Devine could be a future closer. (AP Photo)
Another week, another trade in Oakland. The Oakland A’s pulled the trigger on their fourth trade of the off-season, and their third trade since the December Winter Meetings, on Monday, dealing outfielder Mark Kotsay to the Atlanta Braves for minor league pitchers Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond. We have the details on the A’s latest deal inside…
For the fourth time since the end of the 2007 season, the Oakland A’s have dealt a key member of their 2006 American League Championship Series team, sending centerfielder Mark Kotsay and cash to the Atlanta Braves for minor league pitchers Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond. The deal was reportedly agreed upon last Friday, and was made official on Monday when Kotsay passed a physical examination in Atlanta and when the Commissioner’s Office signed-off on the cash being exchanged in the deal (roughly $5.3 million).
Kotsay is coming off of the worst year of his major league career. The veteran outfielder appeared in only 56 games for the A’s in 2007 after undergoing back surgery during spring training. He missed the first two months of the season and made his 2007 debut on June 1. He struggled to recapture his normal form and hit only .214 with a meager .296 slugging percentage before the A’s shut him down for the season on August 17.
Back problems were nothing new for Kotsay, who struggled with his back before being acquired by the A’s before the 2004 season. He was relatively healthy during his first one-and-a-half seasons with the A’s, but began to struggle with back problems during the second half of the 2005 season and had issues with the back on-and-off for the rest of his time with Oakland. Kotsay’s best season with the A’s was in 2004, when he hit .314 with an 829 OPS and 15 homers. His most memorable hit with the A’s came in Game Two of the 2006 American League Divisional Series, when he hit a two-run, inside-the-park homer in the A’s win over the Minnesota Twins.
In return for Kotsay, the A’s are receiving two promising young arms: Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond. Devine is the most well-known of the two prospects. The hard throwing right-hander was the Braves’ first-round draft pick in 2005 after a stand-out career with North Carolina State as a reliever. He made his big league debut that same season, a season that ended poorly for Devine when he allowed a walk-off, series-ending homerun to Chris Burke in the National League Divisional Series.
Devine has appeared briefly in the major leagues in each of his three pro seasons. Thus far, his career has been spectacular at the minor league level and shaky at the major league level. In three minor league seasons, Devine has a 2.73 ERA and 162 strike outs in 112.1 innings. In 19.2 major league innings, Devine has a 6.86 ERA and 22 walks against 20 strike outs.
The late-inning reliever had a successful campaign in 2007. He returned to the side-arm throwing motion that he had in college and saved 20 games in a season split between Double-A and Triple-A. Devine had a 1.89 ERA in 57 minor league innings in 2007. He struck out 78 and walked only 19. Devine appeared in 10 games for the Braves in 2007, going 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA and eight walks against seven strike outs in 8.1 innings.
Devine has struggled with back problems of his own during his brief career. A degenerative disc in his lower back sidelined him for almost half of the 2006 season. He features a mid-90s fastball and a slider that cuts from one side of the plate to the other. Like many side-armers, Devine has done very well against same-side hitters (right-handers) and has struggled at times against opposite-side hitters (left-handers). Devine has also struggled with his command throughout his career, walking more than four batters per nine innings, although his control was much-improved in 2007 after returning to his collegiate throwing motion. He has been a reliever throughout his career and could compete for a spot near the back-end of the A’s bullpen in 2008. Devine has one option year remaining.
Richmond is a 21-year-old right-hander who pitched for Low-A Rome during the 2007 season. The Toronto, ON, native was primarily a starting pitcher in 2007, going 7-6 with a 3.05 ERA in 138.2 innings. He struck out 98 and walked 25. Richmond made his professional debut in 2005 for the Rookie-level GCL Braves, where he went 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA in 11.2 innings after signing with Atlanta as a draft-and-follow out of Texarkana Community College. Richmond starred in the short-season Appalachian League in 2006, going 7-1 with a 1.21 ERA and only four walks in 67 innings. He was the Appalachian League’s Pitcher of the Year that season.
The 2006 season was Richmond’s first as a starting pitcher at any level, high school and junior college included. Richmond has exceptional control and good movement on his low-90s fastball. He also has improved his curveball and his change-up in recent years. He will be 22 before the start of the 2008 season.