The MLB Trade Deadline is now just a day away and A's executives Billy Beane and David Forst are still hard at work seeking deals to improve the team.
Oakland has already added starting pitcher Homer Bailey and reliever Jake Diekman, both from the Kansas City Royals, but both the starting rotation and bullpen could use additional upgrades.
While there's probably no one single player who could turn the A's into a World Series favorite, here are three starter-reliever combinations that could transform Oakland into a top contender.
Noah Syndergaard, Edwin Díaz
No one seems to have any idea what the Mets' strategy is at this point. But rumors suggest that both Syndergaard and Diaz are on the trading block.
Syndergaard is hands-down the best starting pitcher on the market, and he's only 26 years old. The hard-throwing right-hander has a career ERA of 3.21 in five major league seasons, with 699 strikeouts in 645 innings.
Díaz might be the best relief pitcher available, despite his 4.95 ERA this season. Last year with Seattle, the 25-year-old right-hander notched a league-high 57 saves with a 1.96 ERA, striking out 124 batters in 73 1/3 innings.
If the A's were to find a way to acquire both Syndergaard and Díaz from the Mets, it would shore up the rotation and bullpen in one fell swoop. Syndergaard would give Oakland a legitimate ace, followed by Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, and potentially Jesús Luzardo in the rotation.
Díaz could either serve as the A's closer or one of the best setup men in all of baseball. Combine that with Oakland's lineup and defensive ability and you've got a legitimate World Series contender.
Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith
This combination could be a bit harder to pry away, for a couple of reasons. First of all, with the Giants' recent success, Farhan Zaidi seems unlikely to move Bumgarner. Second, Zaidi would probably struggle to trade his top starter and closer to his cross-bridge rival.
However, if Beane and Forst could convince their old friend to send Bumgarner and Smith to the East Bay, Oakland would instantly have an ace and a dominant late-inning option. In 11 career seasons, Bumgarner is 116-90 with a 3.09 ERA. This year, the left-hander is 6-7 with a 3.74 ERA, averaging nine strikeouts per nine innings.
Smith has been even better out of the San Francisco bullpen, recording 26 saves with a 2.72 ERA. The 30-year-old southpaw has notched 66 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings.
Bumgarner, Fiers, Manaea, and Luzardo would create a formidable starting rotation for any playoff series, while Smith, Liam Hendriks, Jake Diekman, Blake Treinen, Joakim Soria, and Lou Trivino could make for an excellent bullpen.
Mike Minor, Shane Greene
This combination would come from two separate teams, but it would vault the A's nonetheless. Minor, 31, is having a career-year for the Rangers, going 8-6 with a 3.00 ERA. The left-hander's 5.9 WAR leads all major league pitchers.
Meanwhile, Greene has been lights out as the Tigers' closer this season. The 30-year-old right-hander has 22 saves with a 1.22 ERA and 0.87 WHIP.
While this starter-reliever combination is not quite as accomplished as the aforementioned pairs, it would still elevate the A's into serious World Series contention. Minor, Fiers, Manaea, and Luzardo would make a terrific starting rotation, while Greene would slot in perfectly as a setup man for Hendriks.
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Of course, all three of these potential Trade Deadline deals would cost the A's some top-notch prospects. Beane and Forst will have to decide whether the price in future talent is worth the gamble for this year.
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