It’s officially July, and for Major League Baseball, that means one of the busiest months of the year. Pennant races are heating up, the All-Star Break is right around the corner, and, most importantly, it’s officially trade season.
The Oakland Athletics are in familiar territory. In 2018, the A’s entered July with a 46-39 record, and today they stand at…exactly 46-39. Last season’s success came out of nowhere, and the team was still seven games back of the second wild card spot. At the time, I thought there was a reasonable chance they could end up selling.
But this season, even with a near-identical record, they are right in the thick of the wild card race. They are just half a game behind the Texas Rangers for the second spot, with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Angels also in the mix. Barring an absolute collapse, the A’s will be buyers this summer.
The team definitely has room for some upgrades. The bullpen hasn’t been able to replicate its 2018 dominance, especially with Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino struggling. While the rotation has held its own, it has certainly shown cracks at times, and could use an addition after the loss of ace Frankie Montas to a PED suspension. And an addition to the lineup wouldn’t be too surprising, although it appears mostly set as of now.
Today, we’ll look at a handful of potential trade targets the A’s could look to acquire this month. Later in the week, we’ll examine the trade chips Oakland could use to make some upgrades. All player values are taken directly from Baseball Trade Values and are listed in millions of dollars.
Montas was pitching like a bona fide ace prior to his suspension, and that’s a huge loss. But with lefties Jesus Luzardo, Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk due back from the injured list at some point in the next month or so, the A’s have plenty of front-line potential waiting in the wings. This might leave the A’s more likely to add a mid-to-back-end arm, similar to their addition of Mike Fiers last August.
But none of those three are a guarantee — Luzardo has yet to throw a major league inning, Manaea is returning from a significant shoulder injury and Puk is likely to pitch out of the bullpen. And if the team does make the playoffs, it will likely be in a do-or-die wild card game once again. It is certainly possible they’ll try to add a true ace.
Potential Starting Pitcher Targets
|Matthew Boyd||LHP||Detroit Tigers||3.5||3.72||3.56||34.4|
|Marcus Stroman||RHP||Toronto Blue Jays||1.5||3.18||3.79||26.8|
|Zack Wheeler||RHP||New York Mets||0.5||4.51||3.75||12.6|
|Madison Bumgarner||LHP||San Francisco Giants||0.5||4.02||3.93||9.6|
|Jordan Lyles||RHP||Pittsburgh Pirates||0.5||3.71||3.79||4.0|
|Tanner Roark||RHP||Cincinnati Reds||0.5||3.36||3.47||3.9|
|Mike Leake||RHP||Seattle Mariners||1.5||4.63||5.12||3.7|
Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd is one of the gems of this year’s trade market. He is in the midst of a breakout season, currently fifth among qualified starters with a 26.0% K-BB rate. The 28-year-old is under team control through 2022 and will be highly sought-after. He would slot nicely into the A’s rotation, but will likely be outside of the team’s price range.
Similarly, Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman is more than just a rental. Enjoying his best season since 2017, Stroman is controllable through 2020. The ground ball specialist would thrive in front of Oakland’s elite infield defense. Again, the 28-year-old will have many suitors, but he seems like such a perfect fit that I could see the A’s ponying up.
Zack Wheeler might be the most expensive rental starter on the market. The righty hasn’t pitched as well as his peripherals suggest he should have, but he was fantastic in 2018 and has ace upside. There’s a chance the Mets hang around in the NL playoff race and choose to keep Wheeler, but if they move him, they could get a nice return.
The most hyped arm on the market is longtime Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner. At this point, Bumgarner’s postseason track record exceeds his true talent level, but he remains a solid arm with monster upside. It’s hard to bet against the 29-year-old, especially in the playoffs. With Farhan Zaidi running the team, it doesn’t seem the Giants will hesitate to deal with the A’s if they have the best offer on the table. But will Billy Beane and co. take another chance on a “proven postseason lefty” after what happened in 2014 with Jon Lester?
It may feel like he’s been around for decades, but somehow, Pirates righty Jordan Lyles is only 28 years old. He’s enjoying the best season of his career, and could be an incredible bargain addition. But you’re also running the risk that he’s DFA’d or demoted to the bullpen by September.
Tanner Roark is my personal favorite fit for the A’s. He fits the Mike Fiers mold almost perfectly as a solid innings-eater that will give the team a chance to win almost every time he takes the mound. He is currently running the highest strikeout rate of his career and his fly ball tendencies could benefit from starts at the Coliseum. But the 32-year-old would be a pure rental and doesn’t have the upside of some of the other names on this list.
Finally, Mariners righty Mike Leake is something of a Roark-lite. His numbers aren’t fantastic this season, but he would cost little to nothing in terms of prospects. Leake is durable, having made at least 30 starts in each of the last seven seasons. But the A’s likely wouldn’t be eager to take on Leake’s contract, as he is owed approximately $21.5 million through 2020.
