Why Did the Oakland Athletics Trade Derek Norris?
The San Diego Padres keep on dealing. After completing a trade for Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp and closing in on a deal for Tampa Bay outfielder Wil Myers, new Padre GM AJ Preller brought in a new catcher, acquiring 2014 All-Star Derek Norris from Oakland for pitchers Jesse Hahn and RJ Alvarez.
Was it a good deal?
Why the Padres Needed Norris
San Diego played two catchers last year, and both are no longer with the team. Yasmani Grandal, acquired from Cincinnati in the December 2011 Mat Latos trade, posted a .324 wOBA and a weighted runs created of 111 in 443 plate appearances last season, but was part of the package headed to the Dodgers in exchange for Kemp. Rene Rivera also saw time behind the plate, posting a slightly better .329 wOBA and 114 wRC+ in 329 plate appearances, but he too is headed out of town. Rivera was part of the package heading to Tampa in the Myers trade.
Tampa sends veteran backstop Ryan Hanigan to San Diego in the Myers deal, but he’s not a long-term solution. His 2014 batting numbers are worse than Grandal’s or Rivera’s (Hanigan posted a .295 wOBA and 92 wRC+ in his only season in Tampa following a three-team trade last off-season). Norris, on the other hand, posted numbers better than either Grandal or Rivera, boasting a .341 wOBA and 122 wRC+ while playing his home games in pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum. Norris is under Padre control for four seasons, and fits in with Myers as a young, cheap offensive upgrade for a San Diego team that ranked last in the majors in wOBA and wRC+ last season.
Why Oakland could trade Norris
Oakland is going through one of those phases -- you know, when they have a fire sale and trade most of their good young talent? Josh Donaldson is headed to Toronto, Jeff Samardzija is taking his talents to the South Side, Brandon Moss is an Indian, and Jon Lester, Luke Gregerson, Jason Hammel, Alberto Callaspo, and Jed Lowrie left as free agents. Norris joins the long line heading out the door in Oakland.
Do the Athletics even have his replacement lined up?
Correction: Oakland has his replacements lined up. That’s right, Billy Beane and company didn’t view their All-Star catcher as a full-time starter, preferring to platoon him behind the plate with John Jaso. Norris’ .292 career average against lefties bests his .208 clip against righties by a long-shot, while Jaso couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag against a southpaw (career .169 average) and hits righties pretty well (.272 career average). Rather than pay Norris All-Star money to start behind the plate against lefties, Oakland will turn to Josh Phegley, whom they acquired from the White Sox in the Samardzija trade. Phegley is under team control through the 2020 season, and just like Norris he hits lefties pretty well (he has a .250 average against them in his young career), but can’t hit a lick against righties (a career .195 average). Getting two young pitchers for half of a catching platoon when an heir apparent is waiting in the wings? That’s a no-brainer if Billy Beane ever saw one.
Why Oakland Needed Jesse Hahn
RJ Alavarez, a AA reliever, heads from San Diego’s minor league system to Oakland’s in this trade, but Hahn can contribute right away at the big-league level for the Athletics. The Virginia Tech graduate spent one season in San Diego, coming over from Tampa as part of the Logan Forsythe trade. He started 12 games for the Padres and posted a respectable 3.40 FIP and 1.21 WHIP in 73 big-league innings. In addition, Hahn delivered an ERA under two in 42 AA innings before the Padres called him up.
Hahn can contribute right away if he wins the fifth starter job in spring training. He’ll battle Chris Bassitt, a righty from the White Sox who delivered similar numbers to Hahn (a slightly better 3.33 FIP and a significantly higher 1.58 WHIP) to bring up the rear in Oakland’s opening day rotation. Even if he doesn’t win a job to start the year, Hahn will almost certainly be called upon at least as a spot starter and at most as an injury replacement for one of Oakland’s other hurlers. Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin both missed most of last season due to Tommy John surgery, and Scott Kazmir has battled injuries in previous seasons.
Why San Diego Could Trade Hahn
The Padre rotation actually looks pretty good right now. Breakout stars Tyson Ross and Odrisamer Despaigne are back, Andrew Cashner returns as the ace, Ian Kennedy is a solid veteran innings-eater, and oft-injured veterans Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow will come to spring training looking for rotation spots as well. This almost certainly makes Hahn an odd man out in San Diego, and the Padres still have youngster Robbie Erlin as a seventh starter even after all of their wheeling and dealing.
This trade appears to be good for all parties. San Diego gives Norris a chance to play every day, and Oakland doesn’t have to pay him. Oakland gives Hahn a chance to earn a rotation spot, and Oakland doesn’t have to pay him much, either.