Once again, as the calendar flipped from June to July, the most stressful and exciting part of the year began for the Oakland Athletics and their fans - the trade season.
With the team likely out of contention barring a comeback for the ages, many questions begin to float through the minds of the team’s dedicated fans. Who will stay? Who will be go? Who will come?
Only time will tell. In the meantime, we rosterbate. Profusely. This year’s primer will give you a preview of what could go down this month, as well as all of the information you need to create your own
horrible clever trade ideas, for other community members to insult relentlessly civilly discuss.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in.
Last July, the A’s had three main trade chips to work with - super utility man Ben Zobrist, left-handed starter Scott Kazmir, and right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard. Those were the only notable players the club moved at the deadline.
However, this year, the team has many directions it can go in. While one pending free agent is almost certain to be dealt, the rest of the team’s plans are very uncertain. So here are the chips, in order of approximate likelihood they are dealt.
Rich Hill, LHP
Trading Hill seems like the most obvious move to me. With a bone-dry starting pitching market, Oakland could actually net a solid return for Hill, despite his age, uncertainty, and recent groin injury. The 36 year-old has posted a 2.25 ERA (2.70 FIP) over 11 starts (64 IP) and will be returning to the rotation on Saturday after a successful rehab stint in Stockton. Over the past calendar year, Hill has somehow been one of the most effective starting pitchers in the game, as his 2.03 ERA over the past two seasons ranks third best behind only Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw. All in all, Hill is a very good pitcher, despite many red flags.
- Speculative Suitors: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals. Almost every contender this season is in need of starting pitching.
- Expected Return: As shown above, the demand for starting pitching is huge. However, the supply is very low. Performance-wise, Hill is by far the best available starter in a weak market. However, red flags such as injury, age, and reliability drag down his value. That being said, the A’s should still get a solid return for Hill - a pair of lower-end Top 100 prospects, or perhaps one Top 50 and one fringe guy. In either case, I’m sure the A’s would be targeting prospects in Double-A or higher that could contribute sooner rather than later.
Jed Lowrie, 2B
Lowrie is the definition of “meh”. Having smacked a combined 31 home runs between 2012 and 2013 with the Astros and Athletics respectively, Lowrie has aged into a dead singles hitter. His .068 ISO (isolated slugging) ranks second to last among qualified hitters, behind noted sluggers Billy Burns, Yonder Alonso, and Cesar Hernandez. However, a strong line drive rate, an all-fields approach, and a .342 BABIP have brought him to a .292 batting average. With mediocre defense at second base and the ability to fill in at third and shortstop, Lowrie could have some value to a contender as a bench piece or an injury replacement. He is owed $6.5 million in 2017, with a club option for 2018.
- Speculative Suitors: San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals.
- Expected Return: Lowrie, below-average on defense and having lost all of his power, isn’t worth a whole lot. An interesting Triple-A reliever, a too-old-for-his-level high-minors bat, or a decent low-minors player would make sense. For comparison, look at the Mets’ two trades for Kelly Johnson, although Lowrie is a better hitter. In both deals, the Braves received some interesting yet unimpressive young pitching. In any case, I think it makes a lot of sense for the A’s to get Lowrie off their roster - and their payroll - and give the youngsters a shot.
Danny Valencia, 3B
I, for one, am against dealing Valencia, but it still remains a strong possibility. The 31 year-old career journeyman has found one heck of a groove with the Athletics, and is slashing .324/.373/.527 with 11 home runs, good for a 143 wRC+. His defense at third base is sub-par, but his bat more than makes up for it. He simply hits the ball hard, ranking top-30 in average exit velocity each of the past two seasons (as recorded by Statcast). He remains under team control in his final year of arbitration in 2017. I would prefer that the A’s hang onto him, but a trade could net a large return.
- Confirmed Suitors: Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals (link); New York Mets (link).
- Speculative Suitors: San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros.
- Expected Return: Valencia has hit like Miguel Cabrera during his time in Oakland. For teams like the Mets that absolutely need that offensive boost, that’s insanely valuable. Thus, I expect the return for Valencia to be similar to that of Hill - two or three top 100 prospects all relatively close to the majors.
