A’s boost infield in trade with Cubs
OAKLAND – The Oakland Athletics took a big step toward boosting their lackluster offense.
The A’s acquired third baseman Jake Fox, second baseman Aaron Miles and cash considerations from the Chicago Cubs on Thursday for three players.
The Cubs got right-handed pitcher Jeff Gray, minor league outfielder Matt Spencer and minor league righty Ronny Morla.
The trade gives Oakland added depth in an infield that has been injury plagued in recent seasons, and Fox’s big bat to boot. While general manager Billy Beane hopes six-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez will be healthy after season-ending back surgery, the A’s knew they needed a contingency plan.
Chavez has said he plans to be back at his old spot. He now could spend some his time as designated hitter, too. The last-place A’s recently signed free-agent third baseman Dallas McPherson to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Fox gives Oakland versatility considering he also plays the outfield and can even catch. In two stays with the Cubs this year, he hit .259 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in 82 games. He began the season at Triple-A Iowa, batting .409 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in 45 games.
The A’s were looking for some much-needed pop from the right side, and wanted Fox.
“He can hit. We’ve always liked his bat,” assistant GM David Forst said.
Jack Cust hit a team-leading 25 home runs to go with 70 RBIs but also struck out 185 times, 12 below his 2008 total. Beane knows the A’s need more power in the lineup.
Manager Bob Geren is excited about Fox’s ability to play all over the field.
“And obviously the bat impressed us,” Geren said. “He’s a right-handed hitter with power, something we lacked last year. It’s a step forward to improve what we need to improve, and he gives us versatility and youth.”
The switch-hitting Miles signed a two-year, $4.9 million contract with the Cubs last winter, then batted a career-low .185 with no home runs and five RBIs in 74 games. He spent two stints on the disabled list, with a strained right shoulder strain and a hyperextended right elbow.
“Aaron Miles coming off a disappointing year, we thought this might give him a better chance to make a ballclub and play for the A’s,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said.
“Jake Fox really did a quality job for us and has been with us quite a while. I think we’re giving him a real good opportunity to play more on a regular basis in the American League. He’s too young in his career just to be a bat off the bench. We certainly felt like we maximized his value in the trade.”
With Thursday’s acquisitions, Oakland appears to have moved on without former AL Rookie of the Year shortstop Bobby Crosby and perhaps free-agent second baseman Adam Kennedy.
Mark Ellis remains Oakland’s second baseman, Forst said. Ellis signed an $11 million, two-year contract in October 2008 that includes a club option for the 2011 season.
Gray was with Oakland four different times in 2009, going 0-1 with a 3.76 ERA in 24 relief appearances. He also went 2-2 with a 1.54 ERA and a team-high 16 saves in 37 appearances with Triple-A Sacramento.
Hendry said the Cubs were impressed with Gray’s velocity and that he would have a chance to make the team in spring training.
Spencer split his time between Class-A Stockton and Double-A Midland, batting a combined .289 with 19 home runs and 91 RBIs in 123 games.
Morla began the year in extended spring training before going 1-7 and a 4.86 ERA in 17 games at Single-A short-season Vancouver.
Hendry added that the deal wasn’t related to a potential trade of Milton Bradley.
Bradley, suspended the final two weeks, is still owed $21 million over the final two years of his contract. If the Cubs trade him, they would probably have to pick up some of the tab.
“It didn’t have anything to do with saving some money to put toward Milton,” Hendry said. “That really didn’t play into it.”
– AP sportswriter Rick Gano contributed to this report.
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