The MLB trade deadline is a week away, and the Oakland A’s could use some more pitching. They already established themselves as buyers earlier in July by acquiring starter Homer Bailey to bolster their rotation, but they’ll need more help than that. They’re in postseason position right now with the second Wild Card, so contention isn’t some long shot dream. It’s a real thing and this is the moment to seize it.
With that in mind, the A’s were linked to a couple big names on Monday. In his deadline diary for The Athletic, Jim Bowden reported that Oakland was one of many teams who has “at least inquired” about All-Star starters Marcus Stroman and Mike Minor. Let’s take a closer look at those two names, but first several pieces of buzzkill disclaimer.
The A’s are indeed still looking to be active before the hard July 31 deadline, though not necessarily in their rotation. General manager David Forst said the following last week, via insider Martin Gallegos:
“We’ll keep an eye on starters, but we have a lot of conversations going on for relievers right now.”
Similarly, Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle suggests that relievers are the more likely targets, especially lefties. She does list Minor as a potential option if the team decides to splurge, but the likeliest bet seems to be bullpen additions like we saw last summer.
Next up is the question of availability. It’s not even clear whether Minor will be dealt at all, as the Rangers hang around the fringes of contention and the player himself says he doesn’t want to be traded. Those aren’t just words from Minor, either, as he has a 10-team no-trade clause to back it up, though it’s unknown which teams it covers (one of the 10 is the Yankees).
As for Stroman, he figures to be an extremely popular target, which could drive up his price. On top of that, a few days before Bowden’s report, insider Jon Morosi didn’t list the A’s among teams who had scouts at Stroman’s start last Friday.
Finally, there’s also the matter of team control. Stroman has one more year of arbitration before he hits free agency, and Minor has one more season on his contract for just under $10 million, so neither is a pure two-month rental. That makes them both more appealing and more expensive for an acquiring team, but it also means their current clubs don’t have to trade them right now. They could wait until the offseason if the right deal doesn’t emerge this month, or even just keep them for another shot at contention in 2020.
In other words, we have a vague mention that Oakland did their due diligence on Stroman and Minor, but multiple reasons why they’re not particularly likely targets. Still, we know the A’s will be buyers and that they’re willing to get aggressive at times, and either of these stars would be a great fit on this contending roster. Absent any other serious rumors to discuss on July 24, let’s kick the tires on these two pitchers.
Stroman and Minor both made the All-Star team this year, and they currently look like top-of-the-rotation pitchers. Neither has a consistent track record for their career, but both have the pedigree of former Top 50 prospects, and they’ve flashed that talent enough to believe they’re for real.
The right-handed Stroman came into his own in 2016-17, topping 200 innings each time and averaging over 3 WAR per year on both scales. He slumped in 2018, missing nearly half the year to nagging physical issues and posting a bloated ERA, but he’s bounced back this season at age 28.
Stroman, 2019: 3.06 ERA, 117⅔ ip, 93 Ks, 34 BB, 10 HR, 3.62 FIP
The left-handed Minor had his breakout in 2013 for the Braves, but he slumped in 2014 and then missed all of 2015-16 to major shoulder surgery. He came back in 2017 as an excellent reliever for the Royals, and then the Rangers gave him a chance to start again in 2018. He pitched well that season in his return to the rotation, but this year he’s taken another huge leap forward at age 31.
Minor, 2019: 2.86 ERA, 129 ip, 131 Ks, 45 BB, 17 HR, 4.10 FIP
Those sparkling results have Minor leading all MLB pitchers with 6.1 bWAR. He doesn’t score as well on fWAR due to his less-than-dominant peripherals, but his 2.7 mark would still easily lead all active A’s hurlers. Whichever way you slice it he’s really good, and the only question is whether he’s up in the territory of great.
These two haven’t been perennial Cy Young candidates or anything, but they’re both legit talents who are peaking right now and whom you could easily see winning playoff games in green and gold.
This is always the tricky part, but let’s turn to our friends at Baseball Trade Values to get the ball rolling. Also, I’m no expert on the precise needs of Toronto and Texas, but a cursory look suggests the Blue Jays are loaded in the infield and so would probably be most interested in outfielders and pitchers, while the Rangers have their own middle infield locked up long-term and also have a fair amount of outfield talent in the organization already. Let’s speculate!
Stroman’s surplus value on BTV is listed at 26.8, which puts him well below the A’s top three prospects (Jesus Luzardo 56.1, A.J. Puk 39.4, Sean Murphy 34.5). My hunch here is that this is a tough fit. Either the Jays have to settle for the next tier down in prospect talent, or they have to package someone else with Stroman (like closer Ken Giles, at 10.3?) to make it worth it.
If I’m the Jays then I hold out for a top name for Stroman on his own, and if I’m the A’s then I’m not parting with those three top names at all this summer. Could Stroman be had for something like outfielders Lazaro Armenteros and Austin Beck, who combine for 27.5 on BTV? That’s still two excellent prospects. But dang, Puk for Stroman and Giles would be a hell of a story.
Meanwhile, Minor’s surplus value on BTV is somewhat less, at 20.3. The only way the three top prospects are in the conversation is if he’s being packaged with top reliever Jose Leclerc (21.8), but I doubt that for several reasons. One A’s prospect who seems like a perfect fit for Texas is Sheldon Neuse (7.3), who could step in at third base next year. From there, it’s a question of whether you need to attach another bigger prospect, or get away with a couple more mid-level youngsters.
If it’s the former, then perhaps Armenteros could fit the bill, even if he’s not exactly what the Rangers need. He and Neuse combine for a value of 23.1, and the extra could be offset by Texas sending some cash to ease Minor’s salary, and/or adding another lesser reliever — like lefty Brett Martin, or righty Chris Martin, each of whom have intriguingly tiny walk rates. In the other model, in which the A’s package some quantity together, it could look something like Neuse, Jorge Mateo, and Daulton Jefferies (total 20.4). Alternatively, perhaps the Rangers could go for Franklin Barreto (16.2), depending on how they feel about current second baseman Rougned Odor and his career .291 OBP.
- BTV Trade #1: Minor + Martin + cash —FOR— Armenteros + Neuse
- BTV Trade #2: Minor —FOR— Mateo + Neuse + Jefferies
- BTV Trade #3: Minor —FOR— Barreto + Mengden
In the end, all of these ideas are unlikely because Stroman and Minor probably aren’t the names the A’s will be targeting. But if they do, then this gives us a barometer for what a deal might look like. What do you think of these trade proposals? Vote in the poll below, and suggest your own in the comments!
Which of these trades should the A’s make?
This poll is closed
Stroman —FOR— Armenteros + Beck
Stroman + Giles + Biagini —FOR— Puk
Minor + Martin + cash —FOR— Armenteros + Neuse
Minor —FOR— Mateo + Neuse + Jefferies
Minor —FOR— Barreto + Mengden