Oakland Athletics’ Possible Trade Returns For Ben Zobrist


Jul 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Ben Zobrist (18) high fives teammates after scoring a run against the Colorado Rockies during the seventh inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re anything like me, this is the time of year where you are glued to the internet to read all the latest trade rumors. Being an A’s fan, no matter if the team is winning, losing or mediocre, you have a good idea that the team is going to be active at the deadline. This year should be no different, despite the fact that general manager Billy Beane has said top trade targets like Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist are not available. While I believe that Kazmir will be moved whether the team improves before the deadline or not, Zobrist is currently drawing the most trade interest.

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It is easy to see why Zobrist would be drawing plenty of interest. In the form of one player, a team can fill a number of needs. He plays three of the four infield positions effectively as well as both corner outfield positions all while being effective on offense. His versatility is the reason the A’s made the move to acquire him and now other teams have the chance to do the same. While it would be hard for the A’s to trade Zobrist and continue to improve, the return for Zobrist could be the best out of all of their trade chips.

This week’s series with the New York Yankees was the beginning of what will be a media circus for Zobrist until he is either traded or the trade deadline passes. It began now in New York instead of after the All-Star break because both New York teams have shown interest, but they’re not alone. There are rumors that the Chicago Cubs would like to reunite Zobrist with his former manager Joe Maddon and that the Los Angeles Angels have already called about Zobrist and outfielder Josh Reddick. Now with the defending Kansas City Royals losing left fielder Alex Gordon to injury, they too could be added to the mix.

Knowing Beane’s past makes it easy to believe that with this many teams looking to acquire one of his commodities, he will eventually pull the trigger even if the team does turn it around on the field. If he does, though, what could the A’s get in return?

While all five teams have plenty to offer, the New York Mets, Cubs and Angels have been the three teams directly linked to Zobrist. The fact that the Angels have also asked about Reddick means that the A’s might be able to get high ranked starting pitcher like Andrew Heaney or Sean Newcomb in return, along with a lower level prospect or two. It is highly unlikely that the Angels would part with Heaney after three successful starts at the MLB level, but Newcomb is at the high A level. This left hander comes from a small college and has an upside of a front-of-the-rotation starter. You might say that the A’s have an abundance of starting pitching, but you can never have too much starting pitching with the rash of Tommy John outbreaks.

Everyone knows how good the Cubs farm system is, so trading Zobrist to the Cubs is almost a can’t miss. Although it has been clear that the Cubs want Zobrist, it hasn’t been as clear how much they are willing to give up.  Looking at their middle infield depth, it is realistic to believe that the A’s might be able to pry away the Cubs’ top rated middle infielder prospect, Gleyber Torres in exchange for Zobrist.

Torres is only 18-years-old out of Venezuela, but he hit well across rookie ball and low A ball in his first year as a professional. He is currently at A ball with the South Bend Cubs and has continued to hit well with a batting average of .313 and 44 runs batted in. If he can continue to hit well, he could climb through an Oakland system that is weak at the middle infield position besides Joey Wendle and fellow countryman Franklin Barreto who are the only ones blocking Torres’ way to the top. It is hard to go wrong with the Cubs, though, and I would not put it past Beane to reacquire Billy McKinney. If they want to get one of the Cubs’ top prospects, the A’s might not be able to get as many players back in return, but the quality of those players would likely be greater than they can get from any other team.

New York Mets starting pitcher Gabriel Ynoa (63) takes a throw at first base during spring training at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The real deal to strike could be with the New York Mets whose general manager Sandy Alderson has said that he would be willing to overpay for Zobrist because he fits all of their needs. Not only are they willing to overpay, but they are so deep with major-league-ready pitching that they may be willing to trade at least one or a number of their high ranked pitching prospects. Of their top pitching prospects that have yet to reach the major level, the one that seems to fit the A’s mold the most is ranked outside of their top 10 at 11, Gabriel Ynoa. He is in his fifth year in the minors, which could be a red flag, but he is only 22-years-old and known as strike thrower, which is something the A’s love.

With Ynoa being a little lower on the rankings and the Mets being willing to overpay, the A’s could also shoot for one of the two higher ranked outfielders. Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto are ranked second and third in the Mets farm system respectively and both fit Oakland’s mold of hitting well and getting on base. If the A’s can pry away one of those two outfielders and Ynoa or another pitcher in that range, it could be a return that helps keep the A’s relevant for the future.

All of this is speculation and it is still possible that Beane holds onto Zobrist, but any trade for the best utility man in the game could bring back players who will help this team for years to come.

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