Others of note: Trevor Bauer, RHP, CLE (39.2); Marco Gonzales, LHP, SEA (38.7); Chris Archer, RHP, PIT (23.8); Andrew Cashner, RHP, BAL (-2.7); Jason Vargas, LHP, NYM (-3.7); Danny Duffy, LHP, KC (-14.7)
Oakland’s bullpen has been a massive disappointment. It was supposed to be the team’s strength in 2019, but has now turned into a serious weakness. If the A’s are going to make a deep playoff run, righties Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino will need to get back on track.
As for the others: Liam Hendriks has been fantastic, while Yusmeiro Petit and Wei-Chung Wang have solid, but likely have some regression coming. Better days are likely coming for Joakim Soria (4.78 ERA, 3.18 FIP) and lefty Ryan Buchter has kind of been a mess (6.65 BB/9). All things considered, the A’s could use one good lefty and at least one or two solid righties. Luckily, there are plenty of arms available.
Potential Relief Pitcher Targets
|Brad Hand||LHP||Cleveland Indians||2.5||2.29||1.85||28.6|
|Ken Giles||RHP||Toronto Blue Jays||1.5||1.29||1.00||10.7|
|Shane Greene||RHP||Detroit Tigers||1.5||0.87||3.34||9.6|
|Will Smith||LHP||San Francisco Giants||0.5||2.16||2.01||9.2|
|Tony Watson||LHP||San Francisco Giants||1.5*||2.48||3.76||7.6|
|Jake Diekman||LHP||Kansas City Royals||1.5*||4.76||3.62||2.6|
|David Hernandez||RHP||Cincinnati Reds||0.5||4.79||2.34||0.8|
|Raisel Iglesias||RHP||Cincinnati Reds||2.5||4.41||4.25||-1.3|
*Watson has a 2020 player option and Diekman has a 2020 mutual option, making both players likely rentals.
Of all of the top-tier relief arms that could be moved this month, I think Brad Hand is the one the A’s are most likely to be in on. A Hand trade would be entirely contingent on Cleveland falling out of the race, but if they do, they could get a haul in return. The 29-year-old lefty has been dominant since joining the Indians last summer and is under affordable team control through 2021. He could pair perfectly with Treinen in the late innings, depending on match-ups. However, he would cost a significant prospect package, and I’m not sure the A’s are looking to push their top chips in this summer.
Ken Giles and Shane Greene are a pair of controllable righties that might be closer to Oakland’s price range. Both have spotty track records but have been dominant in 2019. The Blue Jays and Tigers are definite sellers and will likely look to sell high on their top relievers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of these two join Oakland’s bullpen, although of the two, I would strongly prefer Giles and his triple-digit fastball.
As for lefties, San Francisco controls the market with Will Smith and Tony Watson. Smith will be highly sought after as the top rental reliever available, as he has been nothing short of dominant since his return from Tommy John Surgery. But Watson is a very solid lefty himself and is on a very affordable contract. Either one of these relievers seems like a better fit for the A’s than Bumgarner, although the Giants could look to maximize their prospect return by packaging one (or both) with their ace.
Royals lefty Jake Diekman would likely be a fallback option if the team can’t snag Hand, Smith or Watson but still wants an upgrade. Diekman hasn’t been great this season, but his velocity is up and he has (slightly) better control than Buchter. He’d come pretty cheap, but probably wouldn’t make too much of a difference.
David Hernandez might be the most interesting bargain reliever on the market. The 34-year-old has never been much more than a medium-leverage arm, but his 23.6% K-BB rate is his highest since 2012 and his new pitch mix is nearly unhittable. He’s another guy that could be a DFA candidate in a month or two, but right now, he looks like a sneaky good target.
His teammate, righty Raisel Iglesias, is also something of a buy-low candidate. He hasn’t been great in 2019, but his track record and bargain contract (owed approximately $21 million through 2021) make him an attractive gamble. Cincinnati took a shot at contending this season and fell short, but they’re likely to try again in 2020 and might see Iglesias as essential to their success.
Others of note: Felipe Vazquez, LHP, PIT (49.8); Kirby Yates, RHP, SD (18.0); Alex Colome, RHP, CWS (6.5); Mychal Givens, RHP, BAL (3.0); Sam Dyson, RHP, SF (0.3); Francisco Liriano, LHP, PIT (-0.7); Ian Kennedy, RHP, KC (-28.6)
Offensively, the A’s are mostly set. Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Ramon Laureano aren’t going anywhere. The A’s also seem fairly comfortable behind the plate, as some combination of Josh Phegley, Beau Taylor, the rehabbing Chris Herrmann and top prospect Sean Murphy will likely share catching duties the rest of the way.
