Ynoa gets a second chance as A’s get minor league depth

When the A’s shelled out $4.25 million for Dominican right-handed pitcher Michael Ynoa back in 2008, it was a record for an international signing by a Major League club.

That, sadly, was the high point for Ynoa’s time with the A’s. He was a hard thrower with a big arm who never developed. It happens.

He missed two of his first three seasons, first in 2009 with elbow tendinitis, then after he came back, he needed Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch in 2011.

At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, Ynoa originally was seen as a prospect who could develop into a top-end starting pitcher. It never happened.

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Healthy Jaso will catch, but wonders if it will be with the A’s

John Jaso wants to be back with the A's, but doesn't know if a trade is in his future.

John Jaso wants to be back with the A’s, but doesn’t know if a trade is in his future.

It’s possible that the A’s have done their damage at the 113th Winter Meetings and will cool their heels the rest of the week, but it’s not a solid bet.

Oakland still has at least one other player the A’s might consider moving, catcher John Jaso. To be sure, general manager  Billy Beane is a huge fan of Jaso, who works the count, has a habit of coming up with timely hits and who is an on-base machine.

On the down side, he’s had concussions the last two years that have taken him out of back-to-back stretch drives with Oakland. Doctors have given him the go-ahead to resume catching.

“I think that’s ancient history now,’’ Jaso told me Tuesday morning. “I’m moving on, starting my workouts and I’m ready to go. As of right now, I’m still planning on taking up catching again, whatever team I’m on.’’

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Semien, Bassitt could get shot to be immediate contributors

Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley with soxThe slow process of rebuilding the Oakland A’s took another step forward Tuesday with the completion of a deal with the Chicago White Sox that saw Oakland potentially bring a starting shortstop and a starting pitcher into the fold.

At the cost of top-end starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and minor league reliever Michael Ynoa, the A’s added four players, two of whom, infielder Marcus Semien and pitcher Chris Bassitt, could have an immediate impact on the big league club.

The two other players acquired, catcher Josh Phegley and first baseman Rangel Ravelo, figure to be Triple-A players to start 2015.

Semien, from St. Mary’s High and the University of California, will have the shortstop job to lose come spring training. He’s mostly been a third baseman with a secondary role at second base for the White Sox, but in the minor leagues two-thirds of his playing time has been at second base.

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Shark nets A’s starting shortstop, potential starting pitcher

Jeff Samardzija was finally dealt to the White Sox Tuesday along with minor league pitcher Michael Ynoa.

Jeff Samardzija was finally dealt to the White Sox Tuesday along with minor league pitcher Michael Ynoa.

The Oakland A’s finally completed their deal to send starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox, getting a potential starting shortstop and potential member of the starting rotation in return.

The A’s, who also sent minor leaguer Michael Ynoa to Chicago, landed right-handed starter Chris Bassitt, shortstop Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley and infielder Rangel Ravelo.

Semien has spent most of his brief big league career at second base, but he was drafted as a shortstop and has played some there. The A’s, who have been badly in need of a shortstop with Jed Lowrie leaving via free agency, are betting that he can play shortstop adequately.

Described by a rival club’s general manager as “primarily an offensive player,’’ Semien was on the White Sox’s opening day roster in 2014, played in 64 games and hit .234 in 65 games with a .300 on-base percentage and six homers. He’s only played six big league games at shortstop (50 at third base, 29 at second base), but 250 of his 387 minor league games have been at short.

Bassitt, who will turn 26 before spring training, is a right-hander with command and a moving 91-94 mph fastball that has been tough on right-handed hitters. He pitched six one-run innings against Oakland last September when the A’s got a look at his deceptive delivery.

He can top out at 96mph with his fastball upon occasion, but he has a slider that breaks nicely and a slow curve (69-75 mph) that he uses as a changeup.

He suffered a broken hand last year, but went 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA with the Sox is six games, five starts. As a minor leaguer, he was 3-1 with a 2.08 before his August promotion to the big leagues.

Phegley, a 24-year-old right-hander, hit 23 homers and hit .274 at Triple-A in 2014, finishing second in the International League with 57 extra-base hits and third in homers ad slugging percentage (.530).

Ravelo, who began his career as a third baseman, is primarily a first baseman now. He hit .309 with 37 doubles, four triples, 11 homers, 66 RBIs and a .386 on-base percentage.

Samardzija, a 2014 National League All-Star, came to the A’s in a June trade and would have been no worse than the A’s No. 2 starter had he remained with the team.

Ynoa, at one point a big-time prospect for the A’s, never responded the way the A’s had hoped after 2011’s Tommy John surgery. He was 4-2 with a 5.52 ERA in 31 games as a reliever with Single-A Stockton this year.


