Examining the Trade Values of Oakland’s Trade Chips
This post is entirely inspired by a solid piece on USS Mariner where their team investigated the Mariners’ trade pieces and their values on the market. While their list was four players long, Oakland’s for better or for worse will be much lengthier, so let’s dive in head first:
Coco Crisp – Coco is perhaps Oakland’s most valuable trade piece. While he, like every A’s position player it’d seem, has had a down season from his past production, he is a good solid major league ballplayer. His affordable contract expires at the end of this season meaning he would be a two-month rental for any club acquiring him. In his 1.7 WAR season thus far, he has posted a .267/.314/.393 slash line, poor numbers for a top of the order hitter which is where the A’s have used him for most of this year prior to the emergence of Jemile Weeks. That said his four home runs don’t make him a middle of the order option for most contenders either. He sets himself apart with his speed, and has 26 stolen bases on the year, though when that is coupled with his nine caught stealings we see his steals are just under the 75% threshold where they are a net plus (74.3%). That said he keeps opposing pitchers on their toes, and his running game can serve as a distraction. While historically he has been a good fielder – with a very noted weak arm that allows runners to run wild on him – he has been a -0.8 UZR/150 fielder in center for the A’s in 2011. Demand should be high for teams looking to add a little pop to center field however top flight prospects won’t come back in return.
Josh Willingham – Willingham is like many other Athletics (and this will be a theme) having a career worst year. He has been a 0.3 WAR left fielder, and while he paces the A’s with eleven home runs, and while left field has been a weak position throughout the major leagues, he hasn’t set himself apart from the crowd with a middling .241/.311/.424 slash line. His contract expires following this season, and any club looking to acquire him may balk at his achilles which put him on the disapled list prior the all star break. Demand is likely high due to the dearth of left-fielders this year, but again the haul in return will be light.
David DeJesus – Another Athletic with a career worst year, and perhaps he is more off the pace than anyone else. One of the key targets at last year’s deadline, this year the demand for DeJesus will be nowhere near that level. DeJesus has put up a 0.2 WAR year, with a .220/.310/.333 slash line well off the pace of his .284/.357/.420 mark. He has been completely unable to hit LHPs with a .123/.158/.123 slash line so some clubs may only view him as a platoon player now despite his .265/.329/.360 career mark against southpaws. DeJesus has really hurt his value with his poor play even leading both Bob Geren and Bob Melvin to use him in a “part-time plus” type role. It is unclear what level of demand there will be for DeJesus, who many people must overlooking at this point, a team could use him as a valuable back-up piece, though if I were Oakland I would try to lock him up at this low point in his value and hope he regains his old form.
Kurt Suzuki – While Zuk is signed well past 2011 unlike the other players mentioned – his contract runs through 2013 with an option for 2014, he is perhaps the most valuable trading piece offensively that the A’s have. This has absolutely nothing to do with his performance, but everything to do with his position. Suzuki has been posting poorer seasons year-over-year every year he has been a pro, and this year is no exception as his 1.1 WAR will attest. He his hitting a weak .225/.291/.342 this year, with seven home runs. The reason Suzuki holds value is he is locked up relatively cheaply, is a fair defensive catcher, and there just aren’t many good catchers available and high revenue clubs who are looking for help behind the backstop (Boston and San Francisco most easily noted. The scarcity and the fact that Zuk is locked up, could yield a better return than some of the other players, but his poor production will lessen his worth, if the A’s do deal him they will need to find a team willing to overpay – which close to the July 31st deadline, they just might.
Grant Balfour – Balfour has been a very good set-up man to both Brian Fuentes and Andrew Bailey, overshadowing the former, and to a degree the latter as well this season. Balfour is signed through 2012 with an option for 2013 so a team acquiring him would have more than just a few month rental. He has been worth 0.4 WAR, with a very good 9.6 K/9, though coupled with a somewhat wild 3.9 BB/9 all adding up to a 2.34 ERA and 3.25 FIP. Balfour should have a lot of value for clubs looking to shore up their bullpens for a pennant push, and Billy Beane has demonstrated in the past that he feels relievers are an overvalued commodity – furthermore a strong relief corps is of little concern to a non-contender. This could be more of a referendum on how Beane feels about the A’s chances in 2012 and beyond if Balfour does in fact stay put. That all said, while his value will be high, there are many right-handed relievers on the market, so clubs looking to add a RHP relief pitcher will find many players they can slot in there such as Mike Adams of the Padres. It will be interesting to see how much Balfour could net in a trade.
Brian Fuentes – Fuentes has had a tumultuous year in his first season in the East Bay. He began the mutiny that likely pushed Geren out the door, he was the interim closer, he has been terribly misused all year, so it will be interesting to see how everything with him plays out. The Merced native, like Balfour is signed through 2012 with an option for 2013. While left-handed pitchers tend to have great value, Fuentes’ inconsistency will hurt any trade value he has despite a weak market for LHPs. His baseball card stats are ugly, 1-8 with a 4.82 ERA, but he has been a victim of a terrible strand rate (57.9%) aiding in creating that terrible ERA. While his strikeout rate is down (7.0 K/9, versus a 9.6 K/9 career rate) he hasn’t been as bad as everything would suggest (3.98 FIP). Given his more expensive contract and his less than stellar results, his value will be low – that said there are always teams looking for left-handed pitching and several contenders may be willing to overpay (namely, the New York Yankees) for the four-time All Star.
Michael Wuertz – Like Balfour, Wuertz is a good right-handed reliever who could have value to a contender. Wuertz has been noted for his incredible whiff rate on his very tough slider and that whiff rate is also notably down this year at 16.4% compared to 25.4% from 2009-2010. Despite that he has very impressive numbers, 8.0 K/9 and a 2.67 ERA. While he has some scary numbers – a 4.7 BB/9 – he is adept at securing the groundball (49.3%) and his FIP is a decent 3.70. Wuertz who has a club option for 2012 of $3.25M could be a good addition for numerous clubs seeking bullpen help who plan on contending not just in 2011 but also in 2012. Given the plethora of quality-right handed relievers his trade value may be dampened due to a lack of scarcity on the marketplace.
Craig Breslow – Breslow is under team control for 2012 but the southpaw is a much cheaper alternative, and a better pitcher at that, than someone like Fuentes. The “smartest man in baseball” has quietly put together a solid 0.3 WAR season, with a 3.06 ERA and 3.17 FIP. He doesn’t suffer from severe splits like many a lefty reliever, and his 7.2 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 are solid numbers. He doesn’t have the cache of all star appearances like Fuentes, but he does have the very strong benefit of being cheap, under club control and good. Breslow, while not a big name, could be a worthwhile chip and get the A’s back a mid-level prospect.
Andrew Bailey – While he is an unlikely trade candidate, and in fairness would be an unpopular person to trade with the A’s fanbase, he could potentially yield a relatively good return. His injury concerns will diminish some value so he might be a better offseason trade candidate, but Bailey in limited action this year has put up 0.4 WAR, he has had a solid 7.8 K/9 (a little more than 1K less than his 8.9 K/9 career mark) with a good 1.8 BB/9. He has benefited from a great .205 BABIP but hurt by a low 66.0% strand rate. In the end it all evens out to a very good 2.40 ERA, and 2.69 FIP. While most contenders look to have the backend of their bullpens locked down, Bailey could be an interesting option should someone go down unexpectedly due to injury – though many teams have clear options in their middle relief who could step into the closer role. Beane has been known to swing a big deal if it makes itself available, expect an overpay to have him move Bailey.
There are other players who could conceivably be dealt, Rich Harden who is signed to a one-year deal could be moved but there is very little reason to see why any club would run out and grab him at this point. Brandon McCarthy could be appealing to many clubs but given his being under team control for 2012 there is no reason for Beane to move a man who is presently the most valuable starter in the A’s rotation. Conor Jackson in the last year of his contract wouldn’t hold much value to see him being moved, and the same can be said of Kevin Kouzmanoff currently plying his trade for the River Cats of Sacramento. In conclusion, the A’s have the pieces to trade, but don’t expect a huge haul in return as the A’s have a lot of spare parts to sell and their best offerings all come from the bullpen which tends not to yield many high prospects in return.