7:39pm: Jon Heyman of the MLB Network tweets that rival teams don’t view it as an inevitability that the A’s trade either of Manaea or Montas. Heyman concurs Manaea seems likelier to find himself on the move than Montas but suggests it’s possible Oakland just carries both starters on its Opening Day roster.
2:39pm: It’s been a week since the Athletics’ last trade, which sent third baseman Matt Chapman to the Blue Jays in exchange for a package of four prospects. After the A’s shipped out Chris Bassitt, Matt Olson and Chapman within just a week of the lockout lifting, the expectation was that additional moves would follow.
That’s still likely to be the case, although the pace has slowed. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that Oakland’s current focus is on finding a trade partner for lefty Sean Manaea. While the general expectation has been that both Manaea and right-hander Frankie Montas will be moved, Rosenthal suggests the A’s are still still “deciding how to proceed” with Montas.
It’s only logical that for the time being, moving Manaea is the team’s bigger priority. Not only is the 30-year-old Manaea the more expensive of the two arbitration-eligible hurlers — Manaea settled on a $9.75MM salary yesterday, compared to Montas’ $5.025MM settlement — he’s also set to reach free agency after the 2022 season. Montas, meanwhile, is controlled through 2023, so the A’s could conceivably open the season with him in the rotation and shop him at the summer trade deadline, when buyers may have more urgency than they do at the moment.
Of course, the other side of that equation is that there could also be a broader supply of arms available to pitching-hungry clubs in July. At present, Manaea and Montas are the two most available starters on a trade market that still has plenty of clubs looking for arms. The Twins, Royals, Yankees, White Sox, Rays and Tigers have all reportedly spoken to the A’s about potential deals in the past week or so, and other clubs have surely done so more quietly. Oakland’s bargaining power only increased when Reds GM Nick Krall publicly declared that he did not expect to trade either Luis Castillo or Tyler Mahle, both of whom had been drawing substantial trade interest themselves.
With Castillo and Mahle ostensibly off the market and few other teams dangling proven big league starters, the A’s have plenty of negotiating leverage. Fast forward to this July, and there may be teams with enhanced motivation to buy — but there will also unquestionably be more arms available in trade. Clubs with current designs on contending will fall out of the playoff picture and look to move short-term assets.
Manaea, the No. 34 overall draft pick back in 2013, is a rental for the 2022 season but a good one. He tied for 22nd in MLB with 179 1/3 innings pitched in a 2021 campaign that saw many clubs aggressively monitor pitcher workloads on the heels of the shortened 2020 schedule. Since returning from shoulder surgery late in the 2019 season, he’s tallied 263 innings of 3.73 ERA ball (3.64 FIP, 3.78 SIERA) with a solid 24.8% strikeout rate and an excellent 5.2% walk rate. As a Boras Corporation client who’s just a year from free agency, Manaea might not be a likely extension candidate for a new team, but he’d bolster nearly any of the other 29 rotations in Major League Baseball.
Montas and Manaea aren’t the only two trade candidates remaining on Oakland’s roster, however. Center fielder Ramon Laureano and reliever Lou Trivino have both been listed as possible trade chips. Laureano, in particular, has been a target for the Marlins at times this winter, according to Craig Mish and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The Fish have made no secret of their desire to add a center fielder, and while their interest in Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds is well-known by now, Mish and Jackson report that Miami actually had more serious negotiations with the A’s about Laureano than they did with Pittsburgh about Reynolds.
The two teams discussed myriad scenarios, one of which would’ve sent Laureano and a reliever to Miami. Outfield prospect JJ Bleday was of particular interest to the A’s, per the Herald report — although there surely would have been several other pieces going back to Oakland, particularly if the A’s were to include Trivino or another reliever in the deal. Those talks didn’t culminate in a deal, however, and the Marlins have since deepened their outfield mix with another corner option: Jorge Soler. It’s still feasible that they could rekindle talks, even if they’re presently dormant. Longtime Marlins beat writer Joe Frisaro wrote just this morning that the Fish haven’t closed the door on circling back to the trade market to make one more attempt at finding a new a center fielder.
As things stand, the A’s have just under $59MM on the books for the 2022 season. Their trades of Bassitt, Olson and Chapman have already netted them ten young players: right-hander J.T. Ginn, right-hander Adam Oller, center fielder Cristian Pache, catcher Shea Langeliers, right-hander Ryan Cusick, right-hander Joey Estes, right-hander Gunnar Hoglund, shortstop Kevin Smith, left-hander Zach Logue and left-hander Kirby Snead.