Programming note: For the latest MLB Hot Stove news, tune in to SportsNet Central tonight at 6 p.m., 10:30 and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SAN DIEGO – The A’s have acquired five players over the past two days in trades for right-hander Jeff Samardzija and first baseman Brandon Moss.
The temptation is to want to give these deals the immediate thumbs-up or thumbs-down, which is tough to do. Some of these players are prospects whose true worth won’t be known for at least a year or two.
But, first impressions are worth considering. And a couple of major league scouts quizzed on the trades Tuesday said they weren’t exactly blown away by the return the A’s got for Samardzija and Moss.
“I was underwhelmed,” one scout said.
Another scout said, at first glance, that Oakland got the right quantity of players but he had his doubts about the quality.
It’s certainly true that neither trade brought the A’s a superstar-quality prospect, or at one who carries superstar hype. The fact that Moss is coming off hip surgery and that Samardzija hits free agency after the upcoming season may have made teams reluctant to part with any of their elite prospects for either player.
None of it matters to Billy Owens, Oakland’s longtime director of player personnel, who said he’s very enthused about the players the A’s received. He pointed to Josh Donaldson as a diamond in the rough that the A’s imported in 2008 as part of a four-player package from the Cubs for pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin.
“It’s about putting guys in the right environment, that’s been our M.O.,” Owens said.
The A’s received four players from the Chicago White Sox in return for Samardzija – shortstop Marcus Semien, right-hander Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley and corner infielder Rangel Ravelo.
In the short term, the 24-year-old Semien shapes up as a very important player. Jed Lowrie is poised to leave the A’s via free agency, and Semien seems likely to enter spring training as their starting shortstop. It’s a great opportunity for the Bay Area native, who played collegiately at Cal.
He’s got good power, hitting 21 home runs last season combined between the bigs and Triple-A. The A’s love his strike zone discipline and the .380 on-base percentage he showed in the minors. The question is whether he can handle shortstop in the majors as his regular position. That was his main spot in the minors but he’s played mostly second and third in parts of two seasons with Chicago.
“I think he has a chance to play every day, but more at second base,” one of the scouts said.
Semien isn’t known for great range at short, but it’s worth noting that Lowrie held down the position for Oakland the past two seasons and range was hardly his strong suit either.
“He’s steady,” Owens said. “He’s got really good hands and he’s efficient. He can definitely handle the position.”
Bassitt, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who made his major league debut last year at age 25, throws a fastball that tops out at 94 with a good changeup. He’s another of the large number of candidates the A’s want fighting for rotation spots this spring.
Phegley hit 23 homers last season at Triple-A, the but the 26-year-old had yet to crank the catching ranks at the big league level for the White Sox. Owens rates his arm as strong and is high on his overall defensive tools.
Ravelo, the youngest of the quartet the A’s got from Chicago at 22, is a native of Hialeah, Fla., also the home town of former A’s lefty Gio Gonzalez. Owens likened him to Allan Craig in his style of hitting, a guy who can use all fields. He’s split five minor league seasons between first and third base.
The A’s received second baseman Joe Wendle from Cleveland in exchange for Moss, and one of the scouts said he’s impressed with the intangibles, calling Wendle a “gritty” player.