Scuffing A’s could end up as deadline sellers
The Oakland A’s enter June with the worst record in the American League, and are likely be fielding trade offers with fire and fury.
Multiple players are entering contract years, and it’s been Oakland’s approach to let these types walk. Of them, Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir are the two highest profile guys. Tyler Clippard, Edward Mujica and Eric O’Flaherty add to the list with three above-average relief arms.
The 34-year-old utility player is the best of his kind in baseball today and hasn’t lost a step. He recently came off the disabled list and went 2-for-4 in his first game back. He’s a plus defender as well, and does most things well.
His contract is an affordable $7.5 million, and is a guy who will re-sign if the situation feels right, and won’t command a terrible number in free agency, so all teams will have a shot.
His age is the only real detractor, and the list of players who drop off at 35 is long. Think Coco Crisp.
Zobrist should command a reasonable long-term return prospect, and could be part of a larger blockbuster containing one or more top prospects.
Kazmir is 31 years old, and while he was nearly run out of baseball two years ago, has put together some of the best stat lines in baseball since joining the A’s. He’s a lefty who can throw hard, and has plus command.
His value to American League teams is great, since he’s shown to be indifferent to the extra hitter in the lineup, and is a top 50 starter in baseball this year. That’s actually a dropoff from his 2014 season.
He’ll be a top free agent when he hits the market, but the team that may want to acquire him will have a leg up on a new deal. For teams looking to sign pitchers, this can be an important part of dealing with the market.
It doesn’t always work in the team’s favor, though, so it comes down to preference.
Regardless, Kazmir instantly adds a lot of firepower for a team looking to make a deep postseason run.
He’ll command more than any A’s player, and coupled with one or more trade-able assets, could land the biggest deal of the season.
Clippard is a fringe tier-one reliever, and would be a certain top guy if not for the splits within the American League. He’s got terrific numbers when with National League teams, and has some serious value there.
His contract is fairly large for a reliever, $8.3 million, but it expires after this season. Clippard could easily serve as the missing piece for a good-but-not-great baseball club.
With youth still on his side at 30, Clippard may be one of the A’s most under-the-radar assets this season.
What he’ll command, though, is tough to examine, since he is still a reliever. The A’s traded shortstop Yunel Escobar to add him, a 32-year-old who was never an above average player.
The A’s could package Clippard, but a swap of middling prospects seems like the most Billy Beane-esque move.
Mujica could very well stay in Oakland and thrive. This guy’s game is nice, and has closer experience on a World Series roster that he gained with the Cardinals in 2013.
Like Clippard, though, his numbers escalate quickly when pitching in the American League. Signed by Boston after he earned his ring, Mujica quickly fell back to earth and finished with a 1.38 WHIP and 3.90 ERA.
Nonetheless, he’d be a reasonable boost to most National League clubs, especially ones with questions at closer. The Padres are one, the Giants could use him as well, and the Cubs are a team who should be interested in all these names.
His value is similar to Clippard’s, and is only worth a decent amount in the National League.
The 30-year-old is struggling through his first down season in the big leagues, and may not be worth a lot on his own. But he could be a large boost to a package. His 1.24 WHIP over 10 seasons is overshadowed by his 2.28 WHIP in 2015. His 11.57 ERA also awful.
O’Flaherty is a quality clubhouse guy who brings veteran experience into a room lacking it, and there’s value in that. But teams will need to be okay taking the risk on a player who’s numbers are staggeringly different that any other time in his career.
Editors Note: This is part one of a two-part series. Next: If the A’s are buyers at the trade deadline.