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2 “Under The Radar” Deals Could Save Rebuild

Midland RockHounds v Frisco Roughriders
Darell Herniaz ponders what letter could go between “F” “G” and “H” in the alphabet.
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Nary a day goes by without an A’s fan or twenty gnashing their teeth over the Sean Murphy deal. The A’s had a premium talent with 3 years left on his contract and what they got back has so far been underwhelming at best.

Here’s a trade that might look better: Sean Murphy, Cole Irvin, Sam Moll, and Joel Payamps in exchange for Kyle Muller, Freddy Tarnok, Royber Salinas, Esteury Ruiz, Darell Hernaiz and Joe Boyle.

Having blown it multiple times dealing well known players, Oakland is counting on a couple “under the radar” moves to salvage their 2-year fire sale. The first one has been much discussed, though each time it comes up it seems like Hernaiz’ stats are even more impressive.

Cole Irvin, tonight’s opposing starter, gave the A’s two solid seasons but was so ineffective upon arriving to Baltimore that he spent half the season down in AAA. He is back sporting a 4.92 ERA for the season.

Hernaiz was available partly because the O’s are so awash in shortstops up and down their system, starting with mainstay Gunnar Henderson in the big leagues. What is so essential about Hernaiz’ “best case scenario” progress with the A’s is that he plays a premium position in which the current incumbents (Nick Allen, Aledmys Diaz) are struggling to hit .200 and literally failing to slug .300.

Your up to the minute slash line for Hernaiz at AAA: He turned 22 earlier this month and is batting .345/.410/.521 with a 12.8% K rate. What it amounts to is as horrifically terrible as the 2023 team has been and is, there is a rather alluring core developing on the diamond, mostly up the middle, in Tyler Soderstrom, Zack Gelof, Darell Hernaiz, and Lawrence Butler (likely a COFer down the road).

And then there’s Boyle’s first 3 starts for AA Midland since coming over from the Reds in exchange for Moll. Boyle was always touted as having big time stuff, with the casual caveat “if only he could throw strikes”.

But with Boyle it wasn’t a frustrating 5 BB/9 IP wildness, or even a Luis Medina level of walk-itis. In his 84 IP this season with the Reds, Boyle walked 75 batters. That’s a frightening 8.04 BB/9 IP rate rivaled only by ... himself. Last season he threw 100.2 IP and walked 84 (that’s 7.51 BB/9 IP).

So here are Boyle’s pitching lines from his 3 Midland starts:

August 4th: 6 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K

August 11th: 5 IP, 5 hits, 3 ER, 3 BB, 12 K

August 18th: 6.1 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K

Add it up and in still a small, but awfully impressive, sample it’s:

17.1 IP, 12 hits, 4 ER, 7 BB, 28 K

That’s hard to ignore, especially coming from a big time arm that has K’d 344 batters in 221.2 career IP while allowing opposing hitters to bat .173.

If shortstop is a critical position for Oakland to solve, even more so is starting pitching where Muller has been nothing short of awful, Ken Waldichuk has struggled to find any consistency, Medina has had some good times and more bad times, Tarnok can’t stay on the mound, and J.P. Sears has been a welcome rock but profiles at the back of a good rotation.

Along with Mason Miller, Boyle has the stuff to dominate at the front of a rotation but has never looked like someone with a prayer of throwing enough strikes to become anything useful. Suddenly, magically, in a “baseball is that most unpredictable of games” way, there is at least a glimmer of hope that the A’s have unlocked something the Reds could not.

No one, and I mean no one, ever would have thought that Cole Irvin and Sam Moll would bring back more essential talent in a rebuild than Matt Olson or Matt Chapman or Frankie Montas or Sean Murphy — let alone “all of them combined”. And when the dust clears that probably won’t quite be the case.

But for now? If you’re going to trip over your own shoes and fall smack on your nose every time you make a major deal, at least find a couple diamonds wedged in the cracks of the sidewalk before you get up.

By luck, skill, or fate, David Forst may have done just that. In your mind, replace Muller with Boyle in the Murphy trade, maybe swap out Kevin Smith for Hernaiz in the Chapman deal, and you might feel better.

The A’s do have some legitimate talent coming up and on their way. It’s just that the road that got us here was less linear and more “Lombard St.” than you might like.