The A's bullpen was almost historically bad last season. You know this and I know this and Jeff Sullivan of FoxSports.com knows this. You can, as Sullivan does in that article, make the case that the A's were a roughly .500 team that was completely torpedoed by the USS Otero, upon commands from Commander Mujica.
So when items 1, 2, and 3 on the offseason to-do list are "fix the bullpen" it means that we should really fix the freaking bullpen. It just so happens that the best relief pitcher in baseball is on the trade market. It's time for it to go down, you guys.
Aroldis Chapman and his ~50% K-rate and 101 mph fastball are on the trade block. He has one year of arbitration ahead of him, likely at around $10M. If he is vintage Aroldis Chapman next year, then he will almost certainly be worth a qualifying offer.
The A's have a history of going after established stars in their walk years. The Matt Holliday trade before 2009 and the Ben Zobrist trade before 2015 were both examples of the A's filling a weakness with an all-star, using top prospects. Holliday was brought in to replace the disastrous 2008 left field situation that was headlined by Emil Brown's 438 plate appearances, and Zobrist was brought in to man 2B and replace the Eric Sogard/Alberto Callaspo/Nick Punto Out Factory of 2014. Chapman replacing the Otero/Abad/Mujica bullpen would qualify as a similar move.
In the time BDT (Before Donaldson Trade), the Holliday for Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, and Greg Smith trade was the ultimate Beane Trade Failure. It's obvious that the 2009 A's were bad even with Holliday, while Carlos Gonzalez went off and became an all-star in his own right. The important thing to remember, though, is that the A's got back almost their full prospect cost at the deadline when they acquired Brett Wallace from the Cardinals. Wallace was of course swapped in the offseason for another then-top prospect in Michael Taylor.
I know what you're thinking. Yes, Gonzalez is awesome and both Wallace and Taylor were terrible. But that's largely besides the point. At the time of the trades, Wallace was on the same level as a prospect that Gonzalez was. In January of 2010, Baseballl America ranked Wallace the 27th overall prospect in the league. In January of 2008 (CarGo's last season of prospect-eligibility), Gonzalez was ranked the 22nd overall prospect by Baseball America. We obviously didn't trade for the right prospect, but Holliday was worth pretty much just as much in July 2009 as he was in December 2008.
Similarly, it hurt a bit to give up Daniel Robertson, Boog Powell, and John Jaso for one year of Zobrist. Time will tell if Robertson and/or Powell will become anything, and it's already in the records that the 2015 A's were terrible. But Zobrist got Sean Manaea at the deadline (and Aaron Brooks). It's entirely possible that Manaea will have a better career than Robertson. It's likely that Manaea will out-rank Robertson on many offseason prospect lists. We didn't really give up anything in that whole exchange, in the long run, did we?
So, even if it costs you a major prospect like a Matt Olson or a Jacob Nottingham, you're still holding an asset that will be nearly just as valuable in July as it is now. I know the A's have said that they won't be looking to deal from their farm, but as we saw in the Holliday and Zobrist examples, their farm was just as healthy in August as it was at the time of the trades. And, again, Chapman would be a MASSIVE upgrade for the pen. Like, you would be taking the worst part of last year's team and making it the best part of next year's team.
One last point I'd like to make is that at the time the A's dealt Carlos Gonzalez, they had a few young outfielders who provided depth from which they could deal. Unfortunately those guys were Travis Buck and Ryan Sweeney, neither of whom lived up to their potential, while Gonzalez realized all of his. 2B/SS Daniel Robertson was traded from a farm system that had seen Franklin Barreto, Marcus Semien, and Joe Wendle acquired that offseason, with Chad Pinder already in the organization. They had quite a few middle infield prospects, so dealing one was less of a blow. And, again, they were able to re-diversify their farm by basically swapping a 2B prospect for a starting pitching prospect.
Right now, we have a minor glut at RH first base types, with Mark Canha already looking like a major leaguer, Rangel Ravelo at AAA, and Renato Nunez also waiting in the wings (and on the 40-man).
Trading for a one-year rental isn't giving up the farm, necessarily. It's renting a player with the opportunity to recover your losses later on if things don't work out. Renting one-year stars in the offseason is a usually a pretty wise decision, provided you don't get delusional about your chances in July and hold on to your guys like the Padres did with Justin Upton last season.
Best case scenario, Chapman gets the last out of the 2016 World Series on the Coliseum mound and we get a qualifying offer draft pick in 2017.
Worst case scenario, we trade him in July for the same quality of prospect as we gave up for him in December.