Back in Oakland, Luzardo calls A’s trade ‘punch in the face’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
For the first time since the Athletics traded him to the Miami Marlins last summer in a surprising move, Jesús Luzardo was back in Oakland on Monday as the two teams begin a three-game series at the Coliseum.
Luzardo, who will pitch the series finale on Wednesday, spoke to local reporters prior to the opener, and when asked about the trade that sent him to his hometown team, he didn’t hold back about his feelings at the time.
“I had some mixed feelings, for sure,” Luzardo told reporters (H/T The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mat Kawahara). “It was kind of happy I’m going home, a team that I grew up rooting for, I guess you could say. Big fan since I was a kid growing up in South Florida. But then leaving a lot of relationships, a lot of friends behind, I felt like this was home for me on the West Coast. And at times, you know, just mixed feelings. I felt like they gave up on me. Which kind of was just like a punch in the face or like a wake-up to reality. But I think at the end of the day, it probably helped me out and kind of helped me kick it into high gear.”
In the heat of the American League playoff race, the A’s decided to trade Luzardo, who was struggling at the time and had been sent down to Triple-A, to the Marlins for veteran outfielder Starling Marte.
While Marte was everything the A’s could have hoped for, trading the 23-year-old Luzardo, who looked like a future ace, stunned just about everyone involved. Making matters worse is that the A’s didn’t bring Marte back after giving up a high-upside player for him.
“It’s not easy to trade a player like Jesús,” A’s general manager David Forst said after the trade last July. “I think that’s kind of the bottom line, but ultimately, we always said when the team in this clubhouse performs and puts themselves in a playoff position, it’s on us to do whatever we can to try and help them. Now, that doesn’t always happen, but we feel like with [Andrew] Chafin and Starling today, we added two really solid players to this staff over the next two months.”
While the contending A’s weren’t in a position to let Luzardo pitch at the MLB level, the Marlins were and he debuted for Miami within days of the trade. Against the New York Mets, Luzardo allowed four hits, three earned runs, walked three and struck out five in five innings of work.
After that game on Aug. 2 last year, Luzardo explained to reporters what his initial reaction was and how he found out about the trade.
“It was a whirlwind of a day for me,” Luzardo told reporters in Miami. “Just got off a plane from Salt Lake City to Vegas. I found out on Twitter that I had gotten traded. Then I obviously packed up all my stuff, got on a flight to Oakland and that’s when it all started. Had to go get My stuff. I mean, I was very excited. Obviously, I was down because I was leaving a lot of good friends on the other side that I came up with on the A’s. I gave them all I had when I was over there.
“But then coming over here, I think it’s an exciting opportunity, as well as joining a great group of guys, great group of young guys and I know they have a lot of fun here, so I’m excited to be a part of it and see what I can do and how I can help.”
Luzardo made 12 starts with the Marlins to finish out the 2021 season and posted a 6.44 ERA during that span. But this season, he has looked more like the pitcher he’s expected to be.
Luzardo began the 2022 season in the Marlins’ rotation but then missed nearly two months with a left forearm strain. In 10 starts around the injury, he pitched a 3.44 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings. His WHIP is a sparkling 1.05 and he’s striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings.
Trading Luzardo was a win-now move that ultimately didn’t result in a 2021 playoff appearance for the A’s. Then the front office traded several veteran players and allowed others to leave in free agency, turning the team over to a group of young players. Had the A’s hung on to him, Luzardo would have been a perfect player to lead the rotation for the next few years while they rebuild.
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Instead, the A’s traded Luzardo and now they have to worry about facing him Wednesday, and there’s a good chance he will be pitching with a purpose against the team he believes gave up on him.