Welcome to the new era of baseball, the Brokeball Era. From the team that brought Moneyball to the league comes a ballclub emblematic of the new paradigm. Oakland had a good enough squad last year to win 86 games under Bob Melvin on the heels of three-straight playoff appearances and an AL West crown in 2020. Instead of building upon that success, they decided to let Melvin walk for the same job with the Padres, and sell off their best players for pennies on the dollar, as Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, and Sean Manaea all went from under contract to out of town.
However, the Yankees stand to gain from the A’s adherence to the principles of Brokeball. It is clear that the Mark Kotsay-led A’s are not ready to compete any time soon, so selling off their remaining contributors seems like it would be on the table.
In the wake of the A’s depleting their roster last offseason, there are not many appealing options among the position-player group. In grand total, they have one solitary hitter with an OPS above .700. That is like running out a team of below-replacement level position players. No wonder they own an MLB-worst 28-56 record with a -111 run differential (the Yankees swept them with relative ease just last week).
The one regular who might appeal to the Yankees is Ramón Laureano — the best position player left on the A’s roster. He is a solid hitter with a .246 average, a .341 on-base percentage, and a somewhat mediocre .406 slugging percentage through the end of play on Thursday. Those numbers result in a solid wRC+ of 122.
However, FanGraphs is low on Laureano’s defensive ability, giving him negative defensive value. In addition, he was suspended by MLB for the use of performance-enhancing drugs for the first part of this season and the end of 2021. This offers some risk for the Yankees if they want to upgrade their outfield, though that gamble comes with some long-term upside. Laureano does not hit free agency until after 2025, offering three and a half seasons of full control for the team. This represents a significant amount of value for a team, and could indicate that the A’s would expect at least a solid package for him. The fit might not be there with the Yankees, who are on the outfield market but probably do not see Laureano as enough of a sure-fire improvement on their internal options to pay up.
Although the position-player pool is bare, the Athletics still have a fairly good set of arms, including both relievers and starters. Headlined by relief arms Sam Moll, A.J. Puk, Domingo Acevedo, and Zach Jackson, there are a number of bullpen additions who the Yankees could target. Each player currently sports an ERA below 4.00 with nearly their full service time remaining.
Of the four best performing relievers on the A’s, A.J. Puk has the least remaining service time available, but he still won’t hit free agency until the 2026-27 offseason. If the Yankees can get one or more of these bullpen arms for a reasonable price, it might be worth doing. They each provide significant upside while costing the team very little. Unfortunately, the A’s also certainly recognize that and might hesitate to deal one of their top relievers now without a good reason to do so.
The jewel of the Athletics’ system has to be Frankie Montas, who has performed at a high level while remaining under contract for the next year and a half. Through the first part of the season he has pitched to a 3.26 ERA with a 3.29 FIP through 96.2 frames. With that being said, last season was the first time in his career that he topped 100 innings.
One thing to note is that Montas recently was diagnosed with shoulder inflammation that will keep him out of his next start in the rotation. This might be nothing, but should still engender some caution before giving the A’s the farm for him. He remains a good pitcher with some controllability, even with some problematic elements.
Paul Blackburn has actually been the best pitcher for the A’s this year, but the Yankees might not want to buy high on him. He has put up excellent numbers with a 2.90 ERA, though that comes with a 3.47 FIP, over 87.0 innings. Additionally he has a fairly low BABIP at .280 and a low K/9 at 6.93. Those indicate a pitcher that has run into a little bit of luck. On a positive note, he has a huge amount of time left under his rookie contract, with three and a half years left before he can hit free agency. Between Blackburn’s semi-smoke and mirrors act and what Oakland would ask for him, the Yankees are probably unlikely to make this trade.
The A’s have a number of intriguing options to choose from if they are willing to make reasonable deals. Montas in particular combines excellent performance with limited control to make a somewhat affordable (maybe) package. However, most of the appealing players on the A’s have so much time left on their rookie contracts that they would cost the Yankees an inordinate amount of resources to acquire. This makes it difficult to envision a trade for any of the players other than Montas or Laureano, and that’s only if the Yankees determine if there’s a fit. As a result, a deal with the A’s might be difficult to pull off.