At 59-47, the A’s sit right in the thick of a crowded AL Wild Card race. They already signaled their willingness to upgrade the 2019 roster by bolstering their bullpen, but the team is at least considering much bigger targets than Jake Diekman. Per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the club has made inquiries on Mets’ starters Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler. Slusser notes that the A’s have also reached out to the Tigers to inquire about Shane Greene.
The trade candidacies of all three hurlers have been discussed ad nauseum in recent days. Syndergaard’s is the most fascinating of the trio, as we’ve heard conflicting reports on how determined the New York front office is to move him and head-scratching ideas of a three-team trade that would net the Mets Marcus Stroman, with the Wilpons’ questionable willingness to approve any Thor deal lurking in the background. It’s clear the fireballer would have a broad market if the Mets decide to make him available. While his 4.33 ERA this season is higher than average, his peripherals paint the picture of at least a solid mid-rotation starter. On top of that, Syndergaard comes with two and a half years of team control, a pre-2019 track record of dominance and still-overpowering stuff.
The cases of Wheeler and Greene are more straightforward. Wheeler’s a pending free agent on a non-contending club, so it’s no surprise to see his name being bandied about. While we’ve heard some speculation the Mets could pursue a Wheeler extension in hopes of contending in 2020, he still looks to be one of the more likely trade candidates in baseball. After all, even if the Mets do flip Wheeler, there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t reengage with his representatives on a long-term deal after he hits free agency.
Wheeler would immediately vault to the front of another patchwork A’s rotation, potentially giving them an arm they’d feel comfortable deploying in the AL Wild Card game if they secure a spot. On the other hand, it’s arguable the club should pursue a more moderate starting pitching upgrade, rather than pushing in for perhaps the game’s top rental trade candidate when any hope of winning the division has all but evaporated.
The bullpen doesn’t stand out as a particular area of weakness for Oakland, especially after yesterday’s acquisition of Diekman. A’s relievers rank in the top five in park-adjusted ERA and FIP, making it one of the game’s strongest units. That said, stockpiling bullpen depth could be an alternative to paying a premium for a starter, and it’s worth noting the club bullpened its way through last season’s Wild Card game, which they may be inclined to try again if they get there. (Of course, they lost that game, but one loss doesn’t mean the front office should or will abandon the strategy). Greene’s 1.22 ERA in 2019 is not sustainable, but he’s having a good season no matter which metric you examine and comes with an additional year of team control via arbitration. Nearly every contender figures to check in on the top relievers on the trade market, so it’s unsurprising to hear Oakland continuing to poke around on that market.
Oakland’s top-heavy farm system could make a Wheeler or Greene trade a bit more complicated than would appear at first glance. While any Syndergaard trade would presumably include one of A.J. Puk, Jesus Luzardo, or Sean Murphy, those names would almost certainly be off the table in any trade for a rental or non-elite reliever. To acquire Wheeler or Greene, the A’s would seemingly need to package lower-tier prospects of interest to the Mets or Tigers, respectively, which could make finding a centerpiece of a deal challenging. That’s not to say the A’s couldn’t meet the asking price on either player- they certainly could- but swinging a deal would likely involve multiple low-level pieces not currently among the game’s top 100 prospects.