Oakland Athletics Rumors

Oakland Athletics trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Impact Of Clippard Deal: Beane On A’s, Latest On Zobrist

Earlier today, the Mets added a late-inning relief arm in Tyler Clippard. That move did not come as a major surprise, but it nevertheless created a ripple effect for the two teams involved, as well as the rest of the market.

  • Most notably, perhaps, Athletics GM Billy Beane indicated in his comments on the deal that the team could continue to build up lower-level prospect depth in its summer trades, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports“The Houston Astros have done a really good job of spending the last three or four years really creating a dynamic farm system,” said Beane, “and now they’re starting to reap the rewards of that. If we’re ever going to compete, we’re probably going to have to take a somewhat similar approach and at least make sure we’ve got young players that are coming through the system that will be here for a few years.” Oakland acquired younger players in both the Clippard trade and the earlier swap involving Scott Kazmir, marking something of a departure from the team’s winter moves (to say nothing of its win-now acquisitions last summer).
  • The Mets had been working on a deal with the Athletics that would have delivered not only Tyler Clippard, but also Ben Zobrist, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. But the clubs honed in on the reliever alone after New York went out and got Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mets are out on Zobrist, though adding a pair of versatile pieces in Uribe and Johnson could lessen heir need.
  • Meanwhile, the Mets have clearly positioned themselves as buyers, and are still looking at corner outfield bats. As we also covered in that link, the Athletics seem uninterested in parting with controllable pieces like Josh Reddick — despite their apparent decision to load up on high-ceiling youngsters.
  • Zobrist will likely be the next player dealt away from the A’s, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. She sees the Royals and Nationals as the possible front-runners for his services. Oakland has drawn wide interest in the utility man extraordinaire, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with almost every contender having checked in on him. Joining Kansas City with active interest, per the report, are the PiratesYankees, and Cubs. We’ve heard no shortage of other clubs mentioned in recent weeks as well, as Zobrist’s MLBTR timeline attests.
  • While the Mets are earning plaudits in some circles for adding a quality pen arm without dealing away any top prospects, prospect analysts say that the return for Clippard might be better than many realize. Keith Law of ESPN.com writes that he’d rank Casey Meisner as the organization’s sixth-best prospect, just behind a touted group of names, giving him a #2 starter ceiling. That’s far too much to give up for a few months of a reliever who has not been pitching at an elite level this year, Law argues. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs is not quite as high on Meisner, but still tweets that he sees him as a solid return for Oakland.
  • Clippard becomes the second shoe to drop on the relief market, following the Cardinals’ acquisition of Steve Cishek. Check out MLBTR’s round-up of the relief market. We’ve heard rumblings on star Padres Craig Kimbrel today, and there are plenty of other high-end arms that could change hands.

Outfield Market Notes: Maybin, Reddick, Mets, Angels, Parra, Gomez

Though the Braves have fielded plenty of interest in the revived Cameron Maybin, and have considered moving him, the team now feels it “would need to be blown away with an offer” to make a deal, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Contrary to an earlier report, Bowman adds, an Atlanta source vehemently denied the suggestion that Maybin had been dangled in an earlier effort to add Angel Pagan of the Giants. Maybin, 28, has been one of the game’s best turnaround stories, with his play dramatically altering perceptions of both his contract and the deal that brought him to Atlanta (which was already widely viewed as a Braves win).

Here’s more on the still-developing outfield market, which just saw one move with Shane Victorino heading to the Angels:

  • The Athletics seem unlikely to move outfielder Josh Reddick, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. In his comments after today’s Tyler Clippard trade, GM Billy Beane said that his club is not presently working on deals involving players who are under future control.
  • Despite a trio of acquisitions already completed, the Mets are still looking at a handful of outfield options, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. New York has, of course, just brought up top prospect Michael Conforto with Michael Cuddyer on the DL, but the team also designated John Mayberry Jr. and could use another quality option.
  • A source also tells Marc Carig of Newsday that the Mets are still shopping for outfield bats. Carig notes that the team could wait for asking prices to drop on deadline day.
  • The Angels are also still looking at left-handed hitting outfielders after adding Victorino, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that Jay Bruce (Reds), David Murphy (Indians), and Ben Revere (Phillies) are all still on their radar.
  • Gerardo Parra of the Brewers is also a player that the Angels are interested in, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via Twitter). Heyman breaks down his market, citing the Mets and Orioles as prime suitors (along with the Halos) for the left-handed hitter. There’s also a classic mystery team involved, per the report.
  • Heyman adds that some in the Brewers organization do not believe that Carlos Gomez will end up being dealt. Milwaukee is somewhat hesitant to move an affordable, in-prime player with control remaining.
  • Be sure to check out MLBTR’s Trade Market series for all the most likely outfield trade pieces. We’ve covered both center field candidates as well as corner options.

