Friday, August 1, 2014

Deadline day: Milone, Suzuki, Vargas, Fuld

It speaks to how deep Oakland's
pitching is that the Athletics
could discard Tommy Milone
for a backup outfielder.
The Twins did indeed make a deal on deadline day. One trade, and it looks pretty darn good from here: Sam Fuld back to Oakland for Tommy Milone.

They had other moves to make as well: they called up Kennys Vargas and signed Kurt Suzuki to a two- or three-year contract extension, depending on how many at-bats the veteran catcher gets in 2016.

Going through the moves, one player at a time:

Tommy Milone

A soft-tossing 27-year-old lefty, Milone has compiled a 32-22, 3.84 record in 80 games, 78 starts over the past four years. Yes, he's in Triple A now; that's because the A's overloaded themselves with starters earlier in July with the Jeff Samardzija-Jason Hammel trade, and Milone had an option left.

The Twins have been trying to add velocity in recent years. That is, emphatically, not Milone; he averages 86 mph on his fast ball. But he's been effective anyway.

Will that effectiveness continue? Well, he won't have the outfield defense behind him with the Twins that he generally had in Oakland, but Target Field, like the Oakland monstrosity, is pitcher-friendly. He's not close to be being the best lefty dealt on Thursday, and he's nobody's idea of an ace, but he will be an upgrade in the middle to back of the rotation. His track record says he's better than Kevin Correia.

Milone had dropped to seventh on the A's starting pitcher list with the addition earlier Thursday of Jon Lester, and he was vocally displeased about his demotion. For now, he's assigned to Rochester, but I rather suspect the Twins won't even have him report to the Red Wings. He started Tuesday for Sacramento; I expect him to be called up this weekend.

Kurt Suzuki

I opined in the Monday print column that a big reason -- really the only reason -- for the Twins to retain Suzuki was the lack of alternatives in the system. The veteran got two years guaranteed at $6 million a year -- more than double his current salary -- and a third year at the same pay if he meets playing time criteria.

What this tells us, besides the fact that Suzuki has had a surprisingly good season with the Twins, is that the organization doesn't believe in Josmil Pinto in particular or in any of the catchers in the upper levels of the farm system. That last is no surprise -- it's why the Twins drafted three catchers in the first nine rounds of the 2013 draft.

Sam Fuld

Everybody is falling over themselves lauding Billy Beane, the Oakland GM, for landing Jon Lester on Thursday. His moves with Fuld, on the other hand, don't look quite as nifty.

Fuld opened the season with the A's; he played centerfield against the Twins during Minnesota's home opener series because of injuries to Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry. When Crisp and Gentry were ready to play, Beane waived Fuld, and the Twins picked him up.

And now Crisp and Gentry are hurt again, and the A's plan to fill left field after trading away Yoenis Cespedes doesn't involve defensive whizzes, and Beane needed somebody who can handle center field and come off the bench to catch a fly ball in left.

So he surrendered a legitimate major league starter (Milone) to get Fuld back after giving him away.

Kennys Vargas

The Twins called Vargas up from Double A to fill Fuld's roster spot. They are not comparable talents; Fuld is a 32-year-old speedy slap-hitting outfielder, Vargas a lumbering 23-year-old DH-first baseman with bigtime power.

Vargas' solid numbers at new Britain were fueled by a monster month of May; he endured a stiff slump in July. I doubt he's going to shine in this trial.

But I have no problem with letting him try. The at-bats he gets will be taken from the likes of Chris Collabello, Chris Parmelee and Josh Willingham, none of whom are prominent in the Twins future plans. Vargas might be.

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