Ever since Moneyball came out, the Athletics have been thought of as a progressive franchise that is embraced by some fans and mocked by others. When baseball operations head Billy Beane makes controversial moves like trading Josh Donaldson in his prime, some see the A’s staying ahead of the curve while others see Beane trying to be too smart for his own good.
One thing critics haven’t been able to say about Beane is that he’s completely gone in the tank with his limited budget. Even though Oakland has struggled in the three seasons since it last appeared in the postseason, Beane has yet to try the tear-it-all-down approach that teams like Houston, Atlanta, and Philadelphia have embraced recently. However, the long-time executive may be changing his tune in regard to a major rebuild.
This shift in tone signals two things. On the one hand, Beane and A’s general manager David Forst have convinced A’s president Dave Kaval that they have a plan that will work and I believe Kaval is someone who will insist he be able to understand it, or else he’ll find someone who can give him a plan he can understand. On the other, Kaval and the money behind him have convinced Beane and Forst that they’re not again crying wolf (Wolff?) with promises of a new stadium to come lest they be left holding the bag when it comes time to call for free agents or contract extensions.
That’s why when the Athletics make a rare trip to Citi Field this weekend, they’ll be without key relief pitchers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. The pair was just dealt to Washington in order to prop up its desperate bullpen. Santiago Casilla is still on board to try to close games for Oakland, but his 1.37 WHIP doesn’t compare favorably to the sub-1.00 numbers that Doolittle and Madson were putting up. Someone else we could see a lot of is Blake Treinen, who was included in the Washington trade after starting the campaign as that team’s closer. Needless to say, he has struggled this year with a 5.45 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, but his incredible ground ball rate and three years of team control made him appealing to Oakland.
Of course, there are trade candidates on the offensive side as well. First baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jed Lowrie are the two most common names brought up — besides starting pitcher Sonny Gray — as both are having outstanding seasons. Alonso is a particularly interesting case because of how he failed to produce in the four years after San Diego acquired him from Cincinnati in the heist known as the Mat Latos deal. Now in his second year with Oakland, the former first-round draft pick has jacked his walk rate up to 13 percent and is hitting .273/.373/.556 with a career-high 21 home runs. Before 2017, Alonso had never even reached double digits in home runs.
Lowrie hasn’t undergone the type of transformation that Alonso has, but he is note-worthy for having been twice traded by Houston to Oakland in the past four years. He’s also having one of his better campaigns, with a .180 isolation power, .335 wOBA, and solid defensive ratings. Considering he can make $6 million next year or be bought out for $1 million, Lowrie seems like a great candidate to be dealt to Boston, the team that originally drafted him and has a glaring hole at third base. Although Lowrie is more of a middle infielder, he has played a competent third base throughout his career.
The Mets would love to say goodbye to guys like Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce who probably won’t be on the team next year, but the trade market isn’t shaping up in their favor. The underwhelming return that J.D. Martinez brought Detroit makes it seem like even great hitters can be had for cheap this year, and that could make dealing their own veterans not worth it for the Mets.
The good news for New York is that two of their other players are sneaking up the trade value rankings. Jose Reyes has been terrible all year but is hitting .377/.382/.660 this month. I’m pretty sure that most baseball executive will realize that Reyes’s zero walks during this stretch make the performance highly unlikely to continue, but you never know. If the Mets can get anything back for their shortstop, it would be a delight.
Lucas Duda is also mashing (and walking) lately, and he’s way more likely to get traded than Reyes. The Southern California product has six extra-base hits in the past week and has a 133 wRC+ for the season. It’s still hard to imagine him landing a major prospect in this market, but the Yankees do still have a big need at first base. On the other hand, we know how the crosstown rivals feel about trading with each other.
Also playing well in July is Addison Reed, who had done a great job locking down his home run problem after allowing four in April. With zero long balls allowed in the last two months, the San Diego State alumnus has lowered his ERA to 2.35 with a 1.02 WHIP. Since everyone and their mom is looking for a reliable relief pitchers at this time of year, Reed is one player who the Mets would be crazy not to shop around.
