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Oakland A’s trade rumors: Starting pitching targets, led by Lance Lynn

The A’s want another starter. Here are some top options available on the market.

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The 2020 MLB trade deadline is in less than 24 hours, with the cutoff coming at 1 p.m. PT on Monday, Aug. 31.

The Oakland A’s already made one deal, a brilliant move to acquire high-contact hitter Tommy La Stella from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for a prospect who had passed his expiration date in the Bay Area.

But the A’s might not be done, as insider Mark Feinsand reported Saturday that “rival executives expect both the Athletics and White Sox to trade for a starting pitcher by Monday.” (There’s also a rumor about relievers, but we’ll do them in a separate post.)

The SP rumor makes sense. Oakland has traded for several starters over the last two trade deadlines to enhance their contending rosters, including Mike Fiers, Homer Bailey, and Tanner Roark. And while their rotation is better this year than it was in 2018-19, it’s still showing some red flags between a struggling Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt, and a five-inning version of Sean Manaea. There are a lot of hopes being pinned on rookie Jesús Luzardo, which even in a short season is risky.

So, who out there is reasonably available, what will they cost, and which ones make sense in Oakland right now? Here are a few top names. For more ideas and to test out your own proposals, check out Baseball Trade Values, including their article on available starters.

Lance Lynn, TEX

This is the biggest name on the market, and the one that has actually been publicly connected to the A’s. It’s looking likely that the 12-21 Texas Rangers will cash in on their current ace, and since he has one more (affordable) year under contract he’s not a pure rental. That’s good for whoever acquires him, but also adds significantly to his price.

Insider Jon Morosi reported Sunday that he’s “heard the Athletics being involved” in Lynn, giving them a tangible mention in rumors. Other teams in the Lynn mill include the White Sox, Twins, and Padres, among possibly others.

The right-hander finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting last year, and his results have been even better so far this year (1.93 ERA), while maintaining similarly strong peripherals (3.53 FIP, .277 xwOBA). He’d immediately be Oakland’s best starter, and he’d be able to stick around in 2021 at a relatively cheap $9.4 million — barely more than Fiers’ salary this summer in the final year of his own deal.

What would he cost? It starts with A.J. Puk. It’s going to take a serious prospect to pry away Lynn, especially with several interested suitors bidding on him. Anything more than Puk (like Luzardo or Sean Murphy) would be too much, and the dropoff after him on the prospect list is too great for anyone else to be a serious headliner — quantity for quality surely won’t get this done, for this big of an in-demand, win-now star performer. And while other clubs might be interested in an MLB-for-MLB trade for one of the A’s surplus hitters, it’s not clear the Rangers would take that. It would have to be Puk.

Is it worth it? Tough to say. Puk could be a star. Or, he could be a reliever who never stays healthy. Such is the gamble with prospects, especially when you’re considering trading one to a division rival. This is my favorite splashy option, though (spoiler alert).

Dylan Bundy, LAA

The classic ink blot test. He was an elite prospect, then never panned out, and then suddenly did pan out this summer at age 27. Is he for real? Up to you!

A’s fans can attest to Bundy’s progress, having seen him toss two gems and one more decent start against them this summer. His 2.47 ERA is backed up by an excellent 3.14 FIP and .280 xwOBA, and his peripherals are great across the board, even without adding a new pitch nor any extra velocity.

Bundy is also under contract for another year, so it’s unknown whether he’ll actually be traded. The Angels develop about one good pitcher per decade, and they enter every season thinking they’ll contend before inevitably and embarrassingly falling apart, so they might want to keep the right-hander for another run at third place in 2021. Or, they could cash in now and sell high on a hot streak.

To that end, the Twins, Braves, and White Sox have been named as interested suitors.

What would he cost? Less than Lynn, for sure. He doesn’t have the track record to match up with the Rangers star. But he’ll still require something significant. There’s not one single prospect who would do it, as Puk is too much, but would a package of two strong youngsters get it done? Robert Puason and Daulton Jefferies matches up exactly on BTV, though that’s for Bundy’s median value and the Halos could surely add some extra leverage — perhaps enough for a third solid prospect? You could also replace Jefferies with an infielder like Nick Allen, Logan Davidson, or Sheldon Neuse, plus a smaller third piece.

Is it worth it? I dunno, Oakland already sent one lotto ticket down south in Franklin Barreto, and it scares me to give them too much potential future help. I certainly wouldn’t complain about taking a chance on Bundy, but if we’re going this far then I might aim slightly higher and go for Lynn.

