most dramatic runs away from right-handed batters in the majors. It is ranked 11th in that regard, behind new teammates A.J. Puk and Kirby Snead, which leads us to believe that this is one of the many reasons why the A’s went after Sears.
We anticipate the Athletics will give Sears a starting shot, whereas the Yankees would have employed him in a relief role. It looks like he can handle it.
24-year-old Waldichuk has started 11 games in Triple-A this year. He was nearly ready for the majors, as seen by his 3.59 ERA and 3.04 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those appearances. From what I’ve heard, Waldichuk either has an excellent fastball and changeup combination (with two solid breaking balls) or just a good fastball and a bunch of so-so secondaries.
While we did mention that the Yankees had to part with two of their top 10 prospects to acquire Montas and Trivino, it is important to note that the Yankees have been able to avoid trading away any of their top position player prospects. Cashman must be thrilled that he was able to add these three arms plus Andrew Benintendi without having to part with Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, or Everson Pereira. What the Yankees do in the remaining hours of the deadline is anyone’s guess. Furthermore, the Yankees organization has shown itself to be excellent at assisting pitchers in making rapid improvements, as evidenced by the deals made on Monday.
Whatever the case may be, Waldichuk’s deceptive delivery interferes with batters and his strike-throwing ability. This season and throughout his whole career, he has walked four batters per nine innings. The As will presumably help him out with that, but it remains to be seen how much of a hiccup they can iron out. Sooner rather than later, we may expect to see him in major league baseball.
This move for the A’s is intriguing for several reasons, not the least of which is that they have continued to chase pitchers during this rebuild despite their massive ballpark appearing to provide an in-built edge in upgrading useable arms. Cole Irvin and Paul Blackburn have each provided the A’s with more than adequate miles over the past two seasons. It would be a bit of an exaggeration to say that the A’s can plug in nearly anyone and get some quality innings out of them when playing at home, but you get the idea.
The A team doesn’t buy that. Ten of the sixteen players they’ve acquired through their five “rebuild era” transactions (including this one, Bassitt, Olson, Chapman, and Manaea) are pitchers. Some of that can be attributed to the logistics of rosters (it’s simpler to find a spot for a pitcher than any other position), but it also appears to indicate a concerted attempt to secure arms, especially those that will thrive in the Coliseum.
Is that the best course of action for a team with an apparent inherent benefit? Or, should they instead prioritize adding position players or other types of skill sets that may prove more challenging to acquire? It’s essentially a philosophical question, so it needs its section.
Medina, a 23-year-old right-hander, has stayed the entire season in Double-A despite his tiny build. He has a decent fastball and breaking ball. While he has started 17 games this season, we only see him as a bullpen prospect because of his severely arm-dragged delivery and resulting below-average command projection (he has walked more than six batters per nine in his professional career). According to FanGraphs, Medina will be out of options after this season, so expect to see him in the A’s bullpen no later than next spring.
Bowman was selected in the fourth round in 2021 and is a middle infielder who has seen significant time at the keystone this year. Although he is playing at a level commensurate with his age, he has only batted. 217/.343/.355 with 8 HR in 364 AB.