|Though the Athletics' deficit in the American League West numbers in the double digits, they made a move to improve their outfield depth, acquiring Scott Hairston from the Padres. In return, San Diego receives two minor league righthanders—Craig Italiano and Ryan Webb—as well as a player to be named.
UPDATE: The A's shipped 23-year-old righthander Sean Gallagher to San Diego to complete the deal (July 28).
Ryan Sweeney, Oakland's everyday center fielder, is expected to move to right field to make room for Hairston. The move displaces Travis Buck, who was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento after another failed bid to recreate his 2007 rookie-season magic. And though he has struggled to meet expectations in Oakland, Matt Holliday remains entrenched in left field.
Hairston, 29, batted .298/.356/.530 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs in 197 at-bats for the Padres before the move, serving mostly as the team's three-hole hitter in front of slugger Adrian Gonzalez. He's grappled with minor injuries throughout his career, but his 112 games played last year established a career high. In the midst of a career year this season, the righthanded-swinging Hairston continues to club lefthanded pitchers, against whom he batted .360/.435/.667 this season with four home runs. He's maintained .291/.344/.548 averages versus lefties over 461 career plate appearances.
Padres general manager Kevin Towers reportedly can choose between two other pitchers as the player to be named, and we'll have a review of the mystery player once he's identified.
|The Young Players|
|Oakland's second-round pick in 2005, Italiano has endured a series of injuries in his young career, including labrum surgery on his right shoulder in 2006 and a skull fracture in 2007, the result of taking a line drive to the head. The 22-year-old seems to be fully recovered this season, though the lost time means that he's pitching in only his second full season. Italiano has a live arm, and his fastball sits in the low 90s and has touched 96 mph. His curveball is a plus pitch with 12-to-6 break, and he also throws a changeup that has flashed average.
Despite having made 16 starts this year for high Class A Stockton, during which time he went 5-6, 5.63 with 75 strikeouts and 40 walks in 77 innings, Italiano may finish this season in the bullpen in an effort to keep his innings in check. With a tall delivery and awkward mechanics to go along with two plus pitches, Italiano might have been destined for the bullpen anyway.
Webb, 23, opened the season as a starter for Sacramento, but the A's moved him to the bullpen after two starts that resulted in a 6.75 ERA and a 9-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The big, projectable righthander (6-foot-6, 215 pounds) sits in the low-90s with his fastball, but he still has to refine his secondary pitches. To that point, he has worked on a curveball, changeup and slider. After moving to the River Cats' bullpen, Webb improved to a 3.82 ERA and a 30-to-7 strikeout-to-walk mark through 37 2/3 innings.
Oakland's fourth-round pick in 2004, Webb was added to San Diego's 40-man roster after the trade. He figures to make his Padres debut in the bullpen.
The centerpiece of Oakland's trade of Rich Harden to the Cubs last summer, Gallagher logged a 6.34 ERA over 71 innings in his two seasons with the A's. He began this season in the bullpen, before making two May starts that resulted in him giving up 13 runs in 7 1/3 innings. Gallagher sandwiched stints in Triple-A around his rotation run with the A's. He was much more effective in Sacramento, going 1-0, 1.74 in five starts while striking out 15, walking six and not allowing a home run in 20 2/3 innings. At the time of the trade, he had not pitched since June 4 as he contended with a knee injury. The Padres transferred him to the disabled list with Triple-A Portland upon acquiring him.
From a stuff standpoint, Gallagher has gone backward since his big league debut with the Cubs in '07, but that may be partially attributable to his knee injury. His fastball used to sit 90-94 mph with boring action, but now ranges more from 88-92. He's maintained his strong changeup, and he throws a quality curveball and slider, so with full health he could fashion a career as a mid-rotation starter.
|Hairston is making a move from one pitcher's park to another, so his production figures to remain fairly steady. Besides losing a cog in the middle of a lineup that already was the worst in the National League, the Padres are losing Gonzalez's security blanket. Since June 1, Gonzalez had hit just four home runs and knocked in 11 runs. But in that span, he walked 35 times in 100 at-bats, suggesting that teams willing to pitch around Gonzalez will continue to do so. For the Padres, their main focus has been adding pitching depth—especially power-armed pitching depth—making this a move they felt like they had to make.
Oakland's status as either buyers or sellers in the trade market has yet to be determined. But if they do decide to move Holliday, then Hairston will help offset the loss. Regardless, A's GM Billy Beane has to be pleased with this deal. In exchange for two (probably three) second-tier minor league arms, Oakland acquired a solid everyday player, albeit an arbitration-eligible one, who is set to earn $1.25 million this season.