Like several other MLB teams, the Oakland Athletics have expressed interest in a trade for right-handed reliever Shane Greene. The 30-year-old has been a revelation this season, posting a glittering 1.22 ERA over 37 innings pitched while posting his best strikeout numbers since breaking into the majors in 2014. Greene is firmly entrenched in the trade market thanks to the Tigers’ worst-in-the-game record.
As one would expect, Greene has been getting a lot of attention from clubs who are in a position to contend for a playoff spot. A recent report from Susan Slusser of The San Fransisco Chronicle has the Oakland Athletics checking in on Detroit’s closer. The A’s have one of the strongest relief units in baseball and recently added to it by dealing for lefthander Jake Diekman, but they are evidently still looking to improve.
As with most of the clubs who have looked into acquiring one of the Tigers’ main trade chips, it’s hard to see Oakland as a good match for the Tigers.
“The A’s would seemingly need to package lower-tier prospects of interest to the... Tigers, which could make finding a centerpiece of a deal challenging,” noted Anthony Franco of MLB Trade Rumors. “That’s not to say the A’s couldn’t meet the asking price on either player — they certainly could — but swinging a deal would likely involve multiple low-level pieces not currently among the game’s top 100 prospects.”
Franco is absolutely correct. Oakland’s farm system isn’t poor in prospect capital. They have three of the game’s top 50 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline’s recent rankings. Jesus Luzardo, a power lefty, has an electric trio of pitches and plus control. If it weren’t for elbow surgery that kept him off the field for a significant chunk of time, he would probably be mentioned as one of the very best prospects in the sport. He is (understandably) probably off limits.
Ranking just below him is another power lefty, A.J. Puk, and the game’s top catching prospect, Sean Murphy. Puk is returning from Tommy John surgery, but at this point, there’s no reason to believe his stuff won’t return to where it was before he went under the knife. His double-plus fastball and swing-and-miss slider make him a potential No. 2 starter. Murphy rivals Tigers prospect Jake Rogers’ defense and scouts place much more confidence in his offensive capabilities. He should be able to hit for solid average and power.
Presumably, they will be very difficult to pry away from their current club, especially after the Marcus Stroman trade that also went down Sunday night. The former Blue Jays pitcher was dealt for two pitching prospects that rank just outside most top 100 lists. Just how much this impacts the market for relief arms remains to be seen, but it probably isn’t doing the Tigers much good.
Detroit could shoot for quick dividends
If the front office is looking to play it safe, there are quite a few prospects playing very well in the high minors. Shortstop Jorge Mateo was once regarded as one of the better middle infielders in the minors. Strikeouts are a big concern, but he has been hitting for both average and power in 2019. His calling cards are still top shelf speed and defense, both of which would be welcome on Detroit’s beleaguered squad.
Sheldon Neuse is also performing well in Triple-A, slashing .321/.387/.543 for a 125 wRC+. Admittedly, he does have a high batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which is a warning sign of regression. However, he cut down quite significantly on strikeouts and putting up the best walk rate of his career. He is completely blocked in Oakland thanks to the existence of Matt Chapman, so he’s likely expendable. Neuse would slot in nicely in the Tigers infield as Candelario is supposedly beginning a transition to first base.
Other high-performing options include a pair of pitchers — Parker Dunshee and Brian Howard — who could fit into an MLB rotation sooner than later. Both have mastered Double-A but have yet to prove themselves at a higher level. Dunshee is an undersized righty who only throws 91 miles per hour but he uses his pitches well and his mostly average stuff plays up due to deception and command. Howard is a similar pitcher; his five pitches are roughly average but he makes the best of them thanks to his understanding of how to pitch and he leverages his 6’9 frame well.
An upside play isn’t out of the question
The Tigers could also snag one of the younger talents in the A’s pipeline. Lazaro Armenteros is a Cuban import who has been teasing scouts with tremendous untapped potential since 2015. He’s currently in High-A as has lost some of his luster, but he can still show some loud tools. A team who can unlock his potential is in for a big payday. Fellow outfielder Austin Beck is in a similar situation. Oakland took him sixth overall in 2017 after he exploded onto the scene, but he’s taken longer to progress than expected and lacks consistency. His tools are still there, but he’s struggling to get them on the field every night.
Don’t get too excited if this happens, though
If Greene ends up going to the Athletics, the trade return probably won’t be as large as we were hoping when Avila first started shopping the righthander. Their best prospects are probably out of reach as a return for a piece like Greene. Their lesser prospects are performing well, sure, but numbers do not a prospect make. The new Triple-A ball has led to some outlandish results, but even before that change, it held true that stats in the minors don’t always translate to the bigs.
In the end, trading Greene to the A’s may yield a useful player or two, but don’t expect an injection of exciting talent or a new top-5 prospect in the organization.