According to Susan Slusser at the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s have made Ryon Healy available in a potential trade.
That’s not exactly surprising, as Healy’s spot on the A’s isn’t exactly clear. His defensive positions of first base and third base are occupied by two studly youngsters coming off fantastic rookie seasons, and both players have the positions locked down for the time being. Healy has struggled in a small sample at DHing, something that does in fact take skill and with Khris Davis being a contender to take that spot, Healy might be without a position.
Trading Healy would be a tough pill to swallow. The lone bright spot in the second half of 2016, Healy’s potential was displayed on his way to a 132 wRC+, a number that would put him in the top thirty in the league over the course of a full season. He struggled in his sophomore compaign, but his offensive upside remained.
Trades happen, especially in Oakland, and this one would certainly have reason behind it. Should the A’s move Ryon Healy?
We’ll delve into value in a bit, and no trade ever comes to fruition without all aspects lining up.
At this point, the most important aspect may well be the positioning. On paper, the A’s just don’t have an obvious spot for Healy to play full time. The team seems reluctant to leave Khris Davis in left full time, instead preferring him at DH. The A’s have also shown an inclination to use the DH as a mechanism to give partial off days as the long baseball season wears on, meaning those innings would go to a nicked up Jed Lowrie or Marcus Semien.
Roster spots are always at a premium, and holding one for a sometimes DH is probably a poor use for a team that constantly seems a body short, even when things are going well. The sport’s attrition means optimizing the 25 active guys, and having one of those as a player who rarely takes the field isn’t, well, optimal.
There’s another factor here: will Matt Olson hit lefties? In his career, he’s struggled against them some, not enough to be totally need a platoon mate but enough to suggest it could be a possibility.
The verdict? Healy doesn't have an obvious spot right now. The offseason is long, though, and it’s possible Davis is moved opening the door for Healy to take the DH role. Brace yourself: it’s likely one of those two is in fact moved.
The trade value and the return
Ryon Healy is a bit of an odd trade candidate. He was never a huge prospect until he made a major swing change, completely revolutionizing his game on his way to his massive rookie year. Then, he fell off a cliff in his disappointing second year. The power remained and there were signs of his immense offensive potential, but he never fully put it together.
Between that and his lack of defensive value, Healy isn’t going to return a huge haul. In Slusser’s article, she notes the A’s could flip Healy for some relief help, one of their top targets this offseason. That’s about right for someone so lacking in defensive value and offensive certainty, and the A’s definitely need the return help.
What kind of reliever would the A’s get back? For five years of a young player with solid potential, it’ll be a good one. Maybe even two if the team is the right fit.
It won’t be an elite reliever, and that’s okay. The A’s need good ones. Is it worth it?
A lot of that comes down to where you think the A’s will finish in 2017. Giving up on Healy makes more sense if the A’s do compete, and utilize those relievers in a tight playoff race. Giving up on a young bat and selling low is definitely an easier proposition if the team is in the race.
The Renato Nunez problem
Every year, every team faces a tough decision about a promising but uncertain youngster. Last year, the A’s put Raul Alcantara in the rotation not because he was ready, but because he was out of options to save him from being claimed by another team. That’s not rare, and the A’s are about to face that issue again.
Renato Nunez is out of options. His minor league performance certainly hasn’t earned him a roster spot, but his youth and upside makes him a tough decision. If Ryon Healy makes the roster, Nunez is as good as gone. He’d be far too redundant and would leave the A’s without a hint of defensive flexibility.
The Nunez decision goes beyond Healy, and it’s one that won’t be easy or obvious. The A’s seem to have an affinity for Nunez, and want to give him a fair crack at the big league level. It’s not an easy proposition, both positionally and with the A’s hoping to compete, but it’s not possible with Healy in the picture.
A trade is likely
When Slusser catches wind of a potential move, it often comes to fruition. When the positional crunch is as obvious as it is, it’s likely to happen: one of Davis and Healy is likely at the end of their A’s tenure.
Davis’s name is always floated as a trade candidate, and his contract as an arbitration eligible home run machine is higher than the A’s typically pay. Yes, he could be the one to move.
However, the A’s hope to be a contender and Davis is a more obvious player to get them there in the DH spot, with the ability to play a reasonable left field. If the A’s hope to compete, Healy is the one they’re likely to move.