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Rumors: A’s interested in Richard Rodriguez of Pirates

One relief pitcher officially on the trade target radar

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The MLB trade deadline is four days away, with Friday marking the last chance for clubs to make deals with each other. A few teams have already struck, and the Oakland A’s appear likely to be buyers as well this week.

One player on the A’s radar is Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Richard Rodriguez, as they are “among the teams to show interest” in the right-hander, reports insider Jon Morosi.

“Oakland is prioritizing a bullpen upgrade at the deadline,” adds Morosi.

The 31-year-old Rodriguez is in his fourth season with the Pirates, and has spent all of this summer as their closer. He doesn’t throw especially hard (93 mph average) but his four-seamer gets excellent spin, and between that and an occasional slider he almost completely avoids walks and homers.

  • Rodriguez, 2021: 2.82 ERA, 38⅓ ip, 33 Ks, 5 BB, 2 HR, 27 hits

Those numbers work out to a 2.58 FIP, and Statcast gives him a .262 xwOBA, both fantastic marks. He converted 14-of-17 save chances, and stranded 4-of-6 inherited runners. His 2020 campaign was similarly great in every way, so this performance isn’t out of nowhere.

Between all of that, and Pittsburgh’s identity as an inevitable seller, Rodriguez has been a popular name on the market for a while — the Blue Jays have also inquired about him. He’s not a rental, with two more years of control remaining, and his salary is a modest $1.7 million this season but will have the chance to rise quickly in arbitration each of the next two winters.

The A’s bullpen is currently led by closer Lou Trivino, with a setup crew including Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit, and Sergio Romo. That group has been asked to carry a monumental workload, with the team finding itself in a ton of close games, and another reliable and experienced arm like Rodriguez could go a long way toward adding depth to the late innings. He would also be an addition with an eye on 2022, as Petit and Romo will be free agents after this year.

In terms of trade cost, Baseball Trade Value suggests it would take at least a couple prospects for Oakland to get this done. They only have a couple prospects valued higher than Rodriguez, and all the rest are quite a bit lower down the scale. Here are a couple of random examples from BTV’s public boards, to provide context.