Frisco, TX – League sources have confirmed that Frisco and Akron have agreed to a deal centered around starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Frisco is sending their talented but inconsistent starter to Akron in exchange for 3 prospects and cash.
Frisco is coming off of a wild-card birth after a late-season surge propelled them to just enough wins to squeak into the playoff field. They were quickly discarded in 4 games, however, by a stronger Richmond team. For a team seemingly on the cusp of taking that next step, it’s a bit surprising to see the team part with a cheap starting pitcher who was sure to be a key cog in their rotation next season.
“It’s tough to lose Tanaka, of course,” Frisco GM Erik Voldness told reporters. “But we really like the youngsters we got back.”
The Rough Riders received left fielder Mike Papi, shortstop Trace Loehr and second baseman Javier Betancourt, all minor leaguers, in the swap for Tanaka. Papi is coming off a great season in AA, in which he hit .300/.425/.527 in 58 games as a 22-year-old after being selected in the expansion draft by Akron.
Assistant scouting director John Wang, on Papi: “He’s a solid defender, gets on base, and we think the power will continue to develop as he fills out over the next few years. He had a great season in AA last year. If he continues that in AAA this season, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t be up by mid-season.”
Trace Loehr was also taken in the expansion draft by Akron. He hit .291/.353/.408 in 77 games at the single A level this past season.
Wang, on Loehr: “We love his defense, obviously. He’s got a chance to be an elite, elite defender at shortstop. He’ll need to continue to develop, of course, but his glove is certainly his calling card. We like the youth, and he had a very good year in A ball with the bat. If he can continue to work counts and his defense is as good as we expect, he’s likely to be a key player for us in a few seasons.”
Javier Betancourt is the lowest regarded prospect of the three, and he’s coming off a poor season in AA in which he hit .225/.313/.268 in 19 games.
Wang, on Betancourt: “He wasn’t ready for AA last season. That’s not Akron’s fault; they were an expansion team without the kind of depth some other teams have at this point. They needed someone to play up the middle for that team. We’re not concerned with his numbers because he’ll spend most of this season a level lower than he played last season. He’s a projection guy for us; we like his tools with the bat as a second baseman.”
Akron has improved their starting rotation quickly this off-season, first acquiring Clay Buchholz in a 5-player deal, and now Tanaka. They should be greatly improved from their 29-win season.
Tanaka is expected to be introduced in Akron at a press conference tomorrow afternoon, where he’ll make his first comments on the trade.