I could, however, see some changes in the outfield and potentially at second base. The severity of Stephen Piscotty’s knee injury is still unknown and could create a massive hole. The A’s have some depth, but none (perhaps with the exception of slugger Mark Canha) have the same middle-of-the-order thump as Piscotty. Meanwhile, second baseman Jurickson Profar has rebounded nicely since his awful start to the season, but his defense is still below average and he has yet to post a wRC+ over 100 in any calendar month this year.
Overall, the A’s lineup is pretty right-handed heavy, and I could see them adding a lefty bat with some thump, either in a corner outfield spot or at second base.
Potential Hitter Targets
|Whit Merrifield||2B/OF||Kansas City Royals||4.5||120||.352||47.9|
|David Peralta||OF||Arizona Diamondbacks||1.5||112||.347||4.7|
|Corey Dickerson||OF||Pittsburgh Pirates||0.5||133||.374||4.2|
|Derek Dietrich||2B/OF||Cincinnati Reds||1.5||133||.379||3.5|
|Nicholas Castellanos||OF||Detroit Tigers||0.5||111||.337||1.4|
|Melky Cabrera||OF||Pittsburgh Pirates||0.5||102||.326||0.8|
|Adam Duvall||OF||Atlanta Braves||2.5||133*||.392*||-0.8|
|Scooter Gennett||2B||Cincinnati Reds||0.5||Inj.||Inj.||-1.3|
*Duvall’s numbers from Triple-A Gwinnett.
The outfield market is particularly weak, and the Royals could take advantage if they choose to move versatile speedster Whit Merrifield. The late bloomer is a great all-around player signed to a bargain contract that will pay him just $25.5 million through 2023. This gives the 30-year-old a ton of value and likely puts him way, way out of Oakland’s price range. Since offense probably won’t be much of a priority for the A’s this month, it seems highly unlikely that Merrifield will don the green and gold any time soon.
A much more realistic target would be Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta. Arizona is still hanging around the periphery of the NL playoff picture, but if they falter in the coming weeks, Peralta could be on the block. The failed minor league pitching prospect has reinvented himself into a legitimate slugger, and provides nice pop from the left side. Under team control through 2020, Peralta would be a welcome addition to the top of Oakland’s lineup.
Corey Dickerson could be an excellent buy-low candidate. The Pirates outfielder has only played in 23 games this season due to injury, but the 30-year-old offers solid power, a little bit of speed, and excellent defense. The left-handed hitter will be a free agent after the season, and is a better fit for the A’s than 34-year-old Melky Cabrera, who isn’t great defensively and likely wouldn’t be much of an upgrade over incumbent switch-hitter Robbie Grossman.
One of this season’s most surprising breakouts, Reds utility man Derek Dietrich has tons of power. He also gets on base a ton, thanks to a solid walk rate and his MLB-leading 16 HBPs. His .190 BABIP is unsustainably low, and while he isn’t a great defender, he can play first base, second base, and the corner outfield spots. He even has one more year of team control remaining through arbitration. Second baseman Scooter Gennett just made his season debut for Cincinnati on Friday, but he probably doesn’t make much sense for the A’s unless they’re giving up on Profar.
The Tigers are certain to trade Nicholas Castellanos, and he offers a similar offensive profile to that of Piscotty. The 27-year-old hits for average and has 20-25 home run power. His defense in right field isn’t great, but as a pure rental, he likely wouldn’t cost much in terms of prospects.
Braves outfielder Adam Duvall could be an excellent buy-low option. The 30-year-old hasn’t been called up to the majors this year, but he’s crushing Triple-A pitching, having slugged 24 home runs in half of a season. He’s always had good power and is an above average defender, but it doesn’t look like he’ll get a real opportunity with Atlanta. Perhaps he could break out given a change of scenery.
Others of note: Mitch Haniger, OF, SEA (36.9); Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, WAS (14.2); Domingo Santana, OF, SEA (6.0); Joe Panik, 2B, SF (6.4); Jonathan Villar, 2B, BAL (3.8)
These are far from all of the possible targets the A’s could acquire this month, but it should serve as a decent look at what’s out there on the market. Personally, I would like to see the A’s make some smart mid-tier moves and grab Tanner Roark, Ken Giles, Tony Watson and Corey Dickerson.
But many of the team’s decisions could be driven by injury news. The results of Piscotty’s MRI, Treinen’s return, and the continued rehab of Luzardo, Manaea, and Puk could dictate the team’s aggression at the deadline. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the team sit back and allow the market to play out, waiting until later in the month to strike.
Tune back in later in the week for part two, where we’ll take a look at the prospects Oakland could end up dealing this month.
How should the A’s handle this trade season?
This poll is closed
All in, flags fly forever!
This team needs some big upgrades, but only for the right price
It isn’t worth giving up any significant prospects for a one-game play-in
Stand pat; the team is strong enough as is