AL West Trade Primer: Oakland Athletics

The MLB non-waiver trading deadline will be here before you know it, which means it’s time to do trade primers for the Seattle Mariners and each of their divisional rivals.

A word to the wise; the trade market will remain unsettled as the July 31 deadline nears.

Factors such as injuries, poor individual performances, and fluctuating standings will drive market forces.

Also affecting player movement will be the aggressiveness of potential buyers and sellers, which is impossible to predict.

Okay, let’s begin with a team in the midst of a rebuild — the Oakland Athletics.

Last season general manager David Forst flipped pending free agents Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitchers Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas, and Grant Holmes.

Cotton is currently in the Athletics’ rotation, although he’s spent a few weeks with Class-AAA Nashville this season.

The hard throwing Montas is a middle reliever currently playing for Nashville after starting the season in Oakland’s bullpen.

The best piece may be Holmes. Currently starting for Class-AA Midland, the 21-year-old ranks third in Oakland’s minor league system and is the number-75 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB.com.

It’ll take years to know whether the Reddick/Hill deal truly helped the Athletics, but moving a pair of potential free agents in exchange for three prospects was shrewd for a club looking to the future.

The upcoming trade season serves as another opportunity for Oakland to get younger and accelerate their rebuild. Let’s discuss several of the organization’s potential trade chips.

Switch-hitter Jed Lowrie may appeal to contenders needing to shore up their infield situation. Primarily a second baseman, the 33-year-old has played shortstop and third base as recently as 2015. There is a $6 million option and a $1 million buyout for next season that will factor into negotiations.

Considering that Oakland is rebuilding, moving Lowrie may make sense, even if they had to pay some or all of the buyout.

Youngster Chad Pinder and veteran shortstop Adam Rosales have been covering shortstop, but will be idled once starter Marcus Semien returns from the DL near the all-star break. Either player could take over second base.

The team also boasts a pair of top-100 MLB infield prospects at Nashville — shortstop Franklin Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman.

With this much organizational depth, I expect Forst to move at least one infielder this summer. He could opt to move both Lowrie and Rosales — a pending free agent.

First baseman Yonder Alonso is having a career year and is a free agent at season’s end. Fortunately, the Athletics have an internal replacement available — sophomore Ryon Healy, who has nearly 1,000 of minor league experience at the position.

Moving Alonso makes too much sense, unless the club intends to retain the 30-year-old.

In the bullpen, John Axford is a free agent at the end of the season, but he recently returned to action after a shoulder strain. There’s still time for the 34-year-old to prove he’s healthy and effective between now and the end of July.

It’s possible Sean Doolittle could be dangled as trade bait. He too just returned from the DL and is under contract with team-friendly terms through the 2020 season. Moving the 30-year-old southpaw now would be selling low on a relatively inexpensive asset.

A reliever under team control through next season, who might garner interest is right-hander Ryan Madson. The challenge with moving Madson is twofold. He’s owed $7.5 million next year and he’ll be 37-years-old in August.

Two veteran position players who could’ve been attractive targets — Rajai Davis and Trevor Plouffe — haven’t helped their value with their 2017 production. Both signed one-year deals with Oakland during offseason, but they’ve been performing below their career norms.

Davis has been hot lately, while Plouffe remains stone cold. With six weeks remaining before the deadline, there’s still time for their market value to improve.

Catcher Stephen Vogt is under team control through the 2019, but he’s earning $2.9 million this season with two more years of arbitration eligibility.

Considering Vogt’s salary will continue to escalate and he’s 32-years-old, Oakland may opt to move the left-handed hitting backstop. That’s assuming they’re comfortable with turning over the position to current backup Josh Phegley and minor leaguer Bruce Maxwell.

Phegley is three years younger than Vogt and under team control through 2020, but he hasn’t played in more than 73 games in four previous seasons. Maxwell is age-26 and considered a solid defender.

Perhaps, the Athletics will opt to get younger behind the plate. But, it’ll take an emergent need from a desperate buyer to increase Vogt’s value.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sonny Gray. What would an Oakland Athletics trade primer be without discussing the former Cy Young Award runner-up?

With Gray spending the first two months on the DL and under team control for two more seasons, waiting to move the right-handler makes sense — unless an aggressive buyer overwhelms the Athletics with a deal they can’t refuse.

Based on Oakland’s track record, the club will be proactive sellers this summer.

Whether they can recoup similar value to the Hill/Reddick deal depends on the players they’re offering and the desperation of potential suitors.

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Luke Arkins

Luke is a native New Yorker, who grew up a Mets fan. After the US Navy moved him to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, he decided to make Seattle his home. During the baseball season, he can be seen often observing the local team at Safeco Field. You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins
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