Mets Acquire Tyler Clippard

5:35pm: New York will receive $1MM in the deal, meaning that they’ll pay Clippard just over $2MM the rest of the way, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post tweets.

5:16pm: The Mets have agreed to a deal that will land them reliever Tyler Clippard from the Athletics, Oakland announced (and as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported on Twitter). Oakland will receive righty Casey Meisner in return, and will also send some cash to New York in the deal.

Jun 25, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Tyler Clippard (36) pitches in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington.  The Athletics beat the Rangers 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Clippard has not delivered the same kind of performance that he did over the previous four seasons in Washington, over which he put up a 2.50 ERA with 10.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. Though the veteran has always outperformed the expectations of ERA estimators, he hasn’t maintained anything near the peripherals he had set as a baseline.

Over his 38 2/3 frames in Oakland, all compiled since coming over in a winter trade for Yunel Escobar, Clippard has seen his strikeout rate drop to 8.8 K/9 while his walk rate has shot up to 4.9 BB/9. His average fastball velocity has not fallen off sharply, but has continued to decline. And Clippard has seen his swinging strike rate fall to 12.4%, below his career average.

That being said, Clippard has still picked up 17 saves and carries a 2.79 ERA over 38 2/3 innings. He’s benefitted from a .214 BABIP-against, but his career rate is a miniscule .234 — a product of the many flyouts he induces. Interestingly, Clippard has seen his infield fly rate drop off significantly (from around 19% over the last two seasons to 11.9% this year). Clippard continues to excel at retiring opposite-handed hitters, which he accomplishes with a devastating change to accompany his typically up-in-the-zone heater.

New York will hope for a more vintage performance from its latest addition. The team is clearly pushing some chips in with hopes of overtaking the Nationals in the NL East. Clippard joins Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson as new acquisitions, and New York may not be done.

As for the return, Meisner is a 20-year-old righty who has reached the High-A level for the first time this year. The 2013 third-rounder stands at 6’7 and has delivered strong results this year, with a 2.35 ERA over 111 minor league frames and 7.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. But those figures — particularly the peripherals — have benefitted from the fact that 76 of those innings came at the Class A level, as Meisner has not maintained them since his promotion.

Oakland has added yet another young piece as it continues to part with veteran assets. The Scott Kazmir trade also returned somewhat lower-level prospects, which could give some indication where GM Billy Beane is headed. Meisner has drawn mixed reviews at times, with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs tweeting that he looks like a back-end starter at best given his difficulty repeating a delivery and mediocre secondary offerings. But ESPN.com’s Keith Law recently mentioned Meisner as a strong sleeper prospect (Insider link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mets Making Progress On Clippard Trade; Other Teams Still In Play

5:12pm: A deal sending Clippard to the Mets is getting “closer,” Heyman tweets.

2:05pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Nationals are still considering a reunion with Clippard.

12:25pm: Ben Zobrist is not involved in these talks, tweets Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, who does hear that the sides are making progress on a deal. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that the Mets have expressed a willingness to send Rafael Montero to Oakland in Zobrist talks, so the two sides have already exchanged names in previous talks. That’s not to say Montero is in play here, just that they’ve talked names in the past, which could be beneficial to these talks.

12:13pm: The Mets are making progress on a trade to acquire Tyler Clippard from the Athletics, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Other teams are still in play, according to the FOX Sports duo, and a deal could come soon. Last night, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a Clippard trade could come as soon as today.

The A’s picked up Clippard in an offseason trade with the Nationals, sending Yunel Escobar to Washington in a one-for-one swap. Clippard hasn’t been as effective with Oakland as he has in previous seasons, though. While his 2.79 ERA is solid on the surface, but his strikeout rate (8.8 K/9), walk rate (4.9 BB/9) and ground-ball rate (20.8 percent) have all gone in the wrong direction this season. He’s benefited from an elevated strand rate and a minuscule .214 BABIP, leading FIP (3.89) to project something far less optimistic in regards to his performance. He’s also posted a career-low homer-to-flyball ratio, causing xFIP to project a more pessimistic 5.31.

