The Oakland A’s have been pretty much what we’ve hoped they could be for the past three years – fairly close to .500, but within striking distance of the second Wild Card spot. However, both the AL West and the American League as a whole have been tougher than ever this season, making the A’s playoff chances even slimmer than they already were.
This has left the A’s as a bit of a puzzling team to evaluate heading into July’s trade season. An optimist would say they look like a legitimately good team, with one obvious hole – the starting rotation – that shouldn’t be too hard to upgrade. But on the other hand, four of the five American League playoff spots (Houston, New York, Boston, and Cleveland) are virtually locked in, leaving the A’s fighting with the red-hot Mariners, potent Angels, and other potential second half surgers like the Blue Jays and Twins.
What I’m trying to say here is that this deadline, almost nothing would surprise me. Maybe the front office decides to make a couple low cost, under-the-radar rotation additions and cross their fingers. Or maybe they capitalize on the high trade values of pending free agents Jed Lowrie and Trevor Cahill (if healthy), along with veterans like Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Joyce, and – God forbid – Blake Treinen.
I’m not quite sure what will happen this month, but this article should prepare you for anything. I’ll run down some of the potential trade chips and targets for the A’s if they decide to sell, as well as different chips and targets for if they decide to buy. Let’s hop right into it.
Given the A’s recent hot streak (yesterday’s loss notwithstanding), it seems hard to imagine them selling at the deadline the same way they have the past few years. However, there are still four and a half weeks and 24 games between now and the deadline, many of which come against hopeful contenders. It’s not hard to imagine the A’s cooling off as quickly as they heated up and falling right back to or under .500 by the time late July rolls around.
While the A’s might not have the same caliber of trade chips as they have at past deadlines with the likes of Ben Zobrist, Rich Hill, Sean Doolittle, and Sonny Gray each bringing back huge returns, they still have some quality pieces that contenders will want, along with one prize gem.
Trade Chips (Selling)
Jed Lowrie, 2B
After finding his old swing last season, Lowrie has broke out in a huge way and is having a career season. The 34-year-old has been the heart of this surging A’s team, seemingly always coming up with a huge RBI double late in a game to put the A’s on top.
So far in 2018, he has posted a 135 wRC+, which would easily be his full season career-high. Among qualifying second basemen, his .363 wOBA ranks fourth and his 2.9 fWAR (3.1 bWAR) ranks second behind only Jose Altuve. This success is supported by a hard hit rate near 40%. Simply put, Lowrie has been one of the best second basemen in the game this season, and it’s no fluke.
However, there are concerns. Lowrie had a very solid season last year as well and was almost certainly available last trade deadline, but no deal was made, raising the question of whether contenders have much interest. He has had injury concerns throughout his entire career and even if the numbers support his success this season, it’s never safe to fully believe in a career year, especially at Lowrie’s age. He is defensively limited to second base and short stints at third base, and would be a rental, as he is due to hit free agency after the season.
Lowrie could definitely help a contender, especially one with a weakness or injury issues on the infield. However, he would not demand a huge return for the A’s – likely a back-end Top 100 prospect at the very best – and might be worth more to the A’s both on the field and in the clubhouse than his return would be.
Expected return: Interesting, but unproven young Major Leaguer or back-end Top 100 prospect
Blake Treinen, RP
Acquired last July in the Sean Doolittle trade, Treinen would be the prize gem if the A’s committed to another sale this deadline. The flamethrower has absolutely dazzled since joining the Athletics last year, posting an absurd 1.49 ERA (2.46 FIP) in 78.2 innings. This season especially he has been on a whole other level, ranking second among all qualifying relievers in ERA (0.89), ninth in FIP (1.88), and third in fWAR (1.8).
He more than passes the eye test. Treinen pairs a filthy sinker that touches 100 MPH and has what looks like a foot of armside run with a nasty 90+ MPH slider that moves a foot in the other direction. If you like length, 13 of his 33 appearances have been for more than one inning. If you like saves, he has notched 21 this season and is currently on a streak of 18 straight saves successfully converted. Saturday was his 30th birthday, he only makes $2.2 million this season, and he has two more years of arbitration after 2018. If the A’s made him available, Treinen would easily be the best reliever on the market.
