The Oakland Athletics desperately need starting pitching. Yet, it might make sense to trade some away to add starters.
After putting together a makeshift rotation in 2018, including Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson, the Oakland Athletics miraculously made the playoffs. As injuries surmount, the A’s face a dearth of starting pitching heading into Spring Training.
Despite this, Billy Beane faces a dilemma: Five of the six starters who are currently not injured are unable to be optioned to AAA, leaving a slumping starter on the major league roster for a team that is ready to contend. For the Athletics, trading one or more of these starters may allow for greater flexibility during their playoff push.
Mike Fiers will be the A’s likely Opening Day starter, and the least concerning for A’s fans in terms of productivity and consistency. Daniel Mengden is the most consistent of the five remaining starters, and likely will be a lock to make the rotation. Aaron Brooks is unlikely to make the rotation, and with no options remaining, will likely be cut. That leaves two pieces left who must stay in the majors or be subject to waivers: Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt.
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Montas was serviceable last season, with a 3.88 ERA and improvements from his 2017 campaign in ERA+, FIP, HR/9, and WHIP, among others. Despite improvement, his performance was still not stellar. His WHIP sat at 1.462, his K/9 dropped by four, and his RA9 sat nearly a whole point above his ERA. These stats prove worrisome, and a poor start to 2019 could push back the A’s chances of making the postseason again.
Bassitt was another pitcher who made strides toward success in 2018. He lowered his ERA over three points to 3.02 and brought his WHIP to 1.382, both career bests. His K/9 rose up to 7.4, but his BB/9 ballooned 1.4 points compared to 2017. Bassitt has shown to be a fairly inconsistent pitcher throughout his career, and may cost the A’s more games than he would win.
So what do the A’s do?
Spring Training will have a significant impact on the futures of Bassitt and Montas. Should one (or both) fluster, it may be their ticket out of Oakland. However, both players have upside (shown by their improving numbers) that a non-contending team may be willing to take a gamble on. In exchange, the A’s could pick up a starter who has options left. Think Ryan Borucki of Toronto, Brad Keller of the Royals or Lucas Giolito of the White Sox.
Dereck Rodriguez of the Giants could be another option if the front office is willing to include a prospect or two. Each player provides solid upside that would benefit from moving to a pitcher’s park in Oakland. The departure of Montas and/or Bassitt would also provide a path for top prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk to slot into the rotation sometime in 2019.
The Oakland Athletics need starting pitching to compete in 2019. However, their best bet may be to move some arms in order to allow slumping pitchers a ticket out of the rotation.