A blister may have derailed Rich Hill in the second half of the season, but it has not, as it turns out, inhibited Oakland’s plans to trade him. Left-handed starter Hill and right fielder Josh Reddick are headed down I-5 to the Los Angeles Dodgers, in exchange for three right-handed pitching prospects: Grant Holmes, Frankie Montas, and Jharel Cotton.
The 36-year-old Hill looked certain to move at the deadline until the aforementioned blister appeared on his pitching hand, persisting and keeping him out — save for a five-pitch start two weeks ago — since the All-Star break. Hill and the A’s had talked about a contract extension, but when those discussions broke down Monday morning, it became a virtual certainty that he’d be traded.
So the Dodgers get the best starting pitcher likely to move at the deadline — provided Hill’s blister clears up, that is. They also get Reddick, who’s quietly been a very reliable right fielder in his five seasons in Oakland, a good defender with above-average power. In fact, Reddick, who’s hitting .296/.368/.449 for a 124 OPS+, is on pace for career highs in batting average, OBP, wRC+, and OPS+. His consistency over the past two seasons has to be attractive for the Dodgers, who have struggled to get steady production out of their corner outfielders, as Howie Kendrick and Yasiel Puig have run hot and cold, and Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke, and Kike Hernández (and Puig, for that matter) have been on and off the DL all year. Both Hill and Reddick will be free agents at season’s end, but both can help solidify headache positions for the Dodgers right now.
Speaking of headaches: Adding Reddick looked like it could have paved the way for the Dodgers to make that long-rumored move to rid themselves of Puig, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. It’s always been my position that the media hostility that has followed Puig since his debut in 2013 has been the product of the Play The Game The Right Way crowd coming down on a Latin American player for having a personality. But as Puig’s game has declined, from down-ballot MVP candidate in 2013 and 2014 to 93 OPS+ this year, rumors of unrest inside the Dodgers clubhouse have only gotten louder. It’s possible that Puig is legitimately a bad guy, just as it’s possible that he’s misunderstood and would thrive after a trade to a team that handles him better. Either way, if your teammates hate you — no matter the reason — you’d better produce, and right now Puig isn’t. So if the Dodgers feel like the situation with Puig has reached a point of no return on or off the field, they ought to get something for him while they still can. And the story won’t go away just because they failed to move him today.
Oakland’s return, meanwhile, is pretty good for two players on expiring contracts who wouldn’t get a team that’s 11 games under .500 this year back into the playoffs. All three pitchers the A’s are getting are notable in their own right, and all three have a shot to be big league contributors.
First among them is Holmes, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound right-hander whose distinctive bright red hair will clash with Oakland’s uniforms to a degree we haven’t seen since Mark McGwire. Holmes, the no. 22 overall pick in 2014, throws in the mid-90s with a hard curveball and average changeup. He’s still only 20, and playing in high-A, so he probably has two more years of development before making the big league club. But if everything pans out, he’ll likely be a midrotation starter.
Second is Cotton, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound 24-year-old out of the U.S. Virgin Islands by way of East Carolina University. Cotton’s low-90s fastball and a plus changeup got him an invitation to the Futures Game last month. He’s mostly started this year at Triple-A, where his 4.90 ERA doesn’t look good on the surface, but the Pacific Coast League tends to be tough on pitchers, and his 11.0 K/9 ratio is more encouraging.
The final piece in the trade is Montas, who arrived in Los Angeles in the three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox this past offseason. That trade sparked a million “Frankie Goes to Hollywood” jokes, but relax — he’s in the Athletics’ system now. Montas had a brief cameo with the White Sox in 2015, had surgery to remove a rib this past offseason, and after only 16 innings, landed back on the DL when he broke a second rib in June. When healthy, though, Montas can hit triple digits with his fastball, and before the surgery, he was MLB Pipeline’s no. 95 overall prospect.
Before the season, Baseball Prospectus ranked Holmes, Montas, and Cotton fourth, fifth, and 10th, respectively, in the game’s top farm system, which speaks to the quality return Oakland got, but also to the depth from which the Dodgers could deal. It’s a lot for two rentals, but with Clayton Kershaw on the shelf with a back injury, the Dodgers needed to fill that hole as best they could or concede the division and regroup for 2017. Hill, when he returns, comes closer to doing that than any trade candidate short of Chris Sale, and the Dodgers likely couldn’t have gotten Sale without giving up top pitching prospects Julio Urias and José de Leon.
This way, the Dodgers made two big short-term upgrades for less than what the Cubs gave up for Aroldis Chapman, or the Indians for Andrew Miller, and, as always, Los Angeles can afford to do so.