When they acquired Cubs starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel earlier this month, the Oakland Athletics made room on their roster in part by optioning 27-year-old lefty Tommy Milone to Triple-A Sacramento. Milone, who was solid, if unspectacular in Oakland in 2012 and 2013 after being brought over in the Gio Gonzalez trade, was in the midst of his worst pro season, sporting a pedestrian FIP of 4.43 and an fWAR of just 0.7 through sixteen starts. His 5.7 K-rate was the lowest of his career and his 2.43 walk-rate was the highest. Though his performance wasn't poor enough to really warrant a demotion - he had a 2.62 ERA in his previous eleven starts when he was sent down - the A's had no room for him in a rotation that, besides the two Chicago transplants, also included three of the American League's better pitchers this year in Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez. Instead of plopping him in a seldom used mop-up role, the A's chose to have Milone pitch regularly in the minors.
Not surprisingly, Milone's not exactly pumped about where he now fits - or doesn't - into Oakland's plans. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, he has asked for a trade.
Unfortunately, there's a lot not to love about Milone. He's regressed each year of his career in FIP and xFIP and he's never averaged more than 6.13 innings per start. His low strikeout and ground ball (38.4 percent in 2014) rates have played alright in O.co Coliseum's spacious confines, but as Phil Hughes, Vidal Nuno and plenty of others have found out, Yankee Stadium is relentlessly cruel to pitchers who allow too many balls in the air. On the road this season, opponents have hit a very solid .261/.317/.462 against Milone, and his FIP is an unseemly 4.84. His fastball sits in the high eighties - the low high eighties at an average 86.5 mph. That doesn't give it much differential from his second most-used pitch, the change-up, which clocks in at 80.3. Milone is a classic "crafty lefty" who needs to rely on deception and spot-on location to be effective.
But hey. One team's trash...
Brian Cashman recently told Michael Kay that if he had just one move to make at the deadline, it would be for a hitter rather than a pitcher. But that doesn't mean he's not looking for arms, too. While the Yankees' offense has been the more disappointing aspect of the team so far, there's some opportunity for positive regression on that front. On the pitching side, things are more likely to swing the other way, and at any moment. Shane Greene has looked good but is entirely unproven, Brandon McCarthy has never started more than 25 games in a season, Hiroki Kuroda seemed to run out of gas towards the end of last year and David Phelps and Chase Whitley are on pace to obliterate their previous career highs in innings. If any of those guys crack, the Yankees don't have much to replace them with. Chris Capuano? Jeff Francis? Yeah, okay. Adding a young lefty to the starting mix, even if he's a flawed young lefty, wouldn't be a terrible thing.
Milone doesn't come with a hefty contract that goes on for years like some of the Yankees' other possible pitching targets in Cliff Lee, John Danks, and Edwin Jackson. He's first-year arbitration eligible this winter and without a defined role in the A's rotation going forward, that makes him a prime non-tender candidate. Billy Beane's never been one to sell low, but if the choice is trading Milone or letting him go for nothing, the price may be reasonable.
With the best record in baseball, the A's don't have many holes the Yankees can help fill, but their second basemen, led by Eric Sogard and Nick Punto, are hitting .227/.286/.281. His recent groin injury and subsequent DL status complicates things, but Kelly Johnson is a player who seems to fit what Oakland looks for - he's fairly patient at the plate (10.1% walk-rate) and has some pop (.151 ISO). The Yankees can't get Milone for just Johnson (or Brian Roberts, for that matter), but adding a couple of mid-level prospects might sweeten the bait enough to get a bite.