Taking Stock of Possible Cubs Trade Partners: Oakland Athletics

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Taking Stock of Possible Cubs Trade Partners: Oakland Athletics

Chicago Cubs

scott kazmir oakland

With the Chicago Cubs likely buyers this year for the first time in the last several Trade Deadlines, we thought it would be appropriate to take a brief look at some of the teams that could become sellers. These teams could present possible fits for the Cubs should they look to improve externally.

Previously: Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Braves.

Possible Seller

Oakland Athletics

Record and Standings

  • Current Record: 41-51 (.446 W%)
  • Projected End of Season Record (PECOTA): 77-85
  • Standings: Last place in AL West, 9.0 games back of second Wild Card

Why They Might Be Sellers

The Oakland Athletics are the last place team in the American League. While only 9.0 games back of the second Wild Card, they’d have to pass a lot of other teams to try their luck at the one game playoff. They’re chances of making the playoffs (4.6% according to BP) may be higher than the other teams we’ve checked in on, but that is not a particularly encouraging number. But most importantly, this team is run by Billy Beane, who is a smart baseball executive. With a team that is far more than likely to be watching baseball in October than playing it, Beane will be sure to extract whatever value he can from players that will not be around when he needs them next.

How Soon They Could Be Ready to Sell

How soon the A’s decide to sell has more to do with which player is in question, than anything else. While it’s *possible* the A’s will see how well they do out of the All-Star break, I doubt they hold on to many of their expiring contracts come August 1. So, if you’re asking about Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard or Ben Zobrist, the answer is now. If it’s about someone like Josh Reddick, though, who they have control over for another year, they might wait and see.

Realistically Available Players That Might Interest the Cubs

  • Scott Kazmir
    • Position: Starting Pitcher
    • Bats/Throws: L/L
    • Age: 31
    • Contract: $11M in 2015, plus $0.5M if traded
    • 2015 Stats: 101.1 IP, 2.49 ERA (3.50 xFIP), .265 BABIP, 15.0 K-BB%, 1.9 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here, here, here, here and here… and that’s just from June 1 on.
  • Tyler Clippard
    • Position: Reliever/Closer
    • Bats/Throws: R/R
    • Age: 30
    • Contract: $8.3M in 2015
    • 2015 Stats: 37 IP, 2.43 ERA (5.09 xFIP), .202 BABIP, 10.9 K-BB%, 0.3 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here, here and briefly here.
  • Josh Reddick
    • Position: Outfielder
    • Bats/Throws: L/R
    • Age: 28
    • Contract: $4.1M in 2015, arbitration eligible for 2016, free agent after end of 2016 season
    • 2015 Stats: 333 PAs, .287/.343/.455, .295 BABIP, 8.1 BB%, 10.8 K%, 2.3 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Briefly here.
  • Ben Zobrist
    • Position: 2B/OF/Everywhere
    • Bats/Throws: B/R
    • Age: 34
    • Contract: $7.5M in 2015
    • 2015 Stats: 234 PAs, .261/.346/.429, .268 BABIP, 12.0 BB%, 9.4 K%, 0.7 WAR
    • Recent Rumors/News on Bleacher Nation: Here, here and here.

Overall Fit with Cubs

I had considered including Sonny Gray in this conversation, but frankly, decided to omit him because it is just too unrealistic. I would love nothing more than to eat my words, but there just isn’t a really good reason to trade one of the absolute best, young starting pitchers in baseball. His traditional and advanced numbers paint the picture of a young gun that could help any team in baseball, whether they are rebuilding, retooling or selling out for the World Series. It’s not going to happen, but, if it did, I’m not even sure we’d be comfortable with what the Cubs would have to give up.

Other than that, though, the Oakland Athletics feel like something of a one-stop-shop for the Chicago Cubs, don’t they? They have a solid, though not spectacular (re: expensive to acquire) starting pitcher at the end of his contract, a back-end reliever who’s been consistently good over the past few years (also at the end of his contract), an outfielder with more than a year of control left (who could help out beyond 2015), and an all-around good baseball player who has been consistent and versatile for his entire career (who is also at the end of his contract and familiar with Joe Maddon). Frankly, the Cubs could probably use all four of these guys – these teams did get together on a pretty unorthodox trade last year, so it’s not as though a bigger deal (not all four, of course) is out of the question.

The interesting story between these two front offices, though, is their equally matched player preferences and intelligence. Both Billy Beane and Theo Epstein (and Jed Hoyer) are/were early adopters of advanced metrics and generally seems to value players quite differently than some other front offices do. This can make matching up on a particular set of players easier in some respects (Beane may understand why someone like Mark Zagunis or Dan Vogelbach has more value than meets the eye) but more difficult in other respects (Epstein won’t be able to sneak any guys that appear more valuable (traditionally) into a deal).

Mostly, I see a deal for Kazmir and/or Zobrist as more likely than Clippard and/or Reddick. The Cubs reportedly tried to trade for Zobrist this past offseason and have been connected to Kazmir all season long. Clippard, despite good results, has a shockingly high 5.09 xFIP in 2015, which I’m not quite sure what to make of. It’s possible that one front office might point to the results and the other to the peripherals – making a value proposition too difficult. Reddick, then, still has another year of control left and is still quite young. I can see Beane being comfortable keeping Reddick on his roster as he heads into the 2015-2016 offseason, to see how he can retool.

On that final point: you might not see a straight player for prospect swap between these two teams. The A’s aren’t really that bad (BP’s adjusted standings indicates that the A’s are probably about 11 games better than their record, in terms of true talent level) or particularly old. For at least two years (and honestly, many more than that), Beane has avoided a complete rebuild through creativity. While that might not necessarily mean a trade must include players on the Cubs’ 25 man roster, it could mean including guys that are just on the cusp of the Major Leagues.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami