With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline just over three weeks away, the Athletics are unsurprisingly in position to sell. At the outset of the season, there were no realistic expectations that the A’s would contend for a playoff spot, and they’ve since stumbled to a 39-49 mark to rank as one of the American League’s worst teams. Along the way, Oakland has lost a couple potential veteran trade candidates in third baseman Trevor Plouffe and catcher Stephen Vogt, both of whom received their walking papers last month and are now in different uniforms. As bleak as things may seem for the A’s, some of their other likely trade chips have turned in encouraging performances this year, and moving those players in the coming weeks could produce returns that benefit the franchise for years to come.
Yonder Alonso, 1B | Salary: $4MM
It was somewhat of a surprise last offseason when the A’s elected to tender a contract to Alonso, who was among the majors’ worst first basemen in 2016. Now, three months into the current campaign, it’s fair to say executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst made a wise decision to stick with Alonso. An underwhelming hitter for most of his career, the 30-year-old has changed to a fly ball-first approach this season and posted a tremendous .278/.374/.569 line across 294 plate appearances. Thanks largely to a 49.5 percent fly ball rate (up from 33.3 percent last year), Alonso has swatted a career-high 20 home runs – two more than he combined for in 1,222 PAs from 2014-16 – and recorded the majors’ eighth-best ISO (.290). There’s clearly a lot to like here, though it’s uncertain how much trade value Alonso will have because of a possible lack of leaguewide demand at first base (granted, the Yankees look like a logical match). If the A’s are unable to net a satisfactory offer for Alonso, perhaps they’ll keep him and try to work out an extension. Both sides have interest in staying together.
Rajai Davis, OF | Salary: $6MM
It’s difficult to imagine the A’s finding a taker for Davis without at least absorbing some of his salary. The 36-year-old is in the midst of a career-worst offensive season, after all, having hit a meek .210/.267/.308 in 244 plate trips. At a cheaper price tag, he could entice a playoff-bound team looking for a late-game threat on the base paths. Davis is one of the greatest baserunners of all-time, per FanGraphs’ BsR metric, and has made effective use of his legs this year with a 3.4 BsR and 15 steals. Although unlikely, perhaps Davis’ wheels will cancel out his less-than-stellar offensive and defensive production (minus-one DRS, minus-12 UZR/150 this season) on the trade market. And hey, the ex-Indian’s not far removed from hitting one of the most memorable home runs in postseason history.
Adam Rosales, UTIL | Salary: $1.25MM
Even though he struck out in 35.5 percent of PAs last year, the then-Padre rode a bloated home run-to-fly rate (21.7 percent) and an 11.7 percent walk rate to a .229/.319/.495 line and a guaranteed contract with the A’s. Unfortunately, Rosales has given back those gains this season (7.4 percent HR-to-FB rate, 4.3 percent walk rate) and continued to strike out over 30 percent of the time. Consequently, the 34-year-old has hit a subpar .233/.271/.347 in 210 tries. But Rosales has offered a passable bat versus left-handed pitching, as he typically has throughout his career, and has the ability to play all over the diamond. At his low salary, then, Rosales could potentially bring back a small return in a trade.
John Axford, RP | Salary: $5.5MM
Good luck dealing the somewhat expensive Axford, who has pitched to a woeful 5.95 ERA over 19 2/3 innings this season. To his credit, the 34-year-old Axford is running appealing strikeout (9.15 K/9) and ground-ball rates (54.1 percent). However, the former Milwaukee closer has cancelled out the positives with control problems (6.41 BB/9) and issues keeping the ball in the park (21.4 percent HR-to-FB rate).
Controlled Through 2018
Ryan Madson, RP | Salary: $7.5MM in both 2017 and ’18
After a mediocre 2016 in Oakland, his first year with the club, Madson has rebounded to resemble the reliever who was a significant asset in both Philadelphia and Kansas City earlier in his career. Across 35 2/3 frames, the hard-throwing, 36-year-old right-hander has notched a 2.27 ERA with 8.58 K/9 and 1.51 BB/9. Moreover, Madson owns impressive ground-ball and infield pop-up rates of 56.2 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively. In sum, he’s striking out hitters at a decent clip while limiting walks and rarely yielding threatening contact. Pitchers who can do those things simultaneously are valuable commodities, and bullpen-needy contenders have taken notice of Madson’s success this season.
Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS/3B | Salary: $6.5MM in 2017; $6MM club option (or $1MM buyout) in 2018
Health problems, including poor sleep (via FanGraphs’ Eno Sarris), derailed Lowrie in recent seasons. But the 33-year-old is enjoying a career renaissance in 2017, having logged a .282/.350/.464 line and nine homers in 354 PAs. As a result, there’s interest in Lowrie, whom the A’s seem likely to part with in an effort to open up a spot in the middle infield for well-regarded prospect Franklin Barreto.
