Whilst running over my notes for our latest podcast, I was reminded that there was one A’s transaction that we hadn’t mentioned.
On 19th November, the A’s made a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays to acquire pitcher Brent Honeywell.
Tampa Bay have been the most successful MLB organisation over the last 10 years or so in developing pitching talent, either as quality starting pitchers or dangerous bullpen weapons. The Rays were looking to clear some space on their 40-man roster so came to the decision of moving on one of their former top prospects who has been bedevilled by elbow injuries since 2017.
Oakland only gave up cash considerations (i.e. money) for Honeywell and it is a perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward acquisition that a team like the A’s should make.
The current MLB player lock-out is only forestalling the inevitable batch of trades that the A’s Front Office will be making this off-season as we take some enforced steps back based on the budget restrictions imposed by owner John Fisher. Now is precisely the time that the A’s can take some chances and allow players to work through struggles at the MLB level.
Honeywell is the type of talent that all baseball fans want to see come good. He ended the 2017 season as one of the most intriguing pitching prospects among MLB farm systems, only for his 2018 Spring Training to be cruelly cut short by the first of four injuries to his pitching arm elbow. Rather than going on to make his MLB debut in 2018, it was the first of three consecutive years in which he didn’t pitch a single inning due to various setbacks.
He finally got back on the mound and made his MLB debut in a start against the New York Yankees on 11 April, followed by two further MLB appearances in April before then spending the rest of the season in Triple-A. The main objective for Honeywell this year was to get some innings under his belt and he logged 81.2 innings with the Durham Bulls over 31 games (13 starts).
We can draw some parallels with Honeywell and James Kaprielian, or even A.J. Puk. There’s no questioning that the talent to perform at the Big League level is there, it’s just whether their bodies will allow them to achieve their potential.
Kap took a big step forward in 2021 in being a solid back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher and whilst that’s not what he probably dreamed of as an elite prospect years ago, that’s still a huge achievement and a valuable player for the A’s to have.
Puk didn’t make as much progress as we hoped this year, although perhaps we’ve got some direction for him in terms of accepting him as being a reliever (all 12 MLB appearances where in that role, and 25 of 29 in Triple-A). No doubt he still thinks he can succeed as a starting pitcher, but maybe fully committing himself to becoming the best relief pitcher he can be might be the required next step for him to fulfil his potential.
The same likely can be said for Honeywell. Given all he has been through, settling in as a relief pitcher seems like being the best decision rather than expecting him to be able to cope with a starting pitcher’s workload.
There’s no question that the A’s need relievers given the number of bullpen pieces who are free agents and that many of them struggled at times in 2021 in any case. Seeing Puk and Honeywell develop, taking some lumps along the way, could be one of the more heartening parts of the A’s 2022 season, a year in which we will have to find some small victories to enjoy amid the losses.