The Oakland A's will have a new face on their roster when the team takes the field in Cleveland on Friday. On Thursday, the A's acquired first baseman/outfielder Kyle Blanks from the San Diego Padres for minor league outfielder Jake Goebbert and a player to be named later. Blanks was in Triple-A with the Padres, but he will join the A's big league team in Cleveland. To make room for Blanks on the roster, the A's have designated Daric Barton for assignment.
Blanks is a familiar name to those who have followed top minor league prospects over the past several years. The New Mexico native was a top prospect in the San Diego Padres' organization for many years, but injuries have prevented him from establishing himself at the major league level thus far. The 6'6'', 265 pound right-handed hitter and thrower has had Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm, as well as significant Achilles heel, left shoulder and foot injuries during his career. He has been healthy this season. Blanks is in his final option year.
During his nine-year minor league career, Blanks has posted impressive power numbers. His career SLG in 2,134 at-bats is .516 and his overall minor league career slashline is .302/.390/.516 with 98 homers. This season with Triple-A El Paso, Blanks hit nine homers in 83 at-bats and posted a .631 SLG.
Blanks made his major-league debut with the Padres in 2009 and he posted a .250/.355/.514 line in 54 games during his rookie season. Tommy John surgery limited Blanks to just 33 major league games and 11 minor league games in 2010, however. Since the start of 2011, Blanks has appeared in just 147 major-league games, thanks in large part due to injuries. He hasn't been able to replicate his minor league success in the major leagues since his rookie season, and his career major league slashline is .228/.310/.401 with 28 homers in 715 at-bats.
When healthy, Blanks has prodigious power and a surprisingly high level of athleticism given his size. He has spent significant time at both first base and in the corner outfield spots during his career and he will give the A's some additional defensive flexibility over Barton, who was limited defensively to first base. Blanks is also a right-handed hitter, making him an easy platoon fit with A's left-handed hitting first-baseman Brandon Moss. During his MLB career, Blanks has a 733 OPS versus left-handed pitching; in the minors, he has a 1062 OPS over the past three-plus seasons versus southpaws.
Blanks will replace Barton on the A's 25-man roster. The A's designated Barton for assignment twice last season and he cleared waivers, so it is possible that he will remain in the organization as a non-roster player when all is said and done. Barton, as A's fans know well, was also a top prospect for several years, but like Blanks, he hasn't been able to establish himself as a productive major league player thus far. Blanks (27) is a year younger than Barton (28). Barton won a spot on the A's 25-man roster this spring, beating out Nate Freiman. However, Barton hasn't hit well in limited opportunities with the A's thus far this year (.158/.238/.175 in 57 at-bats).
The A's are sending Goebbert to San Diego, along with a player to be named later, in exchange for Blanks. This is the second time Goebbert has been dealt since the start of last season (he was traded from Houston to Oakland for Travis Blackley during the first week of the 2013 season). Goebbert hit .262/.354/.474 with a career-high 22 homers in 126 games split between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento last season. He was batting .257/.371/.505 with six homers in 109 at-bats for Sacramento this year at the time of the trade. Goebbert, like Blanks, can play the corner outfield spots and first base. Goebbert was the A's 34th-ranked prospect coming into this season.
The Blanks deal wasn't the only transaction within the A's organization on Thursday. The Midland RockHounds announced that reliever Jeff Urlaub and infielder Colin Walsh were promoted to Sacramento. The RockHounds also announced that reliever Jesus Castillo was returning to the Mexican Summer League and that reliever Tucker Healy had been promoted to Midland from Stockton. The corresponding moves in Stockton and Sacramento have yet to be announced at the time of this article. UPDATE: Starters Josh Lindblom and Sean Murphy were placed on the Sacramento disabled list on Thursday.
Urlaub is making his Triple-A debut. He leaves Midland with a 1.57 ERA and a 19:6 K:BB in 23 innings. Urlaub posted a 3.86 ERA in 46.2 innings with the RockHounds last season and pitched well during the Arizona Fall League.
Walsh, acquired by the A's as a minor league free agent signing shortly after Addison Russell suffered his hamstring injury, was batting .287/.353/.366 at the time of his promotion. He spent the first three years of his minor league career in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization. Walsh can play several positions, including second base, third base and the corner outfield. He is a Stanford alum.
Healy joins the RockHounds after posting spectacular numbers with the Stockton Ports. In 17.1 innings with the Ports this year, Healy had a 1.04 ERA and a 29:4 K:BB. Three of those walks came in his second-to-last Ports' outing, which was a two-inning, shut-out performance. Healy's 2013 season ended early with a shoulder strain, but he had a 1.31 ERA and a 74:10 K:BB in 48 innings for Low-A Beloit and Stockton last season.
Castillo had a 3.95 ERA in 13.2 innings with the RockHounds. He saved 24 games in the Mexican Summer League last season and will return to his closer role there.