Santiago Casilla, RP | Salary: $4.5MM in 2017; $5.5MM in 2018
In his first year back with the A’s, with whom the closer formerly known as Jairo Garcia pitched from 2004-09, Casilla has saved 15 of 19 opportunities and registered a so-so 3.82 ERA over 33 innings. There are some troubling signs that have contributed to the ex-Giant’s mediocre run prevention, including a K/9 that has fallen from 10.09 last season to 8.18 this year, a plummeting grounder rate (40.8 percent, compared to 47.6 percent in 2016) and a decline in infield flies (a still-respectable 10.8 percent; the righty was at 13.2 percent a year ago). Despite his unexciting production and advanced age (37 later this month), Casilla still looks both inexpensive enough and decent enough to generate looks in the coming weeks.
Matt Joyce, OF | Salary: $5MM in 2017; $6MM in 2018
The 32-year-old is in the middle of a typical season relative to his career, having mixed an adequate left-handed bat (.219/.330/.406 with 11 HRs and a 13.8 percent walk rate in 297 PAs) with unspectacular outfield defense (minus-three DRS, minus-9.2 UZR/150). Joyce offers an affordable but bland skill set, one that probably won’t have playoff hopefuls beating down the A’s door for him leading up to the deadline.
Sonny Gray, SP | Salary: $3.575MM in 2017; arbitration eligible through 2019
As the crown jewel of Oakland’s trade candidates, Gray has frequently graced MLBTR’s pages in recent weeks and will continue to be a popular name on this site as the deadline nears. The likelihood is that the A’s will soon say goodbye to the 27-year-old Gray, who has put a rough, injury-laden 2016 behind him to post a 4.00 ERA (3.58 FIP) with 8.47 K/9 and 2.86 BB/9 through 78 2/3 innings. Gray’s strikeout and walk numbers are the best they’ve been since his outstanding debut in 2013, and he has complemented those figures with career-best chase, contact and swinging-strike rates (11.5 percent) – not to mention a 55.3 percent ground-ball mark. Add all of that to Gray’s affordable team control, and it’s clear someone is going to pay a high price for him. In case you missed it, MLBTR’s Steve Adams deftly laid out plausible fits for Gray on June 30.
Khris Davis, LF/DH | Salary: $5MM in 2017; arbitration eligible through 2019
Contrary to Gray, there’s no talk of Davis going anywhere. Additionally, the righty-swinger has made it clear that he’d like to be an Athletic for the long haul. The Beane-led franchise has made surprising deals in the past, though, and bear in mind that Davis is a soon-to-be 30-year-old whose price tag will continue to rise in the arbitration process. There’s an outside chance those factors could make him a candidate to switch teams soon, as the A’s don’t look close to contention and aren’t exactly big spenders. Arbitration rewards players who hit homers, drive in runs and accrue PAs – all things Davis has done since he joined the A’s prior to last year. The former Brewer has already smashed 24 dingers and racked up 60 RBI in 364 PAs this year, giving him a shot at his second straight 40-HR, 100-RBI season, and his overall line (.246/.335/.517) is terrific. An on-the-block Davis would probably garner a fair amount of attention, but whether the A’s would be receptive to giving him up is unknown.
Sean Doolittle, RP | Salary: $2.6MM in 2017; $4.35MM in 2018; club options with $500K buyouts in 2019 ($6MM) and 2020 ($6.5MM)
Shoulder issues have hampered Doolittle in recent seasons, but there’s no doubt he’s among the game’s most formidable left-handed relievers when he’s able to take the mound. While Doolittle has only eaten 19 1/3 innings this season, the 30-year-old has done plenty with them, having put up a 3.72 ERA (2.58 FIP) with all-world strikeout and walk rates (13.03 K/9 and .93 BB/9). Among relievers who have thrown at least 10 innings – a very small sample, granted – Doolittle ranks third in K/BB ratio. He has also induced infield pop-ups on a ridiculous 23.8 percent of batted balls, thereby offsetting a low grounder rate (35.7 percent). Doolittle’s past arm troubles have likely dented his trade value somewhat, but his effective pitching/palatable contract combination should warrant a quality return if the A’s decide to go in another direction.
Liam Hendriks, RP | Salary: $1.1MM in 2017; arbitration eligible through 2019
Hendriks prevented runs with aplomb as a Blue Jay and Athletic from 2015-16, though his ERA has spiked from 3.34 over that 129 1/3-inning period to 5.40 across 36 2/3 frames this year. If you look beyond that, though, there’s a desirable, hard-throwing reliever here. Like Doolittle, the 28-year-old Hendriks has posted a superb K/9 (12.03, with a playable 3.44 BB/9), adding a career-best swinging-strike mark (12.8 percent) and a decent grounder rate (45.5 percent). Hendriks’ .351 batting average on balls in play, 65.2 percent strand rate and 13.9 percent homer-to-fly ball rate are largely to blame for his bloated ERA, which shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to all playoff contenders in search of bullpen help. The righty has usually been a capable option against both same- and opposite-handed hitters, which, combined with his low salary and team control, ought to have him on clubs’ radars.