Minor: “having little importance, influence, or effect, especially when compared with other things of the same type”https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/minor
They say you should never judge a book by its cover, so we definitely shouldn’t judge a baseball player by the meaning of his surname as an adjective. The A’s signing Mike Minor isn’t a major move; however that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one.
If we use FanGraphs WAR as a quick guide, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the A’s so far in this shorted season are clear:
- Batting line-up: 6th best out of 30
- Fielding: 1st
- Bullpen: 1st
- Starting pitching: 17th.
The A’s needed to bring in another starting pitcher and address their options at second base before the trade deadline. The perennial catch for the A’s Front Office was that they needed to do this without taking on much in the way of salary commitments and without parting with key prospects.
Those conditions meant that the top-tier candidates – Mike Clevinger, Robbie Ray, Lance Lynn etc – were always out of reach. The frustrations of this position for us fans does not change the reality of the situation for Billy Beane, David Forst and the rest of the Front Office. They had to get the best they could with what they had to play with.
Tommy La Stella ticks that box as a good second baseman, a clear upgrade on the options we already had, who is a free agent at the end of the coming season. Trading Franklin Barreto to the Angels comes with obvious ‘egg on face’ risk, yet the A’s player development staff have seen more than enough of him to make their assessment as to being comfortable in parting ways.
Hard as it is, we have to detach the Josh Donaldson trade legacy from our evaluations of Barreto and, to this point, that leads to the conclusion that he is a guy who might come good, but who more likely will be an okay infielder who will bounce around various teams in the coming seasons.
As for Mike Minor, on the surface his 2020 stats would leave you scratching your head as to how he might be an upgrade, but history suggests he’s much better than that and certainly was last year when he was one of the better starting pitchers in the American League.
Financially it’s not going to cost much as Rangers will be paying half of his remaining salary. Rangers beat-writer Evan Grant has the details:
Meanwhile Susan Slusser has the details on the two PTBNL’s:
The names are interesting in that they are the two players from the 2019 draft class that Baseball America highlighted as having the best pro debut showings at the tail-end of last season.
The Minor League shut-down this year makes evaluating talent at the lowest levels even more challenging than usual. Marcus Smith, based on BA’s write-up, is a very athletic talent but the Minors are littered with such prospects who never quite put things together.
With 2020 being a lost development year, he’s likely 3+ years away from the Majors if he progresses well and, of course, may never make it at all. He’s a decent pick-up for the Rangers to take a punt on, but not someone we should worry about trading based on what we know now, even if he does turn out well for them.
How Minor fits into the rotation remains to be seen. Chris Bassitt has been the default ‘odd man out’ in previous seasons and we know he can perform the long relief role well, so that may be the simplest solution in the near-term. The relief corps certainly need some help given the burden of innings they have had to shoulder in recent weeks.
If Mike regains his 2019 form (and there are positive signs from his last couple of starts) and can take that into the play-offs, it may not be quite such the Minor move that it appears to be today.