Regardless, Clippard does have strong bottom-line results and an excellent track record. He’s posted a 2.63 ERA with 10.4 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 in 393 1/3 innings from 2010-14 working as both a setup man and a closer with the Nationals. He’s owed roughly $3.2MM over the remainder of the season and would give the Mets another arm to slot into the bullpen in the event that they reach the postseason, where Jenrry Mejia is ineligible to pitch due to an 80-game PED suspension.

Royals Interested In Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist

JULY 27: Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are expected to remain in the Ben Zobrist market “until the end,” which adds another versatile target to the list of Royals targets.

Zobrist, unlike Prado, is a rental player that’s eligible for free agency this offseason. He’s a bit more affordable, though, earning $7.5MM this season (of which $2.9MM remains). Zobrist is a better hitter than Prado and comes with the bonus of being a switch-hitter. He’s batting .268/.354/.447 and would be an excellent stopgap for Kansas City until Gordon is healthy enough to return to the lineup. Upon his activation, Zobrist would then be an immediate upgrade over Infante. The Athletics, who have already traded Scott Kazmir and could soon trade Tyler Clippard, are believed to be willing to part with Zobrist as well.

The Royals, it seems, will remain active even after picking up Johnny Cueto from the Reds in what has easily been the largest trade of the summer thus far.

JULY 26: The Royals have interest in Marlins infielder Martin Prado, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets. The 31-year-old Prado recently returned from a shoulder injury and is batting .277/.316/.374 in 308 plate appearances in his first season in Miami. He’s making $11MM this season and next, although the Yankees are paying $3MM of that in each season. Morosi notes that the Royals would need to receive cash from the Marlins in the deal. Whether the Marlins would agree to send any is unclear — another recent report indicated that they weren’t interested in dealing Prado at all.

In any case, the Royals have a good player, Mike Moustakas, at third base, where Prado has played most of this year. But Royals second baseman Omar Infante has mostly struggled, so Prado could potentially help at that position. Also, he can help the Royals in the corner outfield while they wait for Alex Gordon to return from the DL — right fielder Alex Rios has hit just .256/.290/.333 this season.

Athletics Could Trade Clippard As Early As Monday

Tyler Clippard, and not Ben Zobrist, seems likely to be the next Athletics player to be traded, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. That deal could take place soon, perhaps on Monday, with a Zobrist trade coming later. It’s unclear who the Athletics’ trade partner for Clippard will be, although Slusser lists the Nationals, Mets and Yankees as candidates. Clippard has been linked to all three teams in recent reports.

Clippard has posted a 2.79 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in his first season in Oakland. He also has 17 saves, although many potential trade partners would likely use him in a setup capacity anyway. He was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2003 and made his big-league debut with them four years later, and he spent the next seven years pitching in the Nationals bullpen.

Latest On Mets’ Pursuit Of Offense

At least based on reports, the Mets appear to be one of the busier teams as we approach the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Here’s the latest, mostly via FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

  • The Mets tried for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, but they believe Colorado isn’t interested in a trade.
  • The Mets have also looked into utilityman Ben Zobrist and reliever Tyler Clippard of the Athletics, but it appears likely that the Athletics will find better deals for both players, probably in two different trades.
  • New York discussed sending Zack Wheeler to the Reds in a deal for outfielder Jay Bruce, but talks went nowhere. Andy Martino and Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reported yesterday that the Mets had discussed potential Wheeler deals with multiple clubs.
  • The Mets and Brewers have had talks regarding Gerardo Parra, although it appears that there’s enough interest in Parra that the Brewers’ price has increased. That’s consistent with a tweet this afternoon from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, who wrote that the Brewers have had lots of interest in Parra and will have their choice of various offers.
  • The Mets are also interested in Yoenis Cespedes of the Tigers, but so far, they have nothing to show for it, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets.

Latest On Mets Corner Outfield Situation

The Mets were pushing to deal for Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra up until last night, Marc Carig of Newsday reports on Twitter, building upon a prior report from Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). When the deal could not be made, per the reports, the club instead went ahead and promoted Michael Conforto to take the roster spot of the DL’ed Michael Cuddyer. (Note that a team source denies the report to ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin, on Twitter.)

It’s not clear whether the two teams are still in talks, though Mets GM Sandy Alderson made clear earlier today that adding Conforto does not necessarily change the team’s shopping plans (via Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com). “This is not indicative of how aggressive or less aggressive we’re going to be,” Alderson said. “This is somewhat independent.”

