The last-place A’s continued the breakdown of their roster on Monday by trading reliever Tyler Clippard to the New York Mets for right-handed pitching prospect Casey Meisner.
The trade for Meisner, a 20-year-old starter who has not pitched above Class A, came four days after the A’s dealt Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros for two prospects who – like Meisner – are likely years away from the major leagues.
A’s general manager Billy Beane said Monday that both trades reflect an approach by the team at this year’s trade deadline to acquire players who “are maybe a little farther away” from contributing in the majors “but maybe had a little more upside.” Intriguingly, Beane floated the idea of those prospects eventually guiding the A’s into a new era – at a new ballpark.
“I think if we’re going to have ultimately some sustained success, it’s going to have to be done organically, and with a large group of players coming through (the minor-league system),” Beane said during a conference call. “It may take a little longer, but hopefully you’re able to hold onto them long enough.”
“And understand, too, I think we’re all hopeful and optimistic of our venue situation here changing sometime in the near future. And if it does, this is probably the best approach anyway.”
Last offseason’s roster overhaul that included nine trades – including acquiring Clippard from the Washington Nationals – was an attempt to keep the A’s competitive in coming seasons. Beane said Monday that it was “too early to address” the A’s plans for 2016, but that current trade negotiations have focused on “guys we didn’t anticipate being here next year.” That implies impending free agents, and not players – like Josh Reddick, Stephen Vogt and Sonny Gray – who remain under team control after this season.
More trades before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, however, are a strong possibility. Beane declined to discuss ongoing negotiations, but utility player Ben Zobrist is said to be drawing strong interest from multiple teams. Zobrist went 6 for 11 in last week’s Bay Bridge series as the A’s were swept by the Giants.
Another short-term issue the A’s face is how to fill the closer role vacated by Clippard, who had a 2.79 ERA and 17 saves in 37 appearances. Edward Mujica closed for St. Louis in 2013, or the A’s again could try handing ninth-inning duties to Eric O’Flaherty. Beane said the closer situation is “something we’ll have to figure out on the fly.”
The A’s reportedly also are sending $1 million to the Mets with Clippard, who has more than $3 million remaining on his contract this season. Meisner, who is listed at 6-foot-7, is 10-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 18 starts at A-ball this year and will begin in the A’s system at Class-A Stockton. Beane said Meisner throws a 92-to-94-mph fastball and still has “room for growth.”
As for the A’s ongoing quest for a new stadium, Beane said his optimism is not a result of anything specific, but he does “anticipate it happening at some point” and added: “It would be nice if it was during my tenure.”
“If my optimism reveals itself to be true, then great, we’re doing what we should be” by stocking the A’s system with young talent, Beane said. He also indicated that approach was influenced partly by the recent improvement of the Houston Astros, who are second in the A.L. West and benefiting from a deep farm system built over the last several years.
“To take that one team, if we’re ever going to compete, we’re probably going to have to take a somewhat similar approach,” Beane said, “and at least make sure we have young players coming through the system who are going to be here for a few years.”