Treinen would be very comparable to Andrew Miller back in 2016 when he was traded from the New York Yankees to the Cleveland Indians. Miller was having a very similar season for the first half of 2016, and also came with two and a half years of team control remaining – albeit at $9 million a year, likely more than Treinen will cost in arbitration. That being said, Miller was more proven and a lefty, so all things considered the two are about comparable.
Miller cost Cleveland four prospects – outfielder Clint Frazier, lefty Justus Sheffield, and righties Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. Frazier was a consensus Top 25 prospect at the time, while Sheffield ranked in the 50-100 range. Heller and Feyereisen were both near-MLB ready relief lottery tickets. There’s your framework for a Treinen return – at least two definite Top 100 talents, one of which is at least in the Top 50, along with some change. I would expect something similar in value to last July’s Sonny Gray return.
But should the A’s trade Treinen? I don’t think so. Those two additional years of team control are just as valuable to the A’s as they are to an interested buyer. Even if the A’s don’t think they will contend this season, Treinen would be a huge part of playoff hopes for the next two seasons as well. They don’t have any obvious replacements to fill his role. Rookie Lou Trivino has looked fantastic this season but isn’t without his flaws (namely control) and is far from proven. Beyond him, the A’s righty relief options look slim and similarly unproven. Trading Treinen would send the message that the A’s front office doesn’t believe they can contend this year or next, and maybe not even in 2020.
Potential Suitors: All contenders, but especially Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers
Expected Return: A ton. Something along the lines of one Top 30 prospect and one or two in the back-end of the Top 100.
Jonathan Lucroy, C
Lucroy’s career has certainly been an odd one. Never a Top 100 prospect, he truly broke onto the scene with the Brewers in 2012 and had established himself as one of the game’s best all-around catchers by 2014. He was traded to the Texas Rangers at the 2016 deadline and finished the season without any issues. However, 2017 was a disaster. Lucroy’s power disappeared and not even a trade to the Colorado Rockies could salvage his season. He signed on with the Athletics late this past offseason, and – surprise, surprise – the Coliseum has not helped his power numbers rebound.
At this point, Lucroy is what he is – an accomplished veteran catcher well past his prime with some contact skills remaining. He’d probably be a back-up on most contenders and personally, even if the A’s fall out of it, I think his true value to the team lies in how he can work with the A’s young pitchers and help them develop. I’d even consider him for an extension, to be a mentor not only for the pitching staff but also for catchers Josh Phegley, Bruce Maxwell, and, eventually, top prospect Sean Murphy.
Last season in exchange for Lucroy the Rangers received a player to be named later, who ended up being toolsy young outfielder Pedro Gonzalez. Gonzalez, 20, is a high-upside, low-floor type. He is ranked the ninth best prospect in the Rangers system by MLB.com. I would expect the A’s to get a little less in return for Lucroy, given his lack of offensive success has now gone on for a full season and a half.
Expected Return: Not much. Organizational Top 20-30 guy.
Others of note
- Khris Davis would be a possibility to be moved, but I don’t find it likely. None of the AL contenders need a DH, and I doubt many NL contenders would be willing to give up serious talent just for the privilege of running him out in the outfield every day.
- Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are both on expiring contracts, but both are virtually untradeable unless they get healthy and return soon. I could see an interesting non-Top 100 prospect in return for Cahill and a fringe or lottery ticket guy for Anderson.
- Matt Joyce, Chris Hatcher, and Santiago Casilla have all struggled this season and likely wouldn’t bring back anything more than a PTBNL and/or cash considerations.
- Mark Canha came up in some rumors with Boston, but they have since acquired outfielder Steve Pearce. Canha is young enough and isn’t blocking any important prospects yet, so I think he’ll stick around.
