Minor league contracts often lead to nowhere, but sometimes luck just swings a rebuilding team’s way.
And that’s exactly what’s happened with the Mariners and Tommy Milone. As Colby anointed him the team’s unsung hero for the first half of the season yesterday, Milone has been nothing shy of a miracle in stabilizing a depleted rotation.
After Milone joined the M’s 25-man roster in late May, the 32-year-old southpaw has posted a 3.56 ERA in 48 innings pitched, striking out nearly a batter per nine innings and keeping his walk-rate below 2.00. He doesn’t present the stuff to overpower hitters, but has been great at maintaining weak contact and currently sits at 35th overall in hard-hit percentage amongst both starters and relievers with at least 130 batted ball events at 33.3%.
In a matter of months, Milone has gone from Triple-A rotation filler to a viable trade chip for the Mariners. And while teams like the Twins and Yankees will look to upgrade their rotation in a more significant way, there are a couple contending teams that are strapped for cash looking for a cheap rotation solution who come to mind.
The Athletics are certainly one of those teams and Milone has a history of relative success with them in the past. Sitting just outside the wild card race at 50-41 without ace Frankie Montas, who was suspended for 80 games and is consequently ineligible to pitch in the postseason, the A’s need to do something about their rotation.
It’s possible that they may choose to get a bit more aggressive on the market and pursue the likes of Robbie Ray and Zack Wheeler, but both will command significant prospect packages this summer, whereas Milone won’t. Even if they were to acquire one of the aforementioned names or another starter elsewhere, there are two spots in Oakland’s rotation in which Milone would be a clear-cut upgrade that are currently taken up by Daniel Mengden and Tanner Anderson.
In his nine appearances for the Mariners, Milone has primarily piggybacked an opener. The A’s, who currently sport the MLB’s best bullpen in fWAR, could certainly accommodate Milone on the opener front if need be to get him deeper in games.
The fact that the Mariners should be able to get something in return for Milone is already a huge win, but the idea they may actually get something of worth for him never crossed my—or anybody else’s—mind. But that feels like a real possibility now, as I have the M’s getting outfielder Dustin Fowler in return.
The former top-100 prospect shed his rookie eligibility last year after being acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal, but greatly struggled to the tune of a .224/.256/.354 slash line in 69 games with the A’s. It should be mentioned, however, that this was Fowler’s first time seeing the field since suffering a right patella tendon injury after crashing into a metal box at Guaranteed Rate Field, which subsequently resulted in a lawsuit against the White Sox from Fowler’s party.
With several capable outfielders on Oakland’s current roster, Fowler hasn’t been able to break back through to the big leagues. And while he’s only sporting a wRC+ of 92 in Triple-A right now, he’s slashed .269/.332/.474 with 14 home runs (already a career-high) and 62 RBIs—a line well-deserving of another chance at the bigs.
But the A’s don’t appear to be in a position to offer Fowler that opportunity anymore, and Luis Barrera, Mark Payton, and Seth Brown all appear to be better suited to receive the call if they eventually require an in-house outfielder. It’s unfortunate, but Fowler is just 24 and should be allowed the chance to develop into a big leaguer elsewhere.
Even with the surplus of outfielders the Mariners have, Fowler is well worth taking a flyer on. And if Jerry Dipoto is successful in finding a package for either Domingo Santana or Mitch Haniger, more opportunity would come Fowler’s way to play everyday.