Certainly, the equation has not changed much in the interim, so continued talks would seem to make sense. Parra has put up a somewhat uncharacteristically excellent .317/.355/.510 slash this year, creating broad interest in his services. That may not be sustainable, but he’s always been a solid hitter with a top-notch defensive reputation. For the Mets, presumably, Parra would step into the everyday lineup now and serve as an active fourth outfielder once Cuddyer returns.

One other name worth at least watching as the Mets look to get help to a sagging offense is Josh Reddick of the Athletics. Martino says that the club inquired, but was not given the impression that Oakland was too keen to deal him. Reddick fits roughly the same profile as Parra: both have top-regarded gloves, good left-handed bats, and playing at peak form this season. But Reddick has a higher offensive ceiling, is cheaper (in terms of 2015 salary), and comes with another season of control.

It remains to be seen how much flexibility New York truly has in structuring a deal. While insurance money relating to David Wright‘s extended absence won’t free baseball ops resources, Alderson said that the team can take on some salary. (Via Mike Vorkunov of NJ.com, Twitter links.)

Reactions To The Scott Kazmir Trade

Earlier today, the Astros struck the first significant trade of July, landing left-hander Scott Kazmir from the division-rival Athletics in exchange for a pair of prospects — right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham. The addition of Kazmir gives the Astros a pitcher that could potentially slot into the first or second game of a playoff series — a previously stated goal of GM Jeff Luhnow.

Here are some reactions from around the industry to the first major move of this year’s trade season…

  • The addition of Kazmir won’t be the end of the Astros’ attempt to supplement the roster, GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters (via Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle). “We were having multiple conversations and those conversations haven’t necessarily stopped because of this,” said Luhnow. “…This was our top priority, was to get a staring pitcher, and we feel like we got one of the top guys on our list and one of the top guys that’s going to be available and we were able to do it in a timely fashion. We’re going to continue to look at ways to improve the club.”
  • Jane Lee of MLB.com tweets that Athletics GM Billy Beane said the Kazmir talks really took off once the Astros became willing to include Nottingham in the deal.
  • Astros players are happy to have Kazmir in the fold, writes the Houston Chronicle’s Stephanie Kuzydym. Jason Castro, Jake Marisnick, Preston Tucker and fellow pitcher Collin McHugh weighed in with their thoughts on not only being spared from facing Kazmir but benefiting from adding his talent to the Houston roster. Said Castro: “The mix of his stuff, his quality off-speed and his fastballs, the way he attacks hitters, I think he’s the kind of pitcher who forces guys to go after his stuff. That’s what makes him so good.”
  • The Astros “paid dearly” for 10 to 12 starts from Kazmir, opines ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required), who pegs Nottingham as a potential star if he can remain a catcher. Law notes that Nottingham has 70-grade raw power and could eventually develop into a 20 to 25 homer bat behind the plate, though his receiving is fringy. Law feels that Mengden has a chance to be a fourth or fifth starter but notes that he was expendable for Houston, as the club has a number of harder-throwing arms with more upside in its ranks. As for the Astros, they’ll swap out a replacement-level starter (probably Roberto Hernandez) for Kazmir, which Law feels will add an upgrade of at least one win.
  • Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel writes that the return will look light to many people due to the low ranking of Mengden and Nottingham on most preseason prospect lists, but Nottingham was a lock to land among Houston’s Top 10 on a re-worked Astros prospect list following a 2015 breakout. McDaniel feels Nottingham has above-average power and could hit .260 or better in the Majors, making him a candidate to be an everyday catcher, albeit an offensive-minded one. He feels that Mengden has three solid-average pitches and could be a fourth/fifth starter capable of soaking up 180 innings with average results, if everything clicks.
  • MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo weighed in on the trade (video link), noting that Mengden doesn’t “wow” scouts with pure stuff but features a solid four-pitch mix, with his curve and changeup trailing his fastball and slider. Mengden will jump into the Athletics’ Top 20. Nottingham was primed to make a big leap forward from his No. 22 ranking in the Astros’ system, Mayo notes, praising his ability to hit for power and average as well as his improved plate discipline. If Nottingham doesn’t stick behind the plate, Mayo feels he “might have the power profile to fit just fine at first base.”
  • Evaluators now believe there’s a better-than-average chance that Nottingham will stick behind the plate, writes Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America, who notes that Nottingham is moving from an organization that’s big on catch-and-throw receivers to one that hasn’t had a problem employing bat-first options (Stephen Vogt, Derek Norris). Lara-Cinisomo, too, feels that Mengden’s a back-end starter type whose stuff could play up in the bullpen. Kazmir’s ground-ball tendencies make him a fit for Minute Maid Park, he adds, but he short porch in left field won’t do him any favors.
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Blue Jays tried to make a run at Kazmir but found the Athletics’ asking price — said to be one of the team’s top pitching prospects — to be too steep (All Twitter links). Olney also opines that the trade could be worth millions to Kazmir, as if he’d been hit with a qualifying offer, his injury history plus that draft pick compensation may have created a very difficult market for him in free agency.
  • Chris Perry of SB Nation’s Crawfish Boxes writes that while the price paid to acquire Kazmir was steep, the Astros have better positioned themselves to catch the Angels atop the AL West. Mengden’s loss is more tolerable, and while the loss of Nottingham stings, the Astros’ depth allows them the luxury of moving that type of talent to acquire one of the game’s better lefties. Interestingly, Perry wonders if there are already talks of an extension with Kazmir, a Houston native, which would of course could make the trade more palatable for Astros fans.

