OAKLAND -- Peace of mind can be had by all. The A's have their sought-after outfielder, and Stephen Piscotty has his mom a short drive away. Both are bettered, together.The trade that brought Piscotty home from St. Louis this week, allowing him to be closer to his family in the
OAKLAND -- Peace of mind can be had by all. The A's have their sought-after outfielder, and Stephen Piscotty has his mom a short drive away. Both are bettered, together.
The trade that brought Piscotty home from St. Louis this week, allowing him to be closer to his family in the East Bay city of Pleasanton, Calif., was accompanied by much admiration. His mother, Gretchen, was diagnosed in May with ALS, a debilitating ailment also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Fewer than 30 miles now separates her from Piscotty's place of work.
"I think it will be easy and convenient and frequent for her to be able to come out and watch me play," Piscotty said. "That'll give me a lot of comfort knowing that I'm close, so hopefully that takes a little pressure off me and I can relax and play and have fun."
The deal, of course, was not made purely for altruistic reasons. This was a business decision for both the Cardinals, who had a surplus of outfielders, and the A's, who gave up infield prospects Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock in order to check a right-handed-hitting outfielder off their to-do list.
The A's are in the process of building a contender, a long-term plan involving many pieces already in place. Piscotty, 26, joins a young core that includes corner infield studs Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, homegrown hitters who are under consideration for long-term extensions. Piscotty already has one of those, having signed a six-year, $33.5 million deal in the spring.
"We are obviously in a place where we're trying to add to the young foundational players that are here, and he fit that profile exactly," A's general manager David Forst said. "He's already signed, and we've talked about signing some of our players if possible.
"[Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak] did all the work for us on this one. He comes with a very reasonable contract that really fits our timeline well. Those things were attractive, but also a player we've seen a lot of."
Not only did the A's keep watch on Piscotty during his high school days but continued to do so when he landed at Stanford. Piscotty made his big league debut with the Cardinals in 2015 and enjoyed a breakout season in 2016, batting .273 with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs. His performance dipped in a trying 2017, and it would be understandable if his mother's illness affected his performance, though the player downplayed the idea.
Piscotty's OPS moved from .800 to .708, and he slashed .235/.342/.367 with just nine homers in a season interrupted by two stints on the disabled list and a brief return to the Minors. But the A's didn't shy away.
Oakland executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane first engaged in talks with the Cardinals in July when dangling starter Sonny Gray. The two sides couldn't reach an agreement, Gray went to the Yankees and that was that. Then winter arrived and discussions resumed.
"We made no secret of the fact that a right-handed-hitting outfielder was important to us," Forst said. "This was a priority for us. Say what you want about Stephen's year in 2017, because of the injuries and other stuff he dealt with, but he still was a productive player, and in his first season in 2016 he was an outstanding player, and we're really looking forward to having him for a number of years."
Outfield assignments have yet to be delegated, but it's fair to assume Piscotty will be in right field, where he's most comfortable. That would leave left field for platoon partners Matt Joyce and Chad Pinder, while Khris Davis shifts to a more permanent DH role. Center field is up for grabs, though Dustin Fowler remains the favorite to land the job.
Piscotty, who lives with his parents in the offseason, closed on a house in St. Louis just five months ago, but he's happy to give it up in favor of an opportunity to play at the Coliseum he frequented as a kid. His A's debut will mark the first time he's stepped on the field.
"That was my childhood, the Oakland A's," said Piscotty, who added he particularly enjoyed watching Tim Hudson and Mark McGwire. "We'd go to games all the time, fireworks night, just watching great players. … I just have so many great memories there. It really is a dream come true. I think being called up and being a Major Leaguer was probably the ultimate dream, but this was probably another one that was kind of on my list, to play in your hometown.
"I thought if I were to get traded, this is the absolute best option for me and my family, so it's a dream come true in the sense that I get to play for my hometown team and not a lot of people get that chance, so I'm very grateful."
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.