The vultures are circling. Our fellow SB Nation team sites have noticed the A's are 14-26, with Over the Monster and DRaysBay already beginning their speculation about what they would have to give up to acquire starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, who is in the final year of his two-year, $20 million deal with the Athletics.
Rumor roundup: Scott Kazmir is a cheaper Johnny Cueto
In the offseason, the New York Post's Joel Sherman said the A's were not considering trading Kazmir, with the A's hoping to make another postseason run as they bridged from the teams of the previous three seasons to their current setup. Clearly, circumstances have changed since then.
ESPN's Buster Olney has been pushing the idea that Kazmir is on the block all month, with Kazmir mentioned as a good fit for the Dodgers, Red Sox, or Astros first on May 7 (ESPN Insider subscription required). On May 9, with the A's 12-19 and only 7½ games behind the Astros, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal said the A's were not giving up on the season just yet. Later that day, Olney also mentioned the Royals as a potential landing place for Kazmir in a radio interview later that day.
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo continues to spitball trade ideas for Kazmir as a cheaper alternative to Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels or Reds ace Johnny Cueto, writing on May 12, "If the Red Sox don't want to dish out three or four top prospects for Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, maybe Scott Kazmir ... could be an alternative."
Kazmir also appears in Jon Heyman's weekly column for CBS Sports on May 15, with Kazmir or Clay Buchholz seen as alternatives to "Cole Hamels, whose annual salary of $24 million is about half what the Astros' total payrolls sunk to in recent lowly years."
It's all too soon
But all of this speculation about who is and is not a buyer is perhaps premature. Even if the A's have concluded that there is no hope of returning to the postseason, the A's would seem to have a lack of buyers that have concluded they need more help to get to the postseason. It's probably too early for those teams to decide what they want to do.
In a video by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal on May 19 supplementing his notes column, he said:
The [A's] are unlikely to become sellers before Ben Zobrist and Sean Doolittle return in late May. If things don't improve, Billy Beane will almost certainly move his potential free agents, Zobrist, Scott Kazmir, and Tyler Clippard. But Beane is not about to jump when the Astros are the only team in the AL West above .500.
What would Oakland even want?
That's the big thing. You can trade Scott Kazmir to fill needs, and the A's have several long term ones. While it's tempting to want to add bullpen arms given the club's current weakness, remember that a Scott Kazmir trade most likely indicates the end of competition this year, and relievers are so volatile as to have little trade value alone. A reliever could be an add-on piece to balance out a deal involving Kazmir, however.
They will need a new outfield in 2017 with Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, and Craig Gentry no longer under team control. Jackie Bradley Jr. was floated as a potential name in Marc Normandin's article for Over the Monster alongside blocked shortstop prospect Deven Marrero, though I would prefer to see a little more major league success at the plate.
In all of this we should remember that any trade must consider that the A's would be giving up a chance to make a qualifying offer to Kazmir, and the supplemental first round draft pick they would receive that represents a different sort of future asset.
Stop worrying and enjoy the season
But you know what? It's only May. The Red Sox could be sellers and not buyers in two weeks. The Astros could fall back to Earth. The Dodgers are already spectacularly good. The Royals could be cheap, like they often are, and stand pat.
Teams are getting ready for this year's draft now rather than working out complex trades that will define a season. I'm happy to let you know what the Nick Cafardos and Marc Normandins and Daniel Russells and Ken Rosenthals and Jon Heymans of the world think the A's are going to do. But they don't know. Nobody knows. When was the last time you saw this organization do the expected? Yeah, I thought so.