Let’s play fantasy trades, one of the baseball offseason’s trademark (see what I did there?) topics. There have been many transactions since the lockout was lifted, and one of the main themes there has been the fact that the Oakland Athletics have decided to trade everyone with value and begin a full rebuild. Third baseman Matt Chapman was traded to the Blue Jays, star first baseman Matt Olson was traded to the Braves, starter Chris Bassitt was dealt to the Mets and fellow rotation member Sean Manaea looks like a sure bet to be moved as well. But the pitcher who could generate the biggest return for the A’s is 29-year-old righty Frankie Montas.
Montas is coming off his first full season in the Majors, a truly excellent campaign in which he went 13-9 with a 3.37 ERA across 187.0 innings. His improved splitter and higher four-seam-fastball usage worked great, and the right-handed flamethrower finished 6th in AL Cy Young voting by doing everything well: he struck out over a fourth of all batters he faced, walked less batters than average and did a fine job keeping the ball in the yard. He’s under team control through 2023, unlike Bassitt and Manaea, who will both be free agents after the ‘22 campaign, so his value is considerably higher. That means that the relatively unimpressive trade package the A’s got back for Bassitt (two pitchers: 22-year-old J.T. Ginn, 45 FV, and 27-year-old Adam Oller, 40 FV, both according to Fangraphs) would clearly not be enough. Montas is a frontline starter, maybe not an ace but still a quality number 2, with two full seasons of team control still. He won’t come cheap, but would it be worth it for the Rockies? And what would that hypothetical package look like? Let’s answer the former question first.
Does it make sense for the Rockies?
In a vaccuum: yes, absolutely. As of now, Chad Kuhl is looking likely to be the team’s number 5 starter come Opening Day, and while Kuhl has some good qualities (his slider is a great pitch, for instance), he’s also someone you’d probably prefer to have starting only if needed and not by design. Montas would slot right behind Germán as the team’s co-ace and give the Rockies a very deep rotation of Márquez-Montas-Freeland-Senzatela-Gomber, which would be firmly above average at worst and top 10 in baseball at best.
The only reason you might say “it doesn’t make sense” for the Rockies is if you believe the Rockies’ attempts at competing are ridiculous and they should just blow it up and start from scratch. Setting aside your personal belief as far as this topic goes, hear me out for a second here: the Colorado Rockies have never “blown it up”. They have never done a nuclear rebuild, and they’ve shown no intentions of doing so over the past 6 months. Is it smart? Who knows, but it’s reality, so operating by said reality, there is no real reason not to trade for a pitcher like Frankie Montas.
What kind of trade package would be enough?
Here’s where we get into the fun, but also totally hypothetical part of the trade. Every team has its own evaluations of players, and they might want different profiles (low minors, high minors, etc) depending on their long-term plan. But since just saying that and ending the piece would be really boring, let’s try to make this work, and here’s how we’re going to do it: I’m going to write down my own prospect package in this article, and down in the comments below you fine readers can type out your own, and the discussion can continue there. So here’s what my trade package for Frankie Montas, with the FV grades courtesy of Fangraphs (remember, very good starter, not a long track record of innings, two years left of team control):
- Brenton Doyle - CF - 23 years old - 45 FV
Doyle is a physical specimen with 60 grade raw power who's also a 60 runner and has a big arm. He profiles to stay in center field for good, and has performed statistically everywhere he's went despite coming from a very small college and not facing tons of good competition there. Doyle struck out quite a bit at High-A in 2021, but he still hit .279/.336/.454 despite it, and he has the tools to have everything click and be a late-blooming power bat who can hit 25 homers and play a good centerfield, an uncommon profile. He's expected to start the season at Double-A and could be not that far away from the Show if things click. I'd also be fine with Ryan Vilade or even Benny Montgomery as a headliner here, by the way. Moving on.
- Jordy Vargas - SP - 18 years old - 45 FV
Vargas has a big frame, arm strength and a great breaking ball already, and some of the stuff I’ve read on him basically touted him as a first-round talent had he been a US kid. He’s also years away, however, so while the foundation is there for a great starter, he’s closer to a lottery ticket than most. A great lottery ticket, but a lottery ticket nonetheless.
- Michael Toglia - 1B - 23 years old - 35+ FV
Fangraphs is more down on Toglia than other prospect watchers, but I’ll keep the FV grades consistent. Toglia switch hits, is a fantastic defensive first baseman who could even play some OF corner, has a lot of power and a good idea of the strikezone. The issue with him is the hit tool, as his K rate has been dangerously near 30% in the Minors so far and Toglia hit under .230 last season between High-A and Double-A. I still have some faith in him, but the emergence of Elehuris Montero would make me confident enough to give him up no problem in a deal for Frankie Montas.
Now, remember: I’m not a front office exec, I’m a fan, so don’t think of this as the ultimate offer, but rather a conversation starter. What would you be willing to give up for Frankie Montas?
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Antonio Senzatela got the start in this one and looked sharp for the first no-hit three innings (forget the walks, he was getting squeezed big time; Senza was dotting everything) before losing his command a bit in the fourth and giving up five runs in total via a par of homers. Out of the bullpen, Daniel Bard and Robert Stephenson both looked sharp, each pitching a scoreless frame with a pair of strikeouts, but the bats were pretty quiet for the most part, with the exception of Randal Grichuk (2-for-2 with a double and a walk) and Elías Díaz (2-for-3 with a run scored). Senzatela took the loss while Angels lefty José Suárez got the win after holding the Rockies to one run across four frames.
The Rockies will next play the D-Backs at 6:10 PM MT, with Germán Márquez facing off against Zac Gallen. It’ll be Germán’s second Spring Training outing, having previously tossed three scoreless frames against the Cubs.
There’s All-Star talent in Brendan Rodgers. Repetition, staying healthy and taking a pitch here and there are the keys to unlocking it.
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