The past week of action against the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros tells us a story. The Oakland Athletics are nowhere near ready to compete for a title with their current starting rotation.
The truth: Oakland had won 14 of 17 leading up to their four-game series against the Twins in Minnesota. They ultimately split with the AL Central’s best team before losing two of three against the Astros. The moral of the story couldn’t be more clear. Oakland needs to add an ace.
The options: It does appear that the top-end starting pitching market is limited.
- The Giants’ current run of success might very well take Madison Bumgarner off the trade market.
- Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays are said to be asking for an arm and a leg for Marcus Stroman.
- Remaining in the American League, Detroit Tigers ace Matthew Boyd has struggled a great deal recently. That could be an issue for contending teams looking to make a splash.
The small-market dynamic: Oakland is unlikely to give up a whole lot for a rental.
- Under Billy Beane, the A’s have done a tremendous job building up a previously flawed farm system.
- Oakland does not have the financial capability to dig too much into said farm system for a mere rental when the AL Wild Card Game could be its ceiling.
- It’s in this that the A’s must look at players who are under team control for at least the 2020 season.
- This would enable Oakand to flip said pitcher should things not pan out, recouping what it gives up in a blockbuster trade.
Noah Syndergaard: He has to be Oakland’s top target.
- A small-market team pulling off a trade for someone of Syndergaard’s ilk is a rarity in today’s MLB landscape.
- However, the A’s have been the team to do this consistently. Beane remains aggressive at the trade deadline.
- It was just a few short years ago that Oakland added both Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija during the same trade deadline.
- Beane himself has made it clear that the team is looking to be aggressive — a way to reward their talented young team.
The assets: Oakland has the assets to add Syndergaard.
- According to MLB.com, the A’s top two prospects are pitchers — Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk.
- Giving up either of these future aces would be a hard sell for Oakland’s organization. But it might be a necessity at this point.
- Given New York’s likely sky-high asking price, The A’s would have to throw in another top-10 prospect and at least two more from their top-30 list. Maybe catcher Sean Murphy (third) and outfielder Austin Beck (fifth) make sense.
Not a rental: Doubling down on previous point.
- Syndergaard, 26, is arbitration eligible for both the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. While he’ll likely earn a nice pay day in arbitration, this means he’s not a rental.
- Under its payroll, Oakland can afford to pay Syndergaard the likely $20-plus million he’ll merit in arbitration.
- Again, if things do not pan out or the A’s don’t have that financial flexibility, flipping him becomes an obvious route.
As good as Mike Friars has been this season, he does not compare to the aces Oakland might be going up against in the wild card round.
Do we really think Friars is a good matchup against the likes of Blake Snell or Chris Sale, two former Cy Young winners? No.
Last season saw Oakland manager Bob Melvin make the curious decision to use reliever Liam Hendriks as the opener in the AL Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees. It was a downright failure.
With Syndergaard aboard, this wouldn’t even have been a possibility. He matches up well with the aces other playoff contenders will throw out there.
In the end, we expect Beane to do what’s best for his organization both moving forward this season and over the long-term. But adding Syndergaard would be a coup of epic proportions, potentially turning the A’s into legit World Series contenders.