While some of the country focuses on a runoff Tuesday, A’s fans will split their focus to watch the equivalent of a bunch of balls popping around in a lottery maker. About 1/6 of the time, it ends gloriously with the A’s parlaying the 2nd worst record into the 1st overall pick. About 1/6 of the time it ends anti-climactically with Oakland getting the #2 pick they would have gotten with the old system. And 2/3 of the time, the A’s are hosed into picking lower than their record would suggest.
But next week isn’t just “baseball draft lottery” week. It’s also the Winter Meetings, an event in which the A’s are always a prom king or queen. You see this time of year, other teams’ fans are drooling over the idea of signing Jacob DeGrom or acquiring Sean Murphy (you may have heard of him), but in Oakland we turn our salivary glands to prospects the front office might target by dangling players who are actually known to be good.
This brings us back to Sean Murphy, a “belle of the ball” sure to attract interesting offers from myriad teams. (Murphy’s value, according to Baseball Trade Values, is 51.3.) The Cleveland Guardians, St. Louis Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Rays have already been linked to the A’s catcher, while whispers of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, and Boston Red Sox have also surfaced even though the two-way fit is less clear.
How exciting that the worst offense on the planet might lose its best hitter! Here are some of the top potentially attainable names to keep in mind that might be worth getting excited about if they come back in return…
With only so much space on the internet, today I look at two of the top contenders: the Rays and Guardians.
Curtis Mead, Tampa Bay (22)
Mead is listed as the Rays’ #2 prospect by MLB pipeline and could slot in at 3B. A “bat first” player, Mead ended the 2022 season at AAA making him “MLB ready” despite his young age.
In 56 games at AA, the RH hitting Mead batted .305/.394/.548 and he continued to thrive in 20 AAA games hitting .278/.376/.486. However, BTV ascribes value of 44.6 to Mead, which means he might take up most of the value coming back in a trade.
Kyle Manzardo, Tampa Bay (22)
With a BTV value of just 18.4 despite being ranked Tampa Bay’s #4 prospect by MLB pipeline, Manzardo is the type of player you might see in a multi-player deal a la Matt Olson. Presumably some of the lower value comes from position, as Manzardo projects to be a 1Bman.
But if you’re wondering what elite hitting stats look like, check out Manzardo’s MiLB career to date:
Rookie ball, 2021, age 21 (13 games): .349/.440/.605, 4 BB, 6 K
A+ ball, 2022, age 22 (63 games): .329/.436/.636, 45 BB, 46 K
AA ball, 2022, age 22 (30 games): .323 .402 .576, 14 BB, 19 K
MiLB career so far (106 games): .330/.427/.616, 24 HR, 63 BB, 71 K
I can haz Kyle Manzardo nows?
Blogfather Take: Mead might eat up too much value, and with Zack Gelof soon to join the infield a Mead addition squeezes out both Brett Harris and Kevin Smith for a prospect that prevents you from getting much else in your Murphy haul.
But please get me Manzardo along with another 35 or so value across a deep system. I put to you the question of where would you seek that 35 in value if Manzardo were one piece?
Let’s take a gander at a couple “sleepers” who might be gems if Oakland pries them as part of a deal.
Angel Martinez, Cleveland (20)
Martinez is ranked only #10 in the Guardians’ system but has intriguing upside. He is a switch hitter with big league pedigree (his dad, Sandy Martinez, caught in MLB), and he is coming off an excellent 2022 season in which he batted .278/.378/.471 across A+ and AA at age 20, with 52 BB against 76 K in 101 games.
One caveat is that Martinez is a SS/2B and at least Plan A has Nick Allen and Zack Gelof anchoring up the middle for years to come. But Allen is no sure thing yet and among problems the A’s would love to have are too many good players.
Will Brennan, Cleveland (24)
Talk about a sleeper: Brennan is found down at #19 on the MLB pipeline list, but the A’s are in dire need of outfielders and right off the top Brennan checks that box. And at 24 he’s as “MLB ready” as he’ll ever be.
But is he any good? You can’t help but love a comp to Steven Kwan, one of the coolest stories to come out of MiLB lately. Like Kwan, Brennan bats LH and his calling card is exceptional hand-eye coordination that yields a ton a contact.
Brennan began the 2022 season at AA where he batted a robust .311/.382/.504 in 36 games, with 17 BB against 16 K. Promoted to AAA for his last 93 games Brennan hit .316/.367/.471 (33 BB, 53 K). Regarded as a good outfielder maybe best suited to RF, he seems like a natural fit into the current rebuild.
Here’s the cool part. Martinez (7.2) and Brennan (4.3) don’t light up BTV’s value board, leaving plenty of room for headliners such as RHP Gavin Williams (28.4) or George Valera (26.6).
Blogfather Take: I know fans are sick of lesser known prospects the front office is quietly keen on, but here’s a package I find exciting: what about Williams as more of a headliner, Martinez and Brennan as tertiary pieces, which (if you use BTV as a bible, which is obviously a “give or take” exercise) still leaves the A’s with 11.4 in value to seek in a secondary piece. That’s someone in the Tanner Bibee or Chase DeLauter range.
Williams-Bibee-Martinez-Brennan (if you prefer to double up on starting pitching) or Williams-DeLauter-Martinez-Brennan (if you prefer to double up on outfielders) are deals that look awfully enticing to me and which pass BTV muster.
Of course all of this starts to look even better if it’s accompanied by “1st overall pick Dylan Crews”. May the gods finally be with Oakland on Tuesday when balls are picked, literally or figuratively.