Sean Doolittle

It’s that time of year with trade rumors flying around. Teams with a need for a power reliever are monitoring the situation with Sean Doolittle of the Oakland Athletics. It’s not going to be a surprise if he ends up moving to the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays or St. Louis Cardinals.

The A’s, falling 10 games below .500, are close to that moment when they begin shipping assets. Doolittle isn’t a free agent at the end of the season, but he’s on a very workable deal: $1.58 million this year, $2.63 million in 2017, $4.38 million in 2018. Then come two seasons with team options: $6 million in 2019, $6.5 million in 2020. If he finishes 100 games between 2018 and 2019 the option becomes mutual. Both seasons have a $500,000 buyout.

With that kind of contract, the A’s might want to hang on to him, but if the prospects and talent they see in front of them are worth it, the 29-year old lefty is going to be traded.

Doolittle has been with the A’s since 2012, making the All-Star game once (2014). He’s doing well in 2016, with a 2.93 ERA in 30.2 innings of work. He’s striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings, and his k-per-bb ratio is back in the good numbers with 4.38. That 11.13 from 2014 was an anomaly, and probably not returning. Those are Clayton Kershaw numbers, and that’s about it.

So who is going to want Doolittle? Contenders, or teams that see themselves as such, with pitching problems. Like the Texas Rangers, the best team in the American League, but with a 4.00 overall ERA and a 1.33 WHIP (16th in the majors). Sam Dyson, Tony Barnette and Jake Diekman could use another powerful arm to get strikes. Diekman is the only one of the trio who is above 7.00 in k’s per nine innings.

If there’s one team that needs help in the bullpen and fast, it’s the Toronto Blue Jays. Roberto Osuna and Joe Biagini are the only two players among the bullpen with 25 innings player or more this season that have an ERA below 3.99, and while striking batters out hasn’t been a huge problem, keeping things under control and not giving up runs has been. Doolittle could be a huge help there.

And then there are the Cardinals. A team that’s good once the starter comes off, but not special. They’re not used to chasing the Cubs, not used to aiming for the Wild Card spot. The Cards could use another powerful arm like Doolittle, although they’re not desperate for it like the Blue Jays are. They could end up making a move at some point, but are the most likely of the trio to keep things as they are, at least when it comes to relief pitching.

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