Josh Reddick, RF
A trade of Josh Reddick is far from inevitable, especially considering the ongoing extension talks between him and the Athletics. However, it would be far from surprising, and Reddick is one of the best players available. His transformation at the plate has been astonishing, slowly morphing from a high-strikeout slugger into a high-contact all-around hitter. Although advanced metrics have soured on his defense over the years, he still passes the eye test as at least average, if not solidly above. In his final year of team control, the outfielder remains one of the top rentals on the market.
- Confirmed Suitors: San Francisco Giants (link); Chicago Cubs (link).
- Speculative Suitors: Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets.
- Expected Return: The world. Honestly, for the A’s to trade Reddick, it would take quite a bit of an overpay. The A’s don’t need to trade Reddick - they can always hang onto him, continue to try and hammer out an extension, and if unsuccessful, tag him with a Qualifying Offer and grab the compensation pick if he were to sign elsewhere. If he were to be moved, he would net at least a pair of top-100 prospects, one of which in the top 50.
Yonder Alonso, 1B
While Alonso certainly isn’t worth a whole lot and won’t be in high demand, it seems somewhat likely that the A’s could look to move him and free up first base for some of the club’s younger talent. While slick with the glove, Alonso has proven to be yet another powerless first baseman on offense. This wouldn’t be too bad, except he hasn’t really gotten on base a whole ton either, with an OBP of only .308. While he has started to heat up in recent weeks, he still just isn’t that good, and only has two years of club control remaining.
- Speculative Suitors: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets.
- Expected Return: A bucket of baseballs would be nice. I hear Khris Davis keeps losing them.
John Axford, RHP, and Marc Rzepczynski, LHP
Similar to Alonso, these two don’t have any real value, but moving them would provide salary relief and opportunities for some youngsters. Axford had a strong start to the year, but has been simply unable to get outs as of late. His 3.48 BB/9 is actually the second best rate of his career, but his 7.55 K/9 is easily the worst of his career. His 5.23 ERA is just ugly, and he is still owed $5 million next year. Rzepczynski, on the other hand, has been okay. He has posted a 3.00 ERA as a lefty specialist and struck out a batter per inning, but has also posted an unsightly 5.00 BB/9. He is in his last year of team control, and dealing him would not only save money on his contract, but would also save money on jersey letters.
- Speculative Suitors: Pretty much every contender could afford to take a flier on some relief help.
- Expected Return: See above. Baseballs.
Fernando Rodriguez and Ryan Madson, RHPs
These two relievers actually have quite a bit of value. Rodriguez, 31, has quietly been very effective for the A’s the past two years, despite recent struggles. His velocity and movement allow him to miss quite a few bats. He will be a free agent following the 2017 season. Madson, on the other hand, is 35 and has been fairly solid as the team’s closer. His age and contract, however, may deter potential buyers, as he is owed $7.5 million each of the next two seasons.
- Speculative Suitors: Again, pretty much every contender could use some relief help, but specifically the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, and Kansas City Royals.
- Expected Return: These two have considerably more value than Axford and Scrabble. I could see a return similar to last year’s Tyler Clippard deal - a high-upside, low-minors arm.
Billy Butler, DH, and Coco Crisp, OF
Ah, Butler. He is certainly available, and I’m sure the A’s are even eager to trade him, but no teams have bitten and taken enough of his contract to satisfy Oakland. He isn’t good, by any means, but has settled into a niche as a platoon DH/1B against lefties, which has a bit of value. A richer team could look to acquire him in addition to, say, Hill, in order to lower prospect cost. Crisp, on the other hand, has 10-5 rights and will likely remain an Athletic. However, he could draw some interest as a fourth outfielder, and if he really wants to play for a contender in what is likely his final year, he could waive his 10-5.
- Speculative Suitors: Butler - Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals. Coco - Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals.
- Expected Return: Simply salary relief.
Khris Davis, LF/DH
While far from likely, the A’s could look to capitalize on the big power exhibited by Davis thus far. While he possesses impressive raw power, his weak arm and lack of on-base ability largely negate this. His bat, however, could fit into the middle of any contending line-up and provide the pop that just might prove crucial to a World Series run.
- Speculative Suitors: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals.
- Expected Return: Like I said, I think a Davis trade is far from likely. With three years of team control remaining after 2016, there is no need to move him now. It would take a return substantially larger than what the A’s gave up for the front office to pull the trigger.
