The free agent market is officially open for business, and while the Brewers aren’t expected to do much in free agency, it might be worthwhile to follow what’s happening across the rest of the league. It didn’t take Ken Rosenthal long to give us reason to pay attention to where Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma may possibly end up.
Rosenthal says it’s “believed” that the Oakland A’s have made a strong push for Iwakuma, thinking it would allow them to trade an excess starting pitcher for a sorely-needed bat. Rosenthal goes as far to mention Milwaukee and Casey McGehee in the article, since the A’s need help at third base.
Of course, as with anything that comes with Rosenthal, you need to take it with a grain of salt. He was one of the guys who “kept hearing” that Bobby Valentine was the leading candidate for the Brewers’ managing job, after all. But let’s have some fun with this. What would a possible deal look like?
While the A’s certainly have the type of pitching the Brewers would be interested in — young, cheap, and pretty good — Casey McGehee doesn’t scream “Billy Beane acquisition” to me. His .337 OBP was nothing special, he’s likely to be the slowest non-catcher on your team, and his defense is subpar. Yeah, he’s still cheap, but likely only for another year and he’s not exactly young, either.
If the A’s want help at third, I wonder if he’d be more interested in Mat Gamel. Defense is obviously still a concern with him, but he at least has a chance to get better and has a better eye at the plate. I wouldn’t be crazy about trading Gamel away, but if the right pitcher is offered, it’s something that should at least be considered.
When Rosenthal first mentioned that the A’s might be willing to move pitching for a bat, the first name I actually thought of was Prince Fielder. It would be a pricey addition for Beane and the A’s, but it wouldn’t be the first time he basically said “screw it” and rolled the dice with a big trade (see: Matt Holliday). If Cliff Lee doesn’t return to the Rangers, the AL West looks to be wide open next year, and a bat like Fielder mixed with the A’s pitching might be enough to put Oakland back on top of that division. Beane’s never been shy about the possibility of taking the comp picks for departing free agents, and like Holliday, if the A’s underperform there’s always the chance he could flip Fielder.
Beane’s probably unlikely to give up the boatload of prospects he did to get Holliday, but I don’t think it’s likely the Brewers ask for prospects in return for Fielder. Really, one Major League-ready pitcher and a couple of mid-level prospects might do it.
In terms of what the A’s would actually be willing to part with, it’s probably safe to say Brett Anderson is untouchable in any trade, even for Fielder — it’d be like asking the Brewers for Yovani Gallardo. Trevor Cahill got incredible results in 2010 (2.97 ERA in 196.2 IP) despite less-than-exciting advanced stats (5.40 K/9, freakishly low .238 BABIP, 4.19 FIP, 4.11 xFIP). While I’m personally not crazy about him, he does look like the kind of pitcher who will consistently induce a lot of groundballs. He also had better strikeout numbers in the minors, so there may be room to grow, especially if he continues to improve his breaking pitches. Dallas Braden got a lot of publicity for his perfect game this year and his spat with Alex Rodriguez, but he probably shouldn’t be confused for a frontline starter, either — his K/9 was lower than Cahill’s, and is a pretty strict flyball pitcher (career GB% of 38.6%), which is something that could be scary in Miller Park. Gio Gonzalez struck out batters more frequently, but also walked them more often. As a former top prospect that just started to show his potential last year, though, I don’t think Beane would want to give up on him, either.
The “gettable” guys — Cahill and Braden — are by no means ideal returns as the main piece for Fielder, but we’ve known for awhile that we’re not getting the next Felix Hernandez for him. As returns for McGehee or even Gamel, though? I don’t think that’s too bad. Maybe we should root for the A’s to win the negotiating rights for Iwakuma.