The Oakland Athletics, 8.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot and owners of the second-worst record in the American League, have traded their representative at the 2017 All-Star Game to the Seattle Mariners, for Boog Powell, once a 20th-round draft pick of, that’s right, the Oakland Athletics.
First of all, let’s not get too wrapped up in Alonso’s All-Star appearance. Every team gets one, and Alonso is having the kind of solid-but-unspectacular season—producing a .266/.369/.527 slash line, with 22 homers—that would otherwise probably not have earned him an All-Star berth, except that every team gets one. Alonso will be a useful lefty bat for a Mariners team hoping to make a push for a playoff spot, but he’s not an especially grand prize.
But, man, Boog Powell is a bit of a painful return: the 24-year-old outfielder started his career in Oakland’s very own minor league system before being traded in 2015 to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a package that brought back Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist. The 24-year-old is not generally thought to be among Seattle’s top 25 prospects, and he had a woeful time at the plate during a stint in the majors this season. Maybe the A’s are still high on the potential that convinced them to draft Powell all the way back in 2012?
Powell has generally hit well in the minors—he’s produced a .906 OPS in 206 at-bats in triple-A ball this year—but it’s tough to trade away a productive first-baseman for your own damn draft pick. Powell made it to the majors for the first time this season, and produced a .194/.310/.194 slash line over 43 plate appearances before being optioned to triple-A last month. Not very long ago Powell was thought of as a promising leadoff prospect, but his rise through the minors was lengthened by a pair of drug suspensions: Powell was suspended 80 games in 2016 after testing positive for a long-banned anabolic steroid, a suspension that lasted thru the start of this season; and he was hit with a 50-game suspension in 2014 while still a member of Oakland’s Class-A affiliate.
The opportunities are there in Oakland’s outfield—center fielder Rajai Davis has produced a paltry .652 OPS, and, as a 36-year-old on a lousy team he almost certainly has no future in the organization. But it’s tough to look at Powell’s journey through various teams’ minor league systems and not conclude that he’s never been more valuable to a major league team than he was when the team that drafted him traded away an All-Star to get him, five years and two drug suspensions later.