OAKLAND — The Athletics made their first deal prior to the Aug. 2 trade deadline Saturday, sending utilityman Christian Bethancourt to the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade that brought back local product Cal Stevenson in return.
Bethancourt, who was originally in the starting lineup at first base, was approached by manager Mark Kotsay in the clubhouse with both men adjourning to Kotsay’s office. The 30-year-old veteran was one of the feel-good stories in a difficult season as he hadn’t played in the majors since 2017 and had spent time in the Dominican Republic, Panama and Korea.
Stevenson played at Kennedy High in Fremont and for one season at Chabot College before transferring to Nevada and then Arizona. The A’s also acquired Christian Fernandez, a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher from Venezuela.
Two years ago, Bethancourt and his brother purchased 17 acres in his native Panama and planned to become farmers before giving baseball one more shot.
The Athletics used Bethancourt primarily at first base, designated hitter and catcher and he’s also played in the outfield.
“He’s going to a team that’s in contention, a team that right now I think is in need of some catching help,” Kotsay said. “For Christian, the story is amazing, the path that he’s been on to get back to the big leagues. We talked about that this morning.
“Everything he’s done from Day 1 for me has been as professional as it could be from the work ethic to the communication process, his willingness to do whatever he’s asked. That’s why he’s where he’s at right now.”
Although Bethancourt didn’t make the A’s out of spring training, he was called up early in the season, added to the 40-man roster and hit .249 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 56 games.
Stevenson, 25, was hitting .265 in Triple-A Durham in the Tampa organization with a .376 on-base percentage with two home runs and 17 RBIs. A left-handed hitter, Stevenson will report to the A’s Triple-A team in Las Vegas and be developed alongside another outfield prospect in Christian Pache. Both are looked at as center fielders, but A’s assistant general manager Dan Feinstein said he can also play a corner outfield spot.
“He can really run. He controls the strike zone very well,” Feinstein said. “Excellent contact skills. Very good against right-handed pitching. We think he’ll certainly be a major league piece. We’ll get him to Vegas, get him playing, and go from there.”
At Kennedy High in Fremont, Stevenson was a four-year varsity player and played on three Mission Valley Athletic League champions. In 2016 at Chabot College, Stevenson hit .287 in 42 games with 26 RBI, 57 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.
Fernandez has a 5-2 record for Charleston, a Tampa Bay affiliate in Low-A, with a 2.79 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 58 innings. He will report to the A’s High-A team in Lansing, according to Feinstein.
“A four-pitch mix. Fastball averages 93. Three really good off-speed pitches,” Feinstein said. “The change-up is probably the best one. Has the ability to get swings and misses, plus a slider and curve ball. He’ll go into our rotation in High-A.”
Fernandez, Feinstein said, missed the COVID season in 2020 and was out for 2021 with an arm injury but has pitched well this season.
With a 28-57 record that is the worst in the major leagues, the Athletics will be listening to more trade offers in the coming weeks Pitcher Frankie Montas, outfielder Ramon Laureano and catcher Sean Murphy are among those expected to draw interest and the Athletics look to restock their roster with young talent.
— Left-handed pitcher Sam Selman was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Zach Logue, Saturday’s starting pitcher against Houston.
— Right-hander Frankie Montas did some throwing in the outfield and wasn’t included in any transactions. Montas had a cortisone shot in his right shoulder to deal with inflammation after pitching only a single inning in his last start with a decrease in velocity.
“It’s an indication we’re hopeful Frankie will be able to fulfill his start prior to the All-Star break,” Kotsay said. “He played catch today and I believe it went well.”
One of the byproducts of the trade of Bethancourt is an opportunity for Seth Brown to start at first base against Framber Valdez (8-3, 2.67), one of the toughest left-handers in the American League.
“You always have to make adjustments and Brownie will be there at firsts, get his chance against Framber, and we’re excited to see that matchup,” Kotsay said.
Nick Allen 2B
Ramon Laureano RF
Sean Murphy C
Chad Pinder LF
Elvis Andrus SS
Stephen Piscotty DH
Seth Brown 1B
Sheldon Neuse 3B
Skye Bolt CF