Athletics fans are entering the 2016 offseason uneasy because it was in November 2014 that Beane famously traded away the untouchable Josh Donaldson. Naturally, we have worried that Gray might be next on the list of Beane’s unbelievable trade candidates.
Beane sounded like he put that trade worry to rest when talking to Peter Gammons on Wednesday, though. Gammons quoted Beane on the record as saying, “Trading Gray is not something I think we could do … We should have good pitching, with Gray, Jarrod Parker, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, maybe Sean Manaea during the season. I just cannot see us trading Gray or Reddick.”
Although the probability of a Gray trade was a longshot, this quote may be more telling because of who isn’t on that list. Sean Nolin, A.J. Griffin, and Jesse Chavez are all left off of what Beane appeared to codify as the Athletics’ 2016 rotation, and this has several implications for the offseason.
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This could mean that Gray is not the right person to focus on as a trade piece. Any of the three starters left off of that list are now potential trade candidates. It is worth asking what kind of bullpen or left field help that Nolin, Griffin, and Chavez are worth. It is also worth noting that Beane may be planning to depart from the habit he has had of netting a starting rotation piece like he did with Scott Kazmir in 2013 and Hahn in 2014.
Chavez was worth a win and a half more than a replacement level player in 2015, and has shown versatility as an effective reliever that can start from time to time. Griffin was worth over two wins in both 2012 and 2013, and could be attractive to a club willing to take a chance on a comeback player after missing two seasons. And Nolin has not had much Major League time to produce, but he is full of potential and could garner interest from teams interested in having a young starter under club control for several years.
The Athletics’ most obvious need is bullpen strength, so look for Beane to use these pieces to court a team like the Cleveland Indians. They have had trouble solidifying a back-end starter, with the Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer projects ending in relegation to the bullpen. But Terry Francona’s bullpen performed second best in the American League in 2015, even after dealing their staple lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Beane may have his eye on a Bryan Shaw or Ryan Webb type reliever.
The Minnesota Twins may also be looking for back-end starting pitching to improve on their 4.14 starting pitching ERA from 2015. Disappointing seasons from Trevor May and Phil Hughes may have put them into a position to be willing to deal somebody like Casey Fien if they get a reliable number five starter in return.
The main takeaway from Beane’s comments is that the Athletics are loaded with starting pitching and starting pitching prospects. They are going to deal some of their pitchers, but it is much more likely that they will be the backups and Triple-A starters. This offseason is going to look a lot different than the winters of recent memory, and everybody will be watching for what kind of return the A’s will get for their excess pitchers.