The rumors are flying at the MLB Winter Meetings, and the Oakland A’s finally found their way into one on Tuesday. They are “very interested” in trading for Royals CF Jarrod Dyson, and that interest has continued into Wednesday. Even if the A’s are unlikely to swing a deal before the end of these Winter Meetings, Dyson is clearly on the radar.
That gives us time to consider the next obvious question: What would you give up to acquire Dyson?
Let’s set the scene. The Royals are looking to trade Dyson for a few reasons: they’re unlikely to contend in 2017, they’re looking at least partially toward the future with their core approaching free agency, the current outfield market is great for sellers, and he’s a free agent after the year. They also just acquired Jorge Soler, so their outfield is getting crowded. The obvious move is for them to cash in on Dyson now before they lose him for nothing next winter, but they still retain some leverage because theoretically they could keep him and wait until July for a deadline deal (or they could trade Lorenzo Cain instead, though Dyson seems like more of a sell-high vs. a sell-low on Cain).
The A’s are looking to acquire Dyson because they need defensive help in CF. It’s looking like 2017 might truly be a rebuilding year, so the timing isn’t right for a big-ticket acquisition that mortgages too much of the future in a bad market in a chase for a present-day dragon. But Oakland’s CF situation is so dire that they have to do something about it, and Dyson falls into that happy medium between making today watchable and doing so at an affordable cost. At the very least, the rookie pitchers would surely appreciate being able to allow a batted ball past the infield without suffering a panic attack. We bank a lot of our future hopes on those young hurlers, so a boost to their development would be constructive even in a losing season.
As for his skill set, Dyson’s calling card is elite defense in CF. Seriously, he’s one of the best. He has top-flight speed and (unlike, say, Billy Burns) he uses it well. He’s a poor hitter, but he gets on base enough to keep his glove in the lineup — and once there, he’s also one of the best basestealers in the game, which arguably makes him an overall plus on offense. If it all goes right, he’s a 3 WAR player on the heavy side of a platoon. Contractually, he’s cheap (projected $2.5 million in arbitration), but as previously mentioned he’s a just one-year rental.
So what does he cost? Time to speculate! The obvious starting point is “pitching,” but we’ll have to get more specific than that. I think AN member TrevorCap did a good job getting the ball rolling in the first comment of our last Dyson post:
I think it's one of the following:
1. Pinder straight up
2. Alcantara and Madson
3. Logan Shore
4. Daulton Jefferies
Posted by TrevorCap on Dec 6, 2016 | 6:38 PM
There are three concepts being touched on here.
- Straight-up swap for an MLB-readyish position player, but not a particularly high-ceiling one. The A’s have a couple guys who meet that description and who are potentially blocked in a crowded young infield, like Chad Pinder or Renato Nunez. (Note: I’m personally not into this idea, for reasons I’ll get into in a post later this week.)
- Swap for a pitching prospect, but not a top MLB-ready one like Jharel Cotton or even Daniel Mengden. Rather, an enticing low-minors arm like Shore or Jefferies. Might require a secondary prospect as sweetner?
- Something based around a reliever, possibly with an extra piece like one of the less-heralded MLB-ready hurlers (in this case, Raul Alcantara; another option could be Dillon Overton).
Any one of these concepts seems like an accurate framework to me. Dyson is definitely valuable, and in ways the A’s specifically need, but we’re still talking about one year of a 32-year-old who’s never been a full-time player. There are limits to his trade value, even in this market.
If I had to guess, I think the second concept is the likeliest. If I’m the Royals, I might just cash in, get a good prospect or two, and be done with it. But the third proposal is the most interesting to consider.
If the A’s trade a reliever and a spare young starter for Dyson, then I think both teams will give up something valuable while getting something they need. The Royals once-vaunted bullpen has been gutted, and their depth chart is down to Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, and a couple promising rookies. They could use another reliable arm, and even if they end up out of contention they can still flip that reliever for something else in July. Adding a second, younger arm to the equation means they’re also adding long-term value — whether at the back of their rotation, or as a second new addition to their thin pen.
So how about Madson and Alcantara? We’re going to see a top closer sign for over $20 million per year this winter, and a good one (Mark Melancon) just got $15 million. Madson isn’t a top closer, but at $7.7 million he’s really only being paid like a good set-up man, which is probably his ideal role anyway. He’s two years of a quality late-inning reliever at a market salary (if not slightly under; he’s making less than the comparable Soria), which is a valuable chip. Alcantara could represent six years of another good cost-controlled reliever, and that’s not even a particularly optimistic forecast.
Frankly, my initial instinct is that Dyson-for-Madson straight-up makes sense. That’s two veterans, both good-but-not-great players at positions currently in high demand, and with the Royals gaining the extra year of control. But the A’s might have to send some money back to bridge the $5 million difference in salaries, and perhaps the two sides could choose to include an extra prospect instead. With Alcantara out of options and a wide competition expected for the Opening Day pitching staff, he’d be a logical candidate.
(Alternate idea: Liam Hendriks straight-up? Or does he still require a secondary piece as well? He’s much cheaper than Madson, so there’s no need to balance salaries, plus he has an extra year of control. Just last winter he was in a similar trade, straight-up for a quality one-year rental veteran in Jesse Chavez.)
(Alternate #2: Jesse Hahn also could be a good investment for the Royals, as a young bounce-back candidate. Hahn plus a second piece, perhaps a reliever like John Axford or a lesser prospect like Paul Blackburn, Bobby Wahl, or Tucker Healy?)
(If you prefer the all-prospect route, then you could pair Alcantara as the sweetner with one of the non-Puk low-minors guys like Shore or Jefferies.)
Earlier in the winter, I was opposed to Dyson as a trade candidate. I’ve come around on his general value, and I appreciate that he’d be a needed spark in CF and on the basepaths. What I objected to more was his status as a one-year rental, because I’d rather focus on youth in 2017 and contention in 2018. That’s why I prefer the idea of giving up another MLB veteran in exchange, because the cost is mostly to the 2017 team, whose fortunes I’m more willing to subtract from. When it comes to the prospects, there are surely some possible proposals that are fair on paper but that I don’t think the A’s should make.
If the A’s acquire Dyson, their lineup will undeniably be better. If they do so without drawing from their top 10 prospects or from the MLB-readyish position player core I want to see featured in 2017, then I’ll consider it a smart trade.