A's trade for Homer Bailey to bolster rotation

July 16th, 2019

OAKLAND -- Mid-July is often the point in the season when players are looking for a signal from the front office that will indicate what direction the club is going in with the impending July 31 Trade Deadline. The A’s sent a clear message about where they stand on Sunday.

Kicking off the second half with back-to-back wins to move into the lead for the second American League Wild Card spot, the A’s filled a need in the starting rotation with the addition of right-hander in a deal with the Royals. Bailey is expected to make his debut on Wednesday against the Mariners at the Coliseum. Oakland optioned right-hander J.B. Wendelken to Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Bailey.

“The players feel these things. They want to feel like the front office is going out to make us better, and typically they do that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It doesn’t mean we’re done, but it’s nice to get someone in the rotation we feel makes us better.”

Oakland traded Double-A infielder Kevin Merrell, its No. 17 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to Kansas City. According to a report from MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the A’s are expected to pick up around $250,000 of Bailey’s remaining salary. Bailey was signed to a Minor League deal by the Royals this offseason, and he is making $555,000 for the 2019 season.

“All of these deals are in context,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “Homer Bailey did an outstanding job for us. He was going to be a free agent at the end of the year. You do your best to maximize opportunities for him. He can go and compete for a playoff spot with Oakland, and for us to bring back a player that gives us more depth in our system."

With their walk-off win over the White Sox on Sunday, the A's remained six games back of the Astros for first place in the AL West. Bailey may not have been the top name on the market, but he fills a hole that Oakland has scrambled to fill with stopgaps after Frankie Montas was suspended for 80 games on June 21 after testing positive for PEDs.

“Our starting depth has taken a hit,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “We checked around for some starting pitching. I had let Kansas City know a few days ago that Homer might be someone we were interested in, and it came together kind of quickly this morning.”

The 33-year-old Bailey has picked up his play over the last month, posting a 3.49 ERA over his past seven starts and allowing three earned runs or fewer in five of those. Overall, he’s 7-6 with a 4.80 ERA in 18 starts this season.

The A’s learned what the addition of a starting pitcher can do last season when arrived in a trade from the Tigers and anchored the rotation during their run to the postseason.

“This is a veteran guy who has pitched well this year and coming off some injuries in '17 and '18,” Forst said. “We’ve had some success bringing guys in here over the last couple of years and pitching even better than they have.”

The A's will now look to strengthen a bullpen that has had trouble locking down games in the late innings this season, but Forst isn’t quite ready to completely close the door on adding another starter. With No. 1 prospect Jesus Luzardo’s latest left shoulder setback and Sean Manaea still about a month away from returning as he rehabs in the Minors, there is no such thing as too much starting pitching.

“We’ve seen how quickly starting pitching can go down,” Forst said. “We’ll keep an eye on starters, but we have a lot of conversations going on for relievers right now.”

With no August trades possible as part of this year’s new rules, the hard July 31 Deadline could make things a little more tricky.

“We’ll see how that affects the Deadline,” Forst said. “I think there was an expectation that there would be a lot of early conversations, and there have been, but I still don’t know that we’ll see actual movement until teams are facing that [July 31] Deadline. Whether it’s a couple of days or hours ahead, we’ll see.”