Sean Doolittle, LHP
Doolittle has reportedly been drawing quite a bit or interest. However, as of now, the A’s seem to have no intention of moving him. As recently as 2014, he was one of the most dominant relievers in the game, and is under team control on an extremely team-friendly contract that pays him only $7 million through 2018, with two club options of $6 million and $6.5 million in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Although he hasn’t fully returned to his dominance after missing most of 2015 with a shoulder injury, and has now hit the 15-day DL with labrum issues, Doolittle is still extremely cheap and has plenty of upside. Having seen in 2015 how much a bad bullpen can cripple a team, I don’t think the A’s will be looking to move Doolittle.
- Speculative Suitors: Once again, pretty much everybody, but specifically the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, and Kansas City Royals.
- Expected Return: A whole lot. A half a season of Andrew Miller netted highly regarded starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, and Doolittle comes with four and a half seasons of cheap control. I’d expect quite a large return if the A’s did decide to move him.
Sonny Gray, RHP
While rumors have been aplenty, and interest is as high as ever, it simply doesn’t make sense to move Sonny Gray right now. The team ace from 2013-2015, Sonny has hit the first rough patch of his short major league career, posting an ERA of 5.03 over 14 starts. His peripherals don’t look a whole lot better, and by the eye test he just hasn’t been right. Moving him now would be selling low on a player who is, at his best, one of the top ten pitchers in the game. Furthermore, a strong, front-of-the-line starting pitcher is exactly what this team will need as its youth begins to blossom in the coming years. While the demand would be high in such a weak starting pitching market, trading Sonny Gray just doesn’t make sense right now.
- Speculative Suitors: Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays.
- Expected Return: Everything. And then some.
With most of the organization’s top talent stockpiling at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville, it seems safe to assume that the main targets in trades will be upper-level prospects. Similarly, with the glut of infield prospects waiting in the wings, chances are the primary focus will be young outfielders and pitchers. So, that being said, here are a few of my favorite trade targets.
Jake Junis, RHP, Alec Mills, RHP, and Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Kansas City Royals
The Royals, somewhat surprisingly, have some very interesting talent hidden in their system. Having fallen far behind the Indians in the AL Central race, the Royals should be looking to make some big additions to the major league roster. Hill would make sense for their generally weak rotation, and Valencia would fill the void left by Mike Moustakas, who tore his ACL.
Junis is a 23 year-old righty who was selected in the 29th round of the 2011 draft. Throughout his minor league career he has always shown above-average command, but in 2016 at Double-A he is finally getting some strikeouts. His 20.5% K-BB% ranks third among qualifying Double-A pitchers, right behind teammate Alec Mills. Mills, 24, made one appearance in relief for the Royals this season, and is almost major league ready. His low-90’s fastball isn’t impressive, but his strikeout and walk numbers and overall minor league dominance certainly are. He would serve as a nice secondary piece to any trade with the Royals, and could be a fifth starter type.
Cuthbert, on the other hand, has been a crucial piece of the Royals’ major league roster. The 23 year-old has filled in for Moustakas at third base very effectively. However, he has cooled as of late, and the Royals could certainly use an upgrade over him - namely, Valencia. Cuthbert has a plus glove, some pop, and while his superior strikeout and walk rates in the minors have not shown themselves at the big league level, he still has plenty of potential and could serve as a long-term answer for the Athletics at the hot corner.
Ryan Cordell, OF, Yohander Mendez, LHP, and Ronald Guzman, 1B, Texas Rangers
The Rangers’ rotation woes are well-documented. This is a team desperate enough for arms to claim Eric Surkamp off of waivers. Hill could make quite a bit of sense for them, as could some of the A’s relievers.
Cordell is a 24 year-old right-handed outfielder. He has absolutely murdered Double-A this year, slashing .283/.336/.533 with 15 home runs and seven stolen bases, good for a 144 wRC+. While his strikeouts are a cause for concern, he is also very valuable and versatile defensively. Guzman, Cordell’s Double-A teammate, is 21 years old and has flashed serious potential. The left-handed hitter has slashed .290/.352/.486 with 10 home runs, and although the A’s currently have a logjam at first base and designated hitter, adding another high-potential bat to the mix wouldn’t hurt anybody.