Trade Targets (Selling)
I won’t spend too much time here, largely because after the recent hot streak I don’t even want to think about the A’s selling right now! That being said, here are a couple of my favorite prospects from a few contenders that the A’s could target if they do decide to move players like Lowrie and Treinen.
- Cionel Perez is a 22-year-old Double-A lefty. He is relatively small but throws hard and has two plus breaking pitches to go with a solid changeup. This has been a breakout season for Perez, who comes with some durability and injury concerns. He could debut in mid-2019. He would likely be a significant piece in a Treinen deal.
- Rogelio Armenteros is a 24-year-old Triple-A righty that is almost big league ready. He can be wild sometimes, but otherwise has dominated the minors and could see big league action as soon as September. He has back-end stuff that plays up due to his deceptive delivery.
Boston Red Sox
- Bryan Mata is a 19-year-old righty in High-A. Once praised for his command, he has struggled this year, walking almost a batter per inning. He still has three plus pitches, good makeup, and is very young for his league. I’d love Mata as the main return in a Lowrie trade.
- Jalen Beeks is pretty much big league ready, as a 24-year-old that has proven he can handle Triple-A hitters with ease. His first big league start was a bit rough, but he has dominated the minors for two years now. The lefty can touch 95 MPH and features a solid curveball and changeup, as well as a cutter. He looks like at least a number five starter.
- Roniel Raudes has struggled to miss bats so far in High-A at age 20. The righty’s ceiling is a bit limited due to his lack of velocity (tops out around 93 MPH), but he would be a solid target in a smaller deal (such as for Lucroy). I like his makeup and his chances to move relatively quickly.
- Triston McKenzie would be one of my main targets if the Indians want Treinen. The righty, drafted 42nd overall in 2015, dominated High A this season and earned himself a promotion to Double-A before his 21st birthday. If you look past his lanky frame, you’ll see a complete pitcher, very advanced for his age, who could join A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo at the front of a great A’s rotation very soon.
- Shane Bieber is the other piece I would love to pry away from Cleveland, although his MLB success makes that very unlikely. He has always had impeccable command and has never had a BB/9 higher than 0.99 in the minors. He still has the stuff to miss bats, and his fastball can touch 95 MPH. He might have the best command in all of baseball, and that would look phenomenal in the A’s rotation.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- For me, either Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz would have to be part of the return of a Treinen deal from LA. Smith is having the better season of the two with an .874 OPS at Double-A at age 23, having found his power stroke, and is a solid defensive catcher. Ruiz, not even 20, is also in Double-A and is a rare switch-hitting catcher. He is understandably not as advanced as Smith but might have the higher ceiling, and barely strikes out at all. Either would be a great complement to Sean Murphy in a season or two.
- Dennis Santana is an arm I’d love to buy low on, not necessarily as the centerpiece of the deal, but as a second or third piece. The 22-year-old righty dominated his way through Double-A and Triple-A and made it to the big leagues, where he sustained a shoulder injury and has since been placed on the 60-day DL. I know the A’s have more than enough injured pitchers, but just like Fowler and Kaprielian in last year’s Sonny Gray deal, Santana’s upside may be too high to pass up on if made available in the right deal.
This is the fun stuff. While I would be very shocked to see the A’s break open the prospect bank and trade bigger chips such as Franklin Barreto or Austin Beck to acquire a huge piece like Noah Syndergaard, a few smaller additions would be very realistic. I can definitely envision a scenario in which they decide to deal from the depth of their farm system to add a couple lower-caliber starting pitchers and give the team a chance to win this season without mortgaging the future.
The rotation is the most obvious area to upgrade, but bullpen help is always welcome and if Joyce can’t turn his season around, another outfielder wouldn’t be the worst addition.
Trade Chips (Buying)
Sheldon Neuse, 3B
Neuse is the most obvious trade chip in the A’s minor league system, and also the most talented prospect I see the A’s being willing to trade this deadline. The 23-year-old is likely a corner infielder long term and those two spots are blocked in Oakland by the Matts, Chapman and Olson.
