A’s, Rockies make further adjustments

By Jim Callis

July 13, 2005

One trade wasn’t enough for the Athletics and Rockies on Wednesday, so they consummated a second deal between themselves later that day. Colorado got Eric Byrnes and infield prospect Omar Quintanilla for Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick.

Byrnes, 29, became expendable when Oakland added Jay Payton to its outfield and fills the void the Rockies created when they dealt Preston Wilson to Washington, both transactions coming earlier Wednesday. Byrnes is a high-energy player who can get overly aggressive at the plate. He has some power, but does much more damage against lefthanders (.913 career OPS, .999 in 2005) than against righties (.738 career, .671 this year). This year, he has hit .266/.336/.474 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 59 games. He runs well and goes all out for any fly ball he can possibly catch. Byrnes is making $2.2 million in 2005 and will be arbitration-eligible again this offseason. He’s a career .270/.336/.462 hitter with 45 homers and 164 RBIs.

Quintanilla, 23, was a supplemental first-round pick in 2003 after starring at Texas. Though he’s having the worst season of his pro career this year—batting .293/.347/.395 with four homers and 24 RBIs in 78 games at Double-A Midland—he entered the season with a career .330 average as a pro and is considered an advanced hitter with line-drive pop. He has played shortstop throughout his pro career, but he lacks traditional range and speed for the position and probably will move to second base at some point. The Rockies assigned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs, and he should challenge for the big league second-base job in the near future.

Kennedy, a 26-year-old lefthander, set a record for Rockies starters last year with a 3.66 ERA. But he hasn’t been nearly as effective in 2005, going 4-8, 7.04 in 16 starts. He has a 52-44 strikeout-walk ratio in 92 innings, and opponents have crushed him for a .334 average and 12 homers. Colorado was about to pull him from the rotation spot anyway, and can use Wednesday trade acquisition Zach Day to eventually fill his spot. Kennedy hasn’t fooled as many hitters this year with the life on his fastball, which is his out pitch despite rarely topping 90 mph. He throws across his body, making it tough for lefties to pick up his pitches, but his mechanics affect his consistency with his entire repertoire, which also includes a curveball and changeup. He’ll begin his Oakland career as a reliever. Like Byrnes, Kennedy makes $2.2 million and will be eligible for arbitration again after the season. His career record is 31-46, 4.95 in 125 games.

Witasick, a 32-year-old righty, will join Kennedy in the Oakland bullpen. He signed a minor league contract with the Orioles, who released him late in spring training, then rewarded the Rockies for picking him up. Witasick is in the midst of the best season of his 10-year big league career, going 0-4, 2.52 in 32 appearances. He has a sterling 40-12 K-BB ratio in 36 innings and has held opponents to a .209 average and two homers. Witasick goes right after hitters with a 92-94 mph fastball and a hard curveball. This will be his second tour of duty in Oakland, where he made his major league debut after being part of the Todd Stottlemyre trade with the Cardinals in 1996. He has gone 29-40, 4.60 in 421 big league games.