The Royals and Tigers have “shown interest” in A’s utilityman Jorge Mateo, reports Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. Other clubs, too, have seemingly checked in, although one A’s source tells Rosenthal overall interest in the 24-year-old is “tepid.”
Mateo hit a decent .289/.330/.504 with 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases in Triple-A in 2019. That marked a significant step up from his abysmal showing there the year prior. He’s in the mix with Franklin Barreto, Vimael Machin and Tony Kemp for the seemingly wide open second base job in Oakland. There’s some upside in that group, but none of the players involved are yet established. More challenging, it’s not a group that comes with a ton of roster flexibility.
Mateo, Barreto and Kemp are out of minor-league options, meaning each has to make the active roster or be exposed to waivers. Machin, meanwhile, is a Rule V pick; he, too, must spend the entire season on the 26-man or be exposed to waivers (and if unclaimed, offered back to the Cubs’ organization).
It’s difficult to imagine a situation in which all of Mateo, Barreto, Machin and Kemp make the season-opening roster. There’s little reason not to explore the trade market for whomever the front office isn’t comfortable with making the roster.
Mateo and Barreto, also 24, would figure to draw some interest. Each was once a highly-touted prospect with youth still on his side. Neither has a strong MLB track record- Mateo has yet to reach the majors at all- but there are likely teams intrigued by their physical tools and generally solid minor-league performances.
The Royals and Tigers each seem like sensible matches if the A’s were to part with Mateo (or Barreto for that matter, although there’s no indication either team has expressed interest in him). Unlike Oakland, neither K.C. nor Detroit has much of a chance of contending for a playoff spot in 2020. There’d be limited harm in giving Mateo an extended MLB look in hopes he can make good on his past prospect status. He wouldn’t fetch nearly as much in trade as he would’ve a few years ago, but it’s not hard to imagine the A’s extracting something of value, whether from the Tigers, Royals, or another organization.
Notably, the Tigers have season-opening waiver priority leaguewide. (They’re followed by the Orioles, Marlins, then the Royals). If Oakland can’t come to an agreement on a trade but decides not to carry Mateo on the season-opening roster, Detroit would have first crack at him on waivers. That could inspire some urgency on Kansas City’s part to make a deal, depending on the extent of their interest in the speedster.