Acquired in the Sean Doolittle trade, Neuse has impressed in High-A, Double-A, the Arizona Fall League, and Spring Training with the A’s. However, his production has stalled in Triple-A. His strikeouts have skyrocketed and his power has been nonexistent. I think he was rushed to Triple-A because of his success over the past year and could probably use more seasoning in Double-A.
The right-handed hitter is a solid defender at third base and, when he is right, he just hits the crap out of the ball. He isn’t a blue-chipper by any means, but he should have good value to a rebuilding club looking to add a potent bat to their farm.
Logan Shore, RHP
I don’t think the A’s would move on from Logan Shore – partially because he’s been one of their only mostly-healthy pitching prospects this season (knock on wood) – but depending on the type of addition they want to make, they might have to. When he was drafted, he was pegged as a guy that could move quickly, but he struggled in High-A to start 2017 and was quickly passed by fellow Florida Gator and 2016 draftee A.J. Puk. He seemed to figure out High-A at the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, earning himself a promotion to Double-A, where he has yet again struggled.
Shore’s stuff has never been incredible, giving him a low ceiling, but his fastball has ticked up a bit since being drafted and he can now touch 93 or 94 MPH. Thanks to his command and makeup, he still has a decent shot at being a back-end starter relatively soon. But if the A’s young injured pitchers such as Puk, Kaprielian, Daulton Jefferies, and Grant Holmes can return from their injuries without any major issues, all four are much more talented than Shore and would pass him on the depth chart with ease.
Nick Allen, SS
The middle infield is surprisingly deep both at the Major League and Minor League level for the A’s, and if they choose to deal from this depth, Allen would be my pick. Between Jed Lowrie, Marcus Semien, Chad Pinder, Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, Richie Martin, Kevin Merrell, Alexander Campos, and Marcos Brito, the A’s middle infield should be strong for years to come. Allen stands out as the best defensive shortstop of that group, but 2015 first round pick Martin has a phenomenal glove as well, and he is enjoying a huge bounceback season at the plate in Double-A. This makes Allen is a bit superfluous.
He should have some real trade value. He was an overslot high school sign by the A’s in the third round of last year’s draft and seems to be the definition of high floor, low ceiling. His incredible defense and solid contact potential make it easy to see him becoming a glove first everyday shortstop with little to no power, some speed, and the ability to hit for average. However, it’s incredibly unlikely he ever develops the power to be anything more. He is very talented and likely has a solid MLB future down the road, but I don’t think it’s too likely that that’ll happen in Oakland.
Will Toffey, 3B
Like Neuse, Toffey is simply blocked long-term by Chapman and Olson at the corners. He is a good defensive third baseman and might be capable of moving around a little bit, but so far the A’s have not asked him to do so.
Toffey was drafted out of college in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. He has a great eye at the plate and has the tools to develop into a decent contact hitter. So far, he is slashing .239/.376/.381 as a 23-year-old in his first year of High-A, and I think that slash line does a pretty good job of explaining why I’m so willing to move him. While I think the profile could lead to a pretty solid everyday player, he just reminds me a bit too much of Max Muncy. You know, before this stupid 2018 breakout where he decided to hit like Mike Trout.
Tyler Ramirez, OF
Ramirez has been perhaps the most unheralded prospect in the A’s system. Drafted in the seventh round in 2016, all Ramirez has done the last two years is hit. And play superb outfield defense. Yet I rarely see any love for him anywhere other than this site.
As much as I do like Ramirez, I understand why he hasn’t gotten much attention – he doesn’t do anything especially well. His power, speed, and discipline are all just okay. He is a solid defender, but likely fits better in a corner. Add that all up, and you get Ryan Sweeney. Which, hey, Ryan Sweeney had a quality Major League career. But with the way the A’s are trending towards future postseason success, they don’t need a Ryan Sweeney. Rebuilding teams need a Ryan Sweeney. So, let’s trade one of them a future Ryan Sweeney, and get a nice pitcher in exchange.
Parker Dunshee and Brian Howard, RHPs
I don’t think either of these two will be traded and I personally don’t want them to, but I’m putting them here just because it wouldn’t surprise me too much. Both righties are having fantastic seasons, and this helium may cause the A’s to sell high on one or both.
