Sifting through trade rumors this season, one thing has been constant: the Oakland Athletics seemingly have no desire to trade Ben Sheets. Sheets signed a one year contract with $10 million prior to the season and there are no options on the contract. The Athletics are currently seven games behind Texas and 3.5 behind Los Angeles in the AL West; if they weren’t already sellers, one would think that Texas’s acquisition of Cliff Lee would push Oakland over the edge.
There are two stipulations in the contract that make the A’s reluctance to deal Sheets so confusing. First off, Sheets receives $0.5M if he reaches 165 innings pitched and another $0.5M for 175, 185, and 195 as well. He sits at 112 IP so far and, although he has a pretty major injury history, probably only needs to make 10-11 more starts to reach the first level of incentives. Given how frugal the Athletics organization has been, it would be surprising for them to allow Sheets to reach these incentives.
The second is a stipulation that wouldn’t allow the Athletics to offer Sheets arbitration if he were to reach type A status (Source: Cot’s Contracts). This isn’t going to be an issue as long as the Elias rankings reverse engineered over at MLB Trade Rumors are even approaching accurate, as Sheets isn’t even close to a Type B at this point. Still, one potential reason for not trading Sheets would be free agent compensation, and that just doesn’t seem like an issue here, nor could it be even if Sheets were to be a Type A.
Of course, you can only draw so many conclusions from what a general manager allows to reach the press. Still, the Athletics just don’t appear to be geared up for a playoff run and should be looking for financial relief as well as young talent for the future. That seemed to be the entire basis of the Sheets signing: if the A’s are in it at the deadline, great, but if not, flip him for some prospects. Maybe the offers for Sheets just aren’t what Billy Beane likes right now, given that his player is having the worst season of his life, as the strikeouts are down and the walks and home runs are up. It’s not terribly surprising that Sheets is having such a poor season at age 31 (he turned 31 yesterday) and coming off a full season of injury rehab. Despite the struggles, the promise of the ace-level performance from 2002-2008 might be enough to draw some suitors, and it would be remiss of the Athletics not to cash in on their asset while they still can.
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