Jul 6, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) follows through on a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
When the Oakland A’s acquire Chicago Cubs pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone was bumped from the starting rotation and sent straight down to Triple-A despite going 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA in his prior 11 starts. Many – including Milone – were shocked by this move since he had been so successful throughout June. So, as Milone resides in Triple-A with two weeks left till the trade deadline, what does the future have in store for this youngster?
The 2014 season was only Milone’s third season pitching in the majors, but he was proving to be a one of the most reliable pitchers in the rotation. Even though his name was not well know around the league, Milone held up the back end of the Athletics rotation as numerous others starters came and went. With a 3.55 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 96.1 innings pitched while in Oakland this year, his talent could land him in many other major league bullpens around the MLB.
Because of Milone’s winning 6-3 record and his potential for success in the future, the Oakland A’s could use Milone as a trading piece. The Athletics have a surplus of starting pitchers, and Milone’s young talent could entice other teams who need some life pumped into their starting rotation.
Since the Athletics are using their trades strategically in order to increase their World Series chances, they would want to use Milone carefully in order to strengthen any and all weaknesses. One possibility is to trade Milone to the Tampa Bay Rays for second baseman Ben Zobrist. Zobrist would strengthen the infield for the Oakland A’s and Milone would provide reliable pitching for the Rays starting rotation, which has been ravaged by injuries during the first half of the season. The Athletics could even try to use Milone in order to get Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley – but the A’s would probably need to offer other incentives to get Utley over to Oakland.
[Oakland A's trade rumors: Second base edition]
Even though Milone could be a valuable trading piece for the A’s, manager Bob Melvin did tell that press that they have not seen the last of Milone “here”. This implies that he will be returning the Oakland A’s bullpen, but no one knows when. It could be later this season or even in 2015.
However, it would not behoove the Athletics to keep Milone in Triple-A till next year. The Oakland A’s like successful and consistent performers, which Milone has demonstrated throughout the first half of the season. Additionally, there are other pitchers in the Athletics bullpen who have not delivered on a consistent basis. One of those being Jim Johnson.
Johnson has been a sore in the Athletics’ bullpen since the start of the season. With a 14.34 ERA for July, it would make sense to send him down to Triple-A since the Oakland A’s have already paid Johnson half of his 10 million dollar salary and because the Athletics barely use Johnson as it is. The A’s no longer have a long reliever in the bullpen after designating lefty Jeff Francis for assignment – and then trading him to the New York Yankees – once reliever Eric O’Flaherty was activated from the DL.
Even though Milone has virtually no experience as a relief pitcher, he would provide some added support in the bullpen if he were to swap spots with Johnson. However, starter Jesse Chavez is closing in on a career-high of innings pitched. If Johnson is sent to Triple-A, Chavez – the Oakland A’s former long reliever – could be moved back into bullpen to work relief for the second half of the season in order to save his arm. This would open up a spot in the starting rotation for Milone.
Since the Oakland A’s already traded away some young pitching talent – Dan Straily – it would definitely make sense for the them to keep Milone around. It is unclear what the Athletics are going to do with their surplus of starting pitchers, but it would make sense to keep younger, talented ones around since theoretically they have more years of successful major league pitching ahead of them. With Milone being young and reliable, I would not be surprised if we see him back in the Oakland A’s bullpen during the second part of the season.
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