A's Shake Up Roster In Advance Of Meetings

Gray had a 1.54 ERA and 16 saves for Sacramento.

The Oakland A's announced on Thursday that they had traded reliever Jeff Gray, outfielder/first-baseman Matt Spencer and right-hander Ronny Morla to the Chicago Cubs for third-baseman Jake Fox and second baseman Aaron Miles. The move gives the A's more depth in their infield and likely signals that veteran free agent Adam Kennedy will not return.

Baseball's winter meetings don't start until next week, but the Oakland A's are already wheeling and dealing. The team traded three prospects - Jeff Gray, Matt Spencer and Ronny Morla - to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday for infielders Jake Fox and Aaron Miles. The A's are also reportedly getting $1 million in cash in the deal. Both Gray and Spencer were ranked among Scout.com's recently released list of the top-50 Oakland A's prospects.

Fox made headlines during the early summer by destroying Pacific Coast League pitching. The 27-year-old hit .409 with 17 homers and posted a 1336 OPS in 45 games for the Iowa Cubs before finally earning a shot in the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs. In 82 games with Chicago, Fox hit .259/.311/.468 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs. He is currently playing in the Dominican Republic with Licey and is batting .296 with a homer and seven RBIs in seven games.

Fox, a Michigan alum, was the Cubs third round pick in 2003. He has been a good hitter throughout his minor league career, posting a career OPS of 885 in seven seasons. Finding a defensive position has been more of a challenge, however. He was a catcher early in his career, but was moved to first base/outfield in 2006. He then began playing at third base. Fox appeared in 27 games at third, seven games at first, three behind the plate and 26 in the outfield for Chicago in 2009.

Miles is an East Bay native (Pittsburg, CA) who has been in the big leagues since 2004. He has a career OPS of only 678, but a career batting average of .282. Miles spent the 2006-2008 seasons with St. Louis before signing with the Cubs last off-season. He hit only .174 with Chicago after batting .317 in 379 at-bats with St. Louis in 2008. Miles is a versatile player and immediately becomes the favorite to be the A's back-up middle infielder next season. He appeared in games at second, third and short last season and played every defensive position but catcher in 2008.

The additions of Fox and Miles are likely indications that the A's won't be re-signing veteran Adam Kennedy, who filled in for injured A's starters at second and third base last season. The move also impacts infielder Gregorio Petit, who was expected to be the A's back-up infielder before the deal.

The A's are giving up some of their depth in the deal. Gray was expected to compete for a spot in the A's bullpen next spring after posting a 3.76 ERA in 26.1 innings with Oakland in 2009. He also saved 16 games for Triple-A Sacramento and posted a 1.54 ERA. Gray is a hard-throwing right-hander and a former 32nd round pick out of the 2004 draft.

Gray's departure opens the door for John Meloan to capture a spot in the A's Opening Day bullpen. Meloan was picked up on waivers by Oakland at the end of the 2009 season and was impressive in six late-season outings.

The A's are also dealing some of their outfield depth by trading Spencer. Acquired in the Joe Blanton deal with Philadelphia in 2008, Spencer had a strong season with High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland, hitting a combined .289/.345/.488 with 19 homers and 91 RBIs. He helped the Midland Rockhounds win the Texas League championship and was also a key member of the 2008 California League champion Stockton Ports. Spencer, an Arizona State alum, can play the corner outfield spots and first base, although his defense isn't as strong as his hitting ability.

Morla led the Northwest League in strike-outs in 2008. The Dominican right-hander posted a 4.86 ERA and walked 24 in 63 innings for the Vancouver Canadians in 2009. He did strike-out 73, however. Morla had 77 strike-outs for Vancouver in 2008. He has good arm strength but is still refining his command and feel for pitching. He won't turn 22 until May 2010.

This trade brings the number of players on the A's roster up to 40. It wouldn't be surprising to see Oakland drop a player from the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, which will take place on the last day of the winter meetings next week.

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