The Oakland Athletics continued their recent run of pitcher trades on Wednesday, sending reliever Jerry Blevins to the Washington Nationals for minor-league outfielder Billy Burns, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.
Blevins, 30, has been an off and on member of the A's bullpen for the past seven seasons, posting a 3.30 earned-run average over 267 innings in that span. The left-hander upped his workload with Oakland considerably the last two years but didn't suffer any diminishing returns, turning in a 2.80 ERA in 125⅓ innings of work.
While "lefty specialist" is typically a good description for southpaw relievers, it doesn't fit Blevins. Despite his three-quarters delivery, Blevins' platoon splits are minimal for his career -- 636 OPS vs LHBs, 711 OPS vs RHBs -- and he actually fared quite a bit better against opposite-handed hitters in 2013.
While he was effective in Oakland, there are reasons to be concerned about how Blevins will perform outside of a pitcher-friendly park. Among pitchers with at least 30 IP in each of the last two years, his 1.4 home runs allowed per nine against lefties is the second-worst mark in the league. That figure is a bit alarming in and of itself, and becomes even more so when you take O.co Coliseum's homer-killing ways into account.
Blevins will likely slot into the Nats' bullpen in the spot vacated by Fernando Abad, who was the club's only steady lefty reliever in 2013. Washington also had youngster Ian Krol ready to step into that role, but he was dealt to the Tigers for Doug Fister two weeks ago.
In return for Blevins, the A's get Billy Burns a speedy on-base machine who was recently named Washington's 2013 Minor League Player of the Year. A late-round (32nd) pick out of Mercer University in Georgia in the 2011 Draft, Burns has given pitchers and catchers fits on his way up the minor-league ladder.
The 24-year-old's power is non-existent -- he has just one home run in well over 1,000 plate appearances -- but he's still able to create havoc in and out of the batter's box. The diminutive outfielder hit .315/.425/.383 and swiped 74 bags over 121 games between High-A and Double-A in 2013. He also walked 18 more times than he struck out this past season (72 vs 54), bringing to mind players from much earlier days.