Dunshee and Howard were drafted in the seventh and eighth rounds of last year’s draft, respectively, both out of college. Both are 23 and pitched in 12 games in High-A this season, posting ERAs well under three while striking out over a batter per inning and walking about two per nine. And that success earned both of them promotions to Double-A. You probably couldn’t tell them apart unless you saw them – Dunshee is a respectable 6’1”, but Howard is a nice 6’9”. Like I said, I don’t want them to be traded and I don’t think they will, but I just wanted to take a second to highlight how oddly similar they are and how fascinating that makes them.
Trade Targets (Buying)
Here, I will just briefly cover a few targets I like that I feel I can sufficiently cover within this article. The “Others of note” section listed after will contain other targets that I like and, for the starting pitchers at least, will be covering in their own articles within the coming weeks.
Mike Fiers, Detroit Tigers
Fiers has easily been my top target for this deadline, and that was before he threw seven innings of one-run ball against the A’s last Wednesday. Fiers, to me, has always been built to pitch at the Coliseum. Home runs have been an issue for most of his career because of his high fly ball rate, which usually hovers around 40%. But for some reason, he’s been forced to pitch most of his career in Milwaukee and Houston, two great hitter’s parks.
He finally escaped to a pitcher’s park in Detroit this season and he seems to be enjoying it. The 33-year-old has posted a 3.19 ERA (4.03 FIP) at home, compared to a 5.15 ERA (6.06 FIP) on the road. Fiers has always been a solid innings eater and making the majority of his starts in Oakland, Seattle, and Anaheim would certainly maximize his value. Fiers is owed $6 million this season and has one year of arbitration remaining. He’s far from a star and Detroit has no reason to keep him, so I wouldn’t expect his acquisition cost to be too high.
Bartolo Colon, Texas Rangers
Bring back Bart! Bartolo has been an amazing story this season, continuing to pitch fairly well at age 45 and even flirting with a perfect game earlier in the year. His two years in Oakland in 2012 and 2013 were two of the best of his career, and everyone in the A’s organization knows how great of a clubhouse presence he is.
He hasn’t been phenomenal in 2018, but in many ways, he’s been his same old self. He still barely walks anyone, and his velocity (while the lowest of his career) is more or less in line with his past few seasons. His ground ball and whiff rates are also normal for his career. The main thing holding him back this season has been an unusually high 18.9% HR/FB rate. Bringing him back to Oakland could help keep a few fly balls in the yard and pairing that with the defense of Chapman and Olson behind him could help his 4.76 ERA get closer to his 4.30 xFIP, or even better. That would make him a more than serviceable back-end arm, and one that would cost very little to acquire, as Texas is out of the race and he is a free agent at the end of the season.
Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres
Another former A’s pitcher! Ross, a popular target here on AN, has had a rollercoaster of a career since leaving Oakland. He was an ace for the Padres for three seasons before injuries threatened his career. However, after many failed comeback attempts and a full recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome, Ross is back with the Padres and pitching very well once again.
Ross will be highly sought-after this deadline, as he is having a very good season and many other contenders will want to add a cheap starter for the stretch run. This means that out of the pitchers I have listed so far, he will likely be the most expensive to acquire. But he is also the most likely to pitch well and help carry the team into the postseason. He is striking out almost a batter per inning and actually has a lower walk rate than he did in his prime. His fastball velocity is down a few ticks from where it once was, but he is compensating by using his slider and cutter more often.
The main question for Ross remains his durability. Even in his best days he was never the healthiest pitcher, and now he has already thrown 100 innings, more than he threw the past two years combined. He would be a very risky addition, as he will cost real talent and could easily fall apart after one start. The 31-year-old righty will be a free agent after the season.
Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants
I know, I know, it isn’t happening. But this is my hill and I will die on it! Samardzija, another former Athletic (oops), has been atrocious this season. He is also owed $18 million this season and each of the next two seasons. And, he’s a Giant. The A’s never trade with them.