Mike Clevinger, CLE

He’s been pitching at pretty much an ace level since 2017, and he seems to be out of favor in Cleveland to some extent after violating coronavirus protocols earlier in the summer. At the very least, he’s available, even if the asking price is “ridiculous.”

Like the others, the right-hander is not a rental, as he’s under control for two more seasons in 2021-22. He’s allowed a few extra homers this year, but since 2017 his sparkling 2.97 ERA is backed up by a strong 3.43 FIP and low .296 xwOBA.

Clevinger has a bit of an injury history over the last year-plus, but nothing involving his arm. His back landed him on the 60-day IL last year, and then his ankle required a minimum 10-day stint, and over the winter he had minor knee surgery.

The Padres, Braves, Dodgers, and White Sox are among the publicly interested parties, per this MLB Trade Rumors roundup, but there are also potential “mystery teams” involved.

What would he cost? More than Lynn, because of the extra year of control. But that also means he’d be worth more, even with his salary beginning to rise in arbitration — he might not earn any more than Lynn in 2021.

But he won’t cost that much more in trade. It starts with Puk again, but now add someone, like one of the names mentioned in the Bundy section. Or, the Indians are still competing, so they could be interested in one of Oakland’s surplus bats like Mark Canha in a one-for-one swap (or maybe Canha plus a lesser prospect).

Is it worth it? Again, I’d prefer Lynn. The extra year of Clevinger is nice, but he’ll be 30 next season and I’m not sure how far into the future I need to gamble on a veteran pitcher. Personally, one extra year in 2021 is enough long-termness for my taste — plus, if Clevinger does stay good, then he might get too expensive in his final year of arby in 2022.

I also have zero interest in trading an MLB hitter for a starter, because honestly, were you watching in 2014? Let’s not repeat that, no matter how much you agree that trading Yoenis Cespedes wasn’t the singular factor that tanked the lineup as is often suggested.

Kevin Gausman, SF

Of course, those names above are the premium targets. The A’s do make the major blockbuster move sometimes, like in 2014 for Jeff Samardzija, but lately they’ve kept things smaller at the deadline.

Enter Gausman, who is more Oakland’s speed. He’s enjoyed a solid career as a mid-rotation guy, and at age 29 he’s got a mediocre 4.54 ERA and .331 xwOBA but a fantastic 3.31 FIP (thanks to 12 K/9 and 6 K/BB). He wouldn’t raise the level at the top of the A’s rotation, but could shore up the depth and thus improve things at the middle/back-end.

Gausman is also a pure rental, which makes him much cheaper. It’s possible the 17-19 Giants don’t sell for some reason, just as they didn’t last year despite having no real postseason chance but two All-Star caliber free agents to cash in on. But if they do sell, then at least we’ve already seen the two sides make their first trade in decades last winter (for Burch Smith), so the line of communication is open once more with former A’s AGM Farhan Zaidi running the show across the Bay.

What would he cost? Not much, compared with the others on this list. Think in the range of Neuse, Austin Beck, James Kaprielian, etc. Jefferies would be too much, as would Puason or Allen. And please please don’t sell low on Greg Deichmann.

Is it worth it? For one of those first three names? Sure, I could be convinced. I’d also be happy to keep all three and see if they can help the A’s in 2021 (or maybe 2023 for Beck). Oakland has done well with smaller pitching acquisitions like this the last two years, so I’m down to try again. This would really only move the needle in September, though, not necessarily in the postseason (unless there are enough injuries to thrust Gausman into the spotlight).

Other names

Here are a few other names to consider, whether because they’re in the actual rumor mill or because they’re on bad teams right now. (I’m leaving out the Cincinnati Reds for now, so no Trevor Bauer or Sonny Gray. They’re too expensive to acquire anyway.)

  • Andrew Heaney, LAA (4.62 ERA, 2.76 FIP, lefty, one more year in 2021 ... might cost something like Puason)
  • Danny Duffy, KC (4.11 ERA, identical 4.11 FIP, lefty, one more year in 2021 but at $15m ... which makes him basically free to acquire)
  • I thought I’d have a third name here but no one else is immediately jumping out at me; want to suggest one more in the comments?

I left out Jeff Samardzija, Ivan Nova, and Matthew Boyd because they’re having terrible seasons; Drew Smyly because he’s currently on the IL; and Johnny Cueto because there’s just too much salary there to match up well and he’s also only OK now.

What do you think, Athletics Nation? Do any of these big swings interest you? Any of the smaller ones? Or just stand pat and focus on the bullpen, if anything?