MLB hot stove: Athletics acquire Jurickson Profar from Rangers in three-team trade with Rays

For the second time in less than two weeks, two contenders and one rebuilding club got together for a three-team all-American League trade on Friday.

The Oakland Athletics have acquired infielder Jurickson Profar in a three-team swap with the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. The deal mostly involves minor leaguers and comes after the Rays swung the three-team Edwin Encarnacion/Carlos Santana trade with the Mariners and Indians at the Winter Meetings last week.

All three teams have announced the trade. Here are the details:

  • Athletics get: IF Jurickson Profar
  • Rangers get: LHP Kyle Bird, LHP Brock Burke, RHP Yoel Espinal, IF Eli White, international bonus money
  • Rays get: RHP Emilio Pagan, RHP Rollie Lacy, Competitive Balance Round A draft pick

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reports Texas received $750,000 in international bonus money. So, long story short, the A's get Profar for Pagan, White, a draft pick, and international bonus money. The Rays get Pagan, Lacy, and a draft pick for Bird, Burke, and Espinal. The Rangers get all of that above for Profar and Lacy Got all that? Good.

Profar, 26 come February, was once considered one of the game's elite prospects. He was ranked No. 1 in the minors by nearly every scouting publication as recently as spring 2013. His career has since been derailed by injuries, including a pair of shoulder surgeries, that limited him to just 112 big-league appearances from 2014-17. 

Last season Profar stayed healthy, however, delivering a .254/.335/.458 (105 OPS+) line in 146 games while playing all over the field. It is very possible he is about the break out as one of the game's greats now that he's further away from his injuries. Profar is still very young and he will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2020, so this is not a one-year rental.

Here is what you need to know about this complicated three-team trade, which includes seven players but only two major leaguers.

The trade likely ends Lowrie's time with the A's

jurickson-profar.jpg
Jurickson Profar is the newest member of the A's. USATSI

Profar has experience at every infield position as well as left field, so the A's could use him pretty much anyway. General manager David Forst told the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser the plan is to play Profar at second base, however. That means Marcus Semien will remain at shortstop. The Athletics also have longtime top prospect Franklin Barreto available to play the middle infield.

A's manager Bob Melvin could use this lineup in 2019:

  1. 2B Jurickson Profar
  2. 3B Matt Chapman
  3. DH Khris Davis
  4. 1B Matt Olson
  5. RF Stephen Piscotty
  6. CF Ramon Laureano
  7. SS Marcus Semien
  8. LF Nick Martini/Mark Canha
  9. C Josh Phegley

The Athletics are said to be in the market for a catcher -- Jonathan Lucroy is a free agent and the two sides are talking, though they are not close on the money, reportedly -- and, at the moment, they have utility men Chad Pinder and Chris Herrmann on the bench along with Martini/Canha. Profar's and Pinder's versatility give them coverage all over the field.

Never say never, but it appears the Profar trade closes the door on Jed Lowrie returning to Oakland. Lowrie had the two best years of his career in 2017-18, hitting .272/.356/.448 (120 OPS+) with 86 doubles and 37 home runs in 310 games with the A's. Not coincidentally, the last two years were the two healthiest years of his career. The A's are set all around the infield, however, plus they have Barreto as well. Using the money earmarked for Lowrie on rotation help seems likely.

The free-agent market is currently overloaded with second base types even after Daniel Murphy signed with the Rockies. Lowrie is out there with DJ LeMahieu, Marwin Gonzalez, Josh Harrison, Logan Forsythe, Brian Dozier, Asdrubal Cabrera, and others. The Angels, Brewers, Dodgers, Nationals, and Yankees are among the teams in the market for second base help that could now turn to Lowrie since a reunion with the A's is no longer appears to be in the cards. 

The Rangers are all-in on their rebuild

In theory, Profar is the type of player a rebuilding team would like to acquire. He's young and he's supremely talented, and it appears his career is on the upswing. Only two years of team control is a negative, but that's what contract extensions are for. Profar was, potentially, someone the Rangers could build around going forward. Instead, they cashed him in as a trade chip and received zero established big leaguers in return.

Burke, 22, threw 137 1/3 innings with a 3.08 ERA and 158 strikeouts between High Class-A and Double-A in 2018. That earned him Pitcher of the Year honors in a stacked Rays farm system. MLB.com did not rank Burke among Tampa's top 30 prospects before the trade but the Baseball America crew are strong believers.

White, a 24-year-old infielder, hit .306/.388/.450 with nine home runs and 18 stolen bases in 130 Double-A games this past season. MLB.com ranked him as the 17th best prospect in the A's system before the trade and their scouting report says he has "a chance to be a useful utility player, perhaps even a super utility one at the highest level."

Neither Bird nor Espinal, two relievers, were ranked among Tampa's top 30 prospects by MLB.com before the trade. Espinal, 26, struck out 79 batters with a 2.25 ERA in 64 innings at mostly Double-A in 2018. The 25-year-old Bird had a 2.39 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings this past season, almost all in Double-A. So, while the Rangers did not get an established major leaguer in the trade, they did get four prospects who've had success in Double-A and could see MLB time as soon as 2019.

Clearly though, the Rangers are committed to their rebuild if they're trading a player like Profar. He's young and productive and loaded with potential. If Texas is willing to trade him, chances are they're willing to trade anyone. Closer Jose Leclerc, starter Mike Minor, outfielder Nomar Mazara, and infielders Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor could all be on the trade block next.

The Rays added mostly future assets

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics
The Rays added another arm for their bullpenning strategy in Emilio Pagan. USATSI

Pagan, 27, is a serviceable big-league reliever who threw 62 innings with a 4.35 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 2018. He's held righties to a .193/.237/.336 batting line in his career and could be a good "opener" candidate against a right-handed-heavy team like the Yankees. That said, Pagan has an extraordinarily low 24.9 percent ground rate in his career, contributing to his 1.60 HR/9 rate. That might lead to some crooked numbers against those powerful AL East lineups.

While Pagan is a solid relief option, this trade is more about future assets for the Rays, specifically that draft pick. It is currently the 38th overall selection in next June's draft -- it will move around a bit as teams gain and lose picks to free-agent compensation this offseason -- and gives Tampa four of the top 61 picks next year. They'll be in position to add significant pieces to what is already one of the game's best and deepest farm systems.

Lacy, 23, went from the Cubs to the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade earlier this year. He finished the season with a 2.97 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 109 innings spread across two Class-A levels. MLB.com did not rank him among the top 30 prospects in the Rangers' system before the trade but, knowing the Rays, he'll have a chance to carve out a role as a bat-missing bullpen option within a year or two. They're as good a pitcher development organization as you'll find.

For all intents and purposes, the Rays turned a good pitching prospect (Burke) and two inventory arms (Bird and Espinal) into a big-league reliever, a relatively high draft pick, and another inventory arm. It is the sort of roster shuffle move a small-market team like the Rays must do to remain competitive. Pitching prospects have a high-attrition rate and, if you're not sold on one as part of the future, better to cash him in as a trade chip too early rather than too late.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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