Friday, July 21: Paul Blackburn vs. Steven Matz, 7:10 p.m. on SNY
Blackburn: 19.2 IP, 8 K, 6 BB, 2 HR, 1.83 ERA, 4.71 FIP, 1.12 WHIP
With the way the ball is flying out of the park these days, ground-ball pitchers like Blackburn are only going to become more popular. The Athletics snagged him from the Seattle organization last December in exchange for Danny Valenica, and the 23-year-old has rewarded his new club this year with a 3.05 ERA and a 55-percent ground ball rate in 79.2 innings at Triple-A Nashville. Blackburn’s first three major league starts have gone even better, but he’s probably going to struggle to miss bats at this level.
Matz: 39.1 IP, 25 K, 11 BB, 8 HR, 4.58 ERA, 5.34 FIP, 1.35 WHIP
We knew that Matz was pitching a little over his head when he posted back-to-back scoreless outings in Miami and Washington, but the lefty’s two most recent starts against St. Louis and Colorado have been ridiculously bad. After Matz failed to record an out in the second inning on Sunday, he has now allowed 12 runs in his last five-plus innings. Not only is the Long Island native having trouble getting opponents to chase outside the strike zone, but he’s also allowing more fly balls and hard contact than he did last year.
Saturday, July 22: Sean Manaea vs. Zack Wheeler, 7:10 p.m. on PIX11
Manaea: 100.1 IP, 101 K, 37 BB, 8 HR, 3.68 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.21 WHIP
The Athletics have used 12 different starting pitchers this year, but Manaea has been in the rotation the whole way save for a short stint on the disabled list in early May. With 21.1 innings and a 2.95 ERA in his last three starts, he’s shaping up to be a valuable asset for years to come. There’s even a good chance that those years will come with Oakland since this is only Manaea’s second season in the big leagues.
Wheeler: 81.1 IP, 75 K, 36 BB, 13 HR, 4.98 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 1.55 WHIP
Wheeler appeared to be on his way to a great start against St. Louis on Monday with four scoreless innings. Then, he randomly lost control and walked three straight batters with two outs in the fifth. He escaped that jam only to get chased in the sixth on an RBI double by Adam Wainwright. It seems every time we think Wheeler has begun to pitch consistently this year, the wheels (no pun intended, but let’s roll with it) come off when we least expect it. Perhaps he can regain his footing against an Oakland team that is looking to trade away two of its best hitters.
Sunday, July 23: Daniel Gossett vs. Rafael Montero, 1:10 p.m. on PIX11
Gossett: 37.1 IP, 23 K, 6 BB, 10 HR, 5.79 ERA, 5.86 FIP, 1.37 WHIP
He hasn’t been that good since making his major league debut in Miami on June 14, but Gossett has stuck around in Oakland’s rotation thanks to injuries to Kendall Graveman, Jharel Cotton, and Andrew Triggs. One thing that Gossett does well is limit walks, and that should pay dividends when he inevitably stops giving up so many home runs. Gossett’s control certainly helped in his last outing against Tampa Bay, when he lasted a season-high seven innings and only allowed three runs despite being taken deep twice.
Montero: 45.0 IP, 48 K, 25 BB, 2 HR, 5.40 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 1.82 WHIP
Montero was killed by his defense in his last start and found himself in a 4-0 hole after two innings, but he held on to finish six frames with five strikeouts, one walk, and two earned runs allowed. Since being called back up to the majors on June 15, Montero has a 3.20 ERA in 25.1 innings, and that’s keeping hope alive that the Mets might have something in him after all. Since the team can’t afford to keep all its young pitching assets under contract forever, guys like Montero and Seth Lugo who come out of the woodwork are increasingly important.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
How will the Mets fare this weekend against Oakland?
This poll is closed
1973 revenge sweep!
Win two of three.
Win one of three.
The trades are more important, anyway.