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December 9, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Moss Gathered

by R.J. Anderson, Craig Goldstein and Mauricio Rubio

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired DH-L Brandon Moss from the Athletics in exchange for 2B-L Joe Wendle. [12/8]

In adding Moss, the Indians are taking a considerable risk—one that is, however, understandable and perhaps even laudable.

The perceived variability stems from Moss' health. He dealt with significant cartilage damage in his hip last season, to the point that he underwent surgery after experiencing bone-to-bone issues. Pair that condition with Moss' miserable second half (he hit .173/.310/.274 with four homers in more than 200 plate appearances), and it's reasonable to wonder what the future holds for him.

And so, most Moss takes revolve around the best- and worst-case scenarios. The best-case sees Moss reaffirm his status as an above-average hitter with some defensive versatility, while the worst-case sees him do none of that. It's hard to know which outcome is more likely at this point; even so, you can understand why the Indians are taking the plunge. Moss is coming relatively cheap financially (he's projected to earn $7 million) and talent-wise (Wendle, though a possible starter, had no place on the Indians roster) and will be under team control through the '16 season.

The most interesting part about this trade is the prospective fallout. The Indians now have two spots to play Moss, Nick Swisher, and Carlos Santana. As a result, one of those three is likely on his way out of town—a fancy way of saying Swisher, with his own injury woes and $30-million guarantee over the next two seasons, is going to pop up in a lot more trade rumors before the winter ends. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Brandon Moss

Leaving Oakland is an obvious boon to any power hitter's profile, but it's not as dramatic as you might think. By ESPN's park factors, O.co Coliseum, for its expansive outfield and endless foul territory, ranked 10th for runs and 21st in home runs. The good news is that while Progressive Field only checked in at 19th in runs, it ranked 11th in homers, representing a substantial upgrade from Moss' previous home park. The bad news is that Oakland was a significantly better offense last year than Cleveland is. Moss was a substantial part of that, but it's unlikely his move from one to the other closes the 60-run gap between the two offenses. Digging a little deeper, Cleveland's home park treats lefties better than righties, especially when it comes to home runs, which is another positive for Moss' value. As far his health goes, he was going to be a risk in that sense whether he was in Oakland or Cleveland, so that doesn't change our baseline very much. While Oakland might not depress home runs as much as we usually think (or at least didn't in 2014), Cleveland should be substantially kinder to Moss' brand of baseball.

Nick Swisher

Swisher's offseason has consisted of two knee surgeries and Moss stealing his job. —Craig Goldstein

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired 2B-L Joe Wendle from the Indians in exchange for DH-L Brandon Moss. [12/8]

Billy Beane trades a middle-of-the-order bat for the second time this offseason, and as with the Josh Donaldson deal, the return is light on upside.

In Wendle, Beane receives a near-ready second baseman whose best attribute is his bat. Because Wendle is unlikely to impress with his glove or his legs, and because his arm limits him to the keystone, he'll need his stick to translate to the majors in order to maintain a spot on a big-league roster. Fortunately, there's reason to believe he possesses enough bat-to-ball and on-base skills to do more than stick, and while he'll never make an All-Star game, he could pass as a starter for a few seasons. It is worth noting that Wendle has missed nearly three months over the past two years due to a fractured hamate and orbital bone. Nonetheless, he should make his big-league debut in 2015.

If Moss' departures ensures Billy Butler will DH daily, then what becomes of first base? Presumably Stephen Vogt or Ike Davis gets the first crack at conquering the cold corner, likely in a timeshare with Nate Freiman. Theoretically, the A's could go outside the organization and add someone of Gaby Sanchez's ilk, but the money saved here figures to be used to fill a different hole instead—like the one at shortstop. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Joe Wendle

Wendle’s main attraction from a fantasy perspective is his ability to hit, which he’s shown at just about every level. He is a long shot to break camp with the big club so he’ll only become relevant at some point during the season, but the situation in Oakland is a much better bet for playing time. —Mauricio Rubio

Ike Davis

This appears to be a positive for Davis, but the honest truth is we don't know how he would have been employed even with Moss on the roster (Moss could have been pushed to the outfield). Still, it's a potential obstacle cleared, giving Davis the opportunity to earn everyday at-bats, a situation that wasn't as likely prior to the deal.

Stephen Vogt

Another player who was potentially squeezed out of playing time with Moss on the roster, Vogt gets a bump in value for the same reason Davis does. Both he and Davis are left-handed, but it's possible this move allows Vogt to function as (at least) a platoon-side outfielder, while Davis mans first base. Again, there's not much tangible here, so much as the absence of an obstacle to playing time. How that playing time is rationed out remains to be seen. —Craig Goldstein

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here
Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mauricio's other articles. You can contact Mauricio by clicking here

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