Astros Acquire Scott Kazmir

Athletics starter Scott Kazmir is headed to the Astros in the year’s first major trade, Oakland has announced. Returning to the A’s in the deal are righty Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham, per the release.

Jun 27, 2015; Oaklandstyle=Trade talks were said to be “heating up” late yesterday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported. She tabbed Houston as the likely suitor, and indeed that has come to fruition.

He’ll return to his home town in the deal. The Astros had previously pursued him in free agency, but he decided to join the A’s on a two-year, $22MM pact. Kazmir will finish that contract with the Astros, and will also pick up a $500K assignment bonus in the process. Because he was acquired in the middle of the year, the Astros won’t be able to extend Kazmir a qualifying offer, which should aid his free agent case.

In Kazmir, the Astros get a top-performing starter to slot into the club’s rotation. Though he has long been dogged by injury questions, any such concerns are much less prevalent in a rental scenario. The 31-year-old, who burst back onto the scene after a long layoff, threw 190 1/3 quality innings last year and has been even better in 2015. He owns a 2.38 ERA over 109 2/3 frames, with 8.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 to go with a 45.9% groundball rate.

ERA estimators view Kazmir more as a mid-three earned run per nine talent, but that’s plenty useful for a Houston rotation that was in need of good innings down the stretch. He’ll join Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh atop the rotation, which also features the sturdy Scott Feldman and youngsters Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said that the acquisition gives his club “one of the deepest rotations in the American League,” adding that he hopes the move makes Houston “a viable force,” as Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweets.

By moving for a short-term piece, Luhnow avoided the need to part with the organization’s highest-rated minor league talent. That could keep some powder dry should the club look to add a bat or other piece. While neither of the pieces going to Oakland have received much hype, though, it’s worth bearing in mind that they come from a deep Houston system and have improved their stock with their 2015 performances. And A’s GM Billy Beane obviously preferred to add the pair rather than attempting to pick up a draft pick by offering Kazmir a qualifying offer after the season.

Mengden, 22, holds the 19th overall spot in MLB.com’s ranking of Astros prospects. A fourth-round pick in 2014, the righty is said to have four pitches with some promise. That could make him a rotation piece down the line, though some view him as a reliever in the long run. Mengden dominated at the Class A level this year, though he’s slowed somewhat since moving up to High-A, with a 5.26 ERA and 8.7 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 over 49 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, in Nottingham, the A’s will add Houston’s 22nd-rated prospect, per MLB.com, which says there are some questions whether he can stick behind the dish. He just earned a call-up to the High-A level, and has put up big numbers as his promising power has turned into production. Over 329 total plate appearances this season, Nottingham owns a .326/.383/.558 slash with 14 home runs. That performance bumped the backstop into the top-ten of Houston’s pre-MLB talent in Baseball America’s mid-season update.

While both acquired players obviously have some real promise, it’s notable that Beane elected for a return of more projectable, far-from-the-majors assets. His offseason moves seemingly focused more on adding talent at or near the major league level. It will certainly be interesting to see whether the club follows suit if (or, more likely, when) it moves some of its other veteran pieces.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Twitter that Kazmir was headed to Houston. Ron Kroichik of the San Francisco Chronicle reported (Twitter links) that a move was afoot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Images.  Post initially published at 12:13pm central time on 7-23-15.