Opposing GM likes A’s newest shortstop, Marcus Semien

Jeff Samardzija's trade to the White Sox will be announced Tuesday.

Jeff Samardzija’s trade to the White Sox will be announced Tuesday.

If you must know, the A’s aren’t the only team looking for young shortstop talent here at the winter meetings.

Oakland has one advantage. The A’s have a pitcher everybody wants, Jeff Samardzija, and for the right price the A’s are willing to let him go. The A’s starting pitching would take a hit if the Shark is traded, but if the A’s can get a potential starting shortstop and add to their team depth, Oakland will bite the bullet.

Word got out that a deal with the Chicago White Sox was done, Samardzija returning to his home, but without any clarity on whom the A’s would get in return.

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A’s deal Moss to Indians for second base prospect Wendle

Brandon Moss has been traded to Cleveland for minor league second baseman Joe  Wendle

Brandon Moss has been traded to Cleveland for minor league second baseman Joe

The middle of the A’s 2014 batting order took another major hit Monday with the news the A’s have traded first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss to the Cleveland Indians, a deal whose origins I was the first to announce last week via Twitter.

In return, the A’s will get second baseman Joe Wendle, who has never played about Double-A. In 87 games with Akron last year, he hit .253 with a .311 on-base percentage, eight homers and 50 RBIs.

It was the second big move of the Winter Meetings’ first morning, the other being former A’s starting pitcher Jason Hammel signing a deal with the Cubs, the team from which the A’s got him last June.

Wendle, who missed much of last season with a hamate injury, is well-liked by scouts, who covet his offensive potential, particularly his extra-base muscle.

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Indians interested in prying Brandon Moss away from A’s

A's first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss is being sought by the Indians.

A’s first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss is being sought by the Indians.

The A’s are talking with the Indians in a deal Cleveland hopes will land them first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss.

A source close to the A’s said no deal was imminent, but it’s possible something could happen by the end of the week.

It was just last week that the A’s traded third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto for young veteran third baseman Brett Lawrie (24) and three Blue Jays prospects.

It seems that any deal involving Moss would likely follow the same course, Oakland getting younger and adding depth at the high minor league level with the hope that they’d get contributions from the newcomers sometime in 2015.

Moss, 31, is coming off surgery five weeks ago to repair hip damage and is currently on crutches, but his surgeon, Dr. Thomas Byrd, said after the Oct. 23 surgery that Moss should be good to go come spring training.

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Minor league jobs: Christenson moving up, Prieto staying on

The A’s made their minor league managing, coaching, instructing and training positions for 2015 official today.

It’s nice to see one of baseball’s great guys, Ryan Christenson, moving up the managerial ladder. He was at Class A last year and is moving up to take over Double-A Midland after he got Stockton into the California League playoffs last year.

Ariel Prieto, who spent the last few seasons coaching with the big league team and serving as interpreter for fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes, is staying with the organization, moving back to the job he had previously as the pitching coach for the A’s Arizona Rookie League team.

And Steve Scarsone, who managed the last two years in Sacramento, will move to Nashville with the A’s moving their Triple-A affiliate there.

Here’s the complete release from the A’s:

Garvin Alston was named minor league pitching coordinator after spending the previous six seasons as minor league pitching rehab coordinator.  Greg Sparks will take over as minor league hitting coordinator after spending three seasons as hitting coach at Triple-A Sacramento.  Sparks is in his 18th season in the A’s organization, which includes eight years as minor league roving hitting instructor from 2004-11.  Juan Navarrette is in his 21st season with the A’s and will be the minor league defensive, base running and bunting coordinator. Craig Lefferts, who spent the previous 12 seasons as pitching coach in the A’s farm system, replaces Alston as minor league rehab pitching coordinator.  Aaron Nieckula was named minor league field coordinator and will oversee minor league spring training, extended spring training and instructional league.

Steve Scarsone was named manager of the A’s new Triple-A affiliate at Nashville.  This will be his third consecutive season as manager of the A’s Triple-A club as he guided Sacramento to a 79-65 record in each of the previous two seasons.  Scarsone now has a 568-554 record in eight seasons as a minor league manager, including stints in the A’s system with Midland from 2011-12, Stockton in 2010 and Kane County in 2009.  Don Schulze and Webster Garrison earn their first Triple-A assignments in 2015 as pitching coach and hitting coach, respectively.  This will be Schulze’s 10th year as a pitching coach in the A’s system, including the last four at Double-A Midland, and Garrison’s 15th as a coach or manager.  Brad LaRosa returns as the athletic trainer and Terence Brannic was named strength coach.

