The Athletics have been in trade talks about some of their more prominent arbitration-eligible players, including former All-Star reliever Blake Treinen. As per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link), the Yankees are one of the clubs who have shown interest in a potential deal for the right-hander’s services.
According to MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, Treinen is projected to receive a $7.8MM salary in is final year of arb eligibility before free agency. It isn’t a huge raise from the $6.4MM salary Treinen earned in 2019 after beating the Athletics in an arbitration hearing, though since the A’s are always conscious about payroll limitations, it could be more than the team is willing to spend after Treinen’s performance dropped off last season.
Granted, some level of regression was almost inevitable given the outstanding nature of Treinen’s 2018 work. The righty posted an 0.78 ERA, 51.9% grounder rate, and 4.76 K/BB rate while striking out 100 batters in 80 1/3 innings of work. While there was some batted-ball luck involved, ERA predictors (1.82 FIP, 2.42 xFIP, 2.46 SIERA) still indicated an elite level of performance in Treinen’s first full year as Oakland’s closer.
Things turned sour in 2019, however, as Treinen posted a 4.91 ERA, 42.8% grounder rate, and 1.59 K/BB rate over 58 2/3 innings. As compared to 2018, Treinen had big spikes in his walk rate (2.4 BB/9 to 5.7 BB/9) and homer rate (0.2 HR/9 to 1.4 HR/9), and batters made far more solid contact (.236 xwOBA to .334 xwOBA). Injuries surely played a role, as Treinen missed a couple of weeks due to a shoulder strain and then was shut down in late September after pitching with stress reaction in his back for the better part of a month.
Still, these recent health issues also surely aren’t helpful for the A’s in evaluating whether or not to spend a big chunk of their payroll space on a reliever who pitched at a sub-replacement level last season. Roster Resource projects the A’s at a 2020 payroll of just under $111.3MM, which would be well over the team’s franchise high of approximately $101.4MM at the end of the 2016 season.
While it can be assumed that the Athletics would be open to spending more than usual to take the next step on a roster that has reached the AL Wild Card game in each of the last two years, quite a bit of extra space could be freed up if Oakland were to trade or non-tender Treinen, Jurickson Profar ($5.8MM arb projection) and/or Josh Phegley ($2.2MM). Despite Treinen’s projected salary and his rough 2019, his 2018 performance is fresh enough in teams’ minds that finding a trade partner seems feasible for the A’s before Monday’s non-tender deadline.
It isn’t any surprise that the Yankees are among the teams who have come calling, given their reliance on a loaded bullpen in recent years. If Treinen can find even a middle ground between his 2018 and 2019 numbers, he’d be yet another fearsome addition within New York’s already-strong collection of Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Chad Green, and Tommy Kahnle, not to mention the plethora of other interesting young arms in the mix. In theory, Treinen would be replacing free agent Dellin Betances, though the Yankees already went virtually the entire season without any contributions from Betances during an injury-ravaged year for the right-hander.
Though the Yankees have some payroll concerns of their own in terms of the luxury tax, Treinen’s $7.8MM figure isn’t an overly exorbitant sum, plus some money could be sent back Oakland’s way in the form of another player’s salary. Beyond just a pure salary dump, it would be interesting to see what sort of creative deal could be swung between two clubs that figure to be contending for the American League pennant next season. Billy Beane and Brian Cashman have swung a few interesting trades during their long tenures running their respective front offices, perhaps most notably the July 2017 swap that sent Sonny Gray to New York for a three-prospect package.