Mendez is the real prize. The 21 year-old southpaw has flown under the radar despite absurd minor league numbers for his whole career. In High-A this season, he struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings, earning a promotion to Double-A. Mendez sits in the low 90’s with a great changeup, but has had some injury concerns throughout his young career. In a best case scenario, Mendez could be another Sean Manaea. His floor is that of a solid two-pitch reliever.
Austin Barnes, C, Willie Calhoun, 2B, and Brock Stewart, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
I know one reader will be very happy with this one. The Dodgers need pitching badly. A whole rotation’s worth of starters are currently on the disabled list: Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood, Brandon McCarthy, and Frankie Montas. They could look to add an outfielder as well, as Yasiel Puig has not lived up to expectations so far. Their system is stacked with talent and they can definitely afford to deal from it
Barnes is a catcher with some defensive versatility, having also played a bit of second and third base during his time in the Marlins system. Now 26, the backstop is still extremely intriguing. He is a great contact hitter with some pop, and even excellent speed for a catcher, having already stolen 13 bags in Triple-A this season. Overall, Barnes could make for a solid, versatile back-up catcher who could eventually replace Stephen Vogt as he ages. Calhoun is a very interesting young second baseman. Only 21, the left handed hitter has smacked 14 home runs in Double-A this year, despite a diminutive 5’9” frame. Calhoun’s defense at the keystone is shaky, with some thinking he may need to move to the outfield, but this would not be a problem for an Athletics system very thin in the outfield. Calhoun is very interesting with quite a bit of upside.
Brock Stewart has flown under the radar for years, but no more. The 24 year-old righty wasn’t great in his major league debut against the Brewers, but did strike out seven batters in five innings. His fastball sits at about 93, and he also throws a slider and a changeup. His minor league numbers show mid-rotation upside or better, and his floor seems to be that of a wipeout reliever.
Austin Voth and Reynaldo Lopez, RHPs, Washington Nationals
For once, there isn’t a perfect fit between the Nationals and the Athletics. Washington is in need of some relief help, and could look to add an outfielder, but a centerfielder seems more likely than a corner. Regardless, the Nationals would certainly like to hang onto their division lead and capitalize on Bryce Harper while they still have him, and thus should be big deadline buyers.
Austin Voth, a 24 year-old in Triple-A, is similar to Junis in that his control has always been solid. However, the strikeouts aren’t quite where you might want them to be, and the velocity isn’t spectacular. That being said, Voth has always posted solid numbers in the minor leagues, and could step into the rotation right away.
Reynaldo Lopez is a real gem. In the 22 year-old’s first taste of Double-A, he has posted 11.79 K/9 to go along with a clean 3.18 ERA. After a few good-not-great seasons in the lower minors, the righty seems to finally be realizing his potential. Chances are, the Nationals won’t be looking to move him. However, should the A’s float one of their top relievers like Madson or Doolittle, maybe they can get Washington to bite.
Brady Rodgers, RHP, and Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
After a dreadful start to the season, the Astros have bounced back and now trail the Rangers by eight and a half games and are a half game from a Wild Card spot. However, their pitching staff and production at third base could really use a boost.
Brady Rodgers is one of my favorite pitching prospects in the game. The Triple-A righty has a very high floor, with four respectable pitches. None of the four are great, but each is at least average. The biggest thing Rodgers has going for him is pinpoint command. He has walked less than two batters per nine innings at each minor league stop, and this year his rate is down to a career low 1.09. This, coupled with the highest strikeout rate of his career at 8.71 K/9, has fueled his breakout season and his 2.83 ERA. He is MLB-ready, and could slot right into the A’s rotation.
Preston Tucker has his flaws - plenty of strikeouts, shaky defense, not enough walks - but he does have quite a bit of power. The 26 year-old has spent some time in the big leagues with Houston, but the left-handed hitter is currently working int Triple-A. His power is exciting, and while the whole package isn’t quite impressive yet, he could be just a couple of tweaks away from serious production. He would make a solid platoon partner for Jake Smolinski if Reddick were to be traded.
All in all, July should be a very exciting month for A’s fans. As we say farewell to some of our favorite veterans, new talent will be joining the organization, and perhaps the next Oakland dynasty. Nothing is certain. All I know is, we’re in for a wild month. Hang on tight, Athletics Nation.