Ryan Christenson takes over as manager at Midland after leading Single-A Stockton to an 85-55 record and a playoff appearance in 2014.  He made his managerial debut in 2013 at Single-A Beloit after spending six seasons as a player in the Major Leagues, including four with the A’s from 1998-2001.  John Wasdin will be the pitching coach on Christenson’s staff for the third consecutive season and Eric Martins was named hitting coach.  Martins served as a scout for the A’s for the past seven seasons.  Justin Whitehouse returns as the athletic trainer and A.J. Seeliger is the new strength coach.

Rick Magnante assumes the managerial reins at Stockton, his 13th season as a minor league manager.  He has a 457-497 record in his previous 12 seasons, including 55-84 last season with Single-A Beloit.  Rick Rodriguez will be the pitching coach after two seasons in that capacity at Sacramento.  Rodriguez is in his 31st season in the A’s organization, which includes seven seasons as a player and two years as bullpen coach in Oakland (2011-12). Brian McArn returns as hitting coach, his 18th in that role with the A’s and his fourth at Stockton (2011-12, 14).  Travis Tims returns as athletic trainer and Henry Torres takes over as strength coach.

Fran Riordan joins the A’s organization as manager at Single-A Beloit after spending 14 years managing in independent leagues.  Riordan spent the last four seasons at the helm of Florence in the Frontier League, guiding the Freedom to a 190-194 record over that stretch. Steve Connelly, who had his first professional coaching assignment as pitching coach at Short Season Single-A Vermont last year, takes over those duties at Beloit in 2015.  Lloyd Turner returns for his second consecutive season as hitting coach with the Snappers and Brian Thorson returns as athletic trainer.  JD Howell will serve as strength coach.

In addition to his duties as field coordinator, Nieckula will manage the A’s Short Season club at Vermont, his ninth year as a manager in the A’s farm system.  He has spent the last two seasons at Midland and guided the RockHounds to a 77-63 record and the Texas League Championship in 2014.  Carlos Chavez will be the pitching coach after two seasons with the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League. Tommy Everidge returns for his second consecutive season as Vermont’s hitting coach and Toshi Nagahara returns as the athletic trainer.

Ruben Escalera will manage the A’s affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League for the second consecutive season and ninth season overall.  He previously managed from 2002-08 and spent the five years in between in various roles as an instructor in the A’s system.  Ariel Prieto was named pitching coach after serving as a coach on the Major League staff the previous three seasons.  He previously served as pitching coach with the A’s rookie club from 2009-11 and will also serve as a liaison between the A’s Dominican Republic and United States based operations.  Juan Dilone returns for his seventh season as hitting coach and Gabriel Ortiz is in his second season as coach.  Chris Lessner returns as the athletic trainer.


Samardzija targeted by pitching-hungry clubs

Jeff Samardzija is still a member of the A's rotation. How long that will last, it's hard to say.

Jeff Samardzija is still a member of the A’s rotation. How long that will last, it’s hard to say.

It may be a while before Jeff Samardzija knows where he’s going to be pitching this season.

He’s currently a member of the A’s starting rotation, and there is a chance he will remain there. But there is at least as big a chance that he will wind up elsewhere.

The White Sox and the Red Sox are front-and-center in their pursuit of the right-hander. And while the Braves have made their interest in Samardzija known, the pieces don’t seem to fit for the A’s, sources close to the club said.

And there may yet be another suitor or two yet to make themselves an upgrade heading into 2015.

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A’s could use Lawrie at second if Headley is in their future

Brett Lawrie could be the A's third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

Brett Lawrie could be the A’s third baseman in 2015, or he could be the second baseman.

The A’s trade of Josh Donaldson Friday may seem to make little sense when looked at as a solo exercise on the part of general manager Billy Beane.

But if it’s taken as part of a package, the deal in which the A’s sent their All-Star third baseman to Toronto in exchange for four players – including third baseman Brett Lawrie –

Oakland management is high on, could well be part of a series of roster maneuvers that might have a chance to keep the A’s competitive in 2015.

The A’s have lost (or will soon lose) starters Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, reliever Luke Gregerson and shortstop Jed Lowrie as free agents. That’s a load and a half to make up during the winter, and it’s possible it can’t be done.

But there are other options out there.

I heard from a source Friday that the A’s are talking with the Braves about outfielder Justin Upton and/or catcher Evan Gattis, two power hitters who would grace any big league lineup. The cost would be astronomical – starter Jeff Samardzija – but the return would be seriously good.

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