But! His eight rough starts this season notwithstanding, he has been absolutely fascinating during his time with the Giants. In 2016, his strikeout and walk numbers were just okay, but he limited home runs and had a successful season as a result (3.81 ERA, 3.85 FIP). In 2017, his strikeout and walk rates were great, but he couldn’t keep the ball in the park and had a low strand rate, leading to a bad 4.42 ERA but a solid 3.61 FIP.
And one huge factor here is that the Giants should want to trade him! They are right up against the luxury tax right now, and his high salary certainly isn’t helping. If the A’s were to take on his full 2018 salary, I’m sure the Giants could kick in some cash to help cover his 2019/2020 salaries and might even throw in an interesting prospect as a thank you for the salary relief.
The caveat here is the injury. He has almost made it back from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the past few weeks, and before going on the disabled list his velocity was down almost two ticks. If he comes back and the velocity comes with him, then I’d be full steam ahead on this trade that will almost certainly never happen. Oh well.
Others of note: Clayton Richard, SD; Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn, MIN; Ivan Nova, PIT; Sonny Gray, NYY; Zack Wheeler, NYM; Brandon McCarthy, ATL; Jon Gray, COL
Joakim Soria, Chicago White Sox
Soria has been very good for the White Sox in 2018, posting a 2.56 ERA with great peripherals to support it. He is owed $9 million this season and comes with a $10 million mutual option for next season (that will almost certainly not be exercised). The addition of another reliable righty would allow more flexibility for the usage of Treinen, Trivino, and Emilio Pagan, as well as pushing Yusmeiro Petit to a more of a long relief role where I think he could see more success. The White Sox are open for business, and Soria might cost a Toffey or Ramirez, but shouldn’t be too pricey overall given the abundance of bullpen options on the market.
Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Another pipe dream of mine, this is probably the only chance any team will have to buy low on Vazquez. Formerly known as Felipe Rivero, Vazquez is the Pirates’ flamethrowing lefty closer. He has been a bit wild this year, resulting in a 3.67 ERA, but he still has a 2.23 FIP. His contract is insanely team-friendly – only $22 million over the next four years, plus two $10 million team options for the next two years – and as a result I don’t think this is happening.
However, adding such a strong lefty would help balance the bullpen and make it an absolute weapon, and Vazquez would strengthen the team for many years to come. Unfortunately, the prospect cost would likely be way too high.
Others of note: Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen, SD; Brad Ziegler, Drew Steckenrider, and Kyle Barraclough, MIA; Ryan Pressly, MIN
Adam Duvall, Cincinnati Reds
Duvall is a guy I’ve liked for a while, even if he’s not a particularly sexy addition. He has big power and plays a very solid left field. He isn’t having the best 2018, but most of his peripherals are either the same or better than they have been in years past – his line drive, hard hit, and walk rates are all up significantly. He could be a change of scenery away from a big breakout, and while he’ll probably never be a star, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid contributor.
Next year will be his first year of salary arbitration, meaning he would come with three full years of team control beyond this one. I like him as a Matt Joyce replacement that could also help fill the power void left by a potential Khris Davis offseason trade or non-tender as his price tag continues to rise. Duvall is almost 30, struggling this season, and is part of a crowded Reds outfield, meaning he might not cost a ton to acquire.
Others of note: Leonys Martin and Nicholas Castellanos, DET; Domingo Santana, MIL
The A’s are in a unique position, currently on the outside looking in as the sixth best team in a league that takes the five best to the playoffs. A lot can change over the course of this month, let alone the two after it, that will help determine who is still playing in October. As of now, it looks like a couple of small additions could take the team a very long way in the second half.
I’m very excited to see what will happen this month and I will be diving deeper into some of my favorite trade targets in the coming weeks. Nobody knows what will happen with this team, but one thing is certain – this is a hell of a lot more fun than losing!
What should the A’s do at this deadline?
This poll is closed
All in, sell the farm and go for it!
Modest additions, see what happens
Stick with what they have
Sell pending free agents