First Pitch: Why a Mason Miller trade deadline deal is much more unlikely than you think

Mason Miller is almost certainly not going anywhere.
May 8, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Mason Miller (19) delivers a pitch
May 8, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Mason Miller (19) delivers a pitch / D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics have been surprisingly decent to begin the 2024 campaign. Sure, a 19-25 record isn't pretty, but relative to their expectations, it's been a great start to the year.

Oakland has gotten some surprising contributions from players like Brent Rooker and Shea Langeliers, but the story of their season thus far has been their bullpen. Oakland's bullpen ranks 11th in the league with a 3.51 ERA which relative to expectations, is stellar. The star of that group, of course, has been Mason Miller who has taken the league by storm in his first MLB season.

Miller's emergence into one of the most dominant relievers in the game currently has made him a prime candidate to be dealt at this year's trade deadline. While it might make sense for fans of other teams to assume that the Athletics will trade their new best player, there are several reasons to believe that won't happen.

Why Mason Miller is being coveted by teams as a trade candidate

If the season ended today, Mason Miller would not only win the AL Reliever of the Year Award, but he'd most likely be the AL Rookie of the Year winner as well. There are several high-end prospects in the AL like Colton Cowser, Evan Carter, and Wyatt Langford, but Miller is running away with it right now even as a reliever.

Dominant only partially describes how good Miller has been for the A's. In his 14 appearances, the right-hander has a 0.98 ERA entering Wednesday's action. He has allowed two runs in 18.2 innings of work. What's especially scary is he allowed both of those runs in his first appearance of the season. In the 13 outings since, he has allowed a total of four hits and four walks while striking out 37 of the 60 batters he has faced. He has converted eight saves in eight tries and has recorded more than three outs five times. He's even completed two innings four times, showing some added versatility out of the 'pen.

Somehow, Miller has a -0.19 FIP. That's completely unheard of. In fact, there are only three other pitchers who have thrown at least ten innings this season with a FIP under 1.00. His is under 0.00.

That kind of dominance is unprecedented. That, along with his several years of club control, are reasons why his name is popping up in rumors. Those reasons are also why a trade is almost certainly not going to happen.

Why the Athletics have no reason to trade Mason Miller

This really comes down to club control. Miller is under team control through the 2029 season. He doesn't even hit arbitration until 2026. With that in mind, why would they be rushing to trade him?

Miller is the kind of player they can realistically build around. I don't know if a move back to the rotation is in the works (he made six MLB starts in 2023), but arms of his caliber do not grow on trees. I mean, he's averaging over 100 mph with his four-seamer. Just look at all of the dark red circles on his Baseball Savant page!

Miller would obviously be most valuable as a starting pitcher, but he can still be a really important piece as a reliever. For an A's team that has virtually no building blocks and will be looking to attract a new fan base in a new city, Miller can be a selling point there too.

I get it, his value is likely at its peak right now, but what does that mean? What can Oakland realistically get for a closer who, while he's been great this season, has a total of 51.1 MLB innings under his belt, with most coming out of the bullpen? Will teams be lining up to trade multiple high-end prospects to get Miller? It's very unlikely. If a godfather offer is out there, sure, Oakland can consider. Which team is going to give them that kind of offer? Why should Oakland take anything less?

Should the Athletics trade Mason Miller?

This is the million-dollar question. What should the A's do with this dominant reliever? The A's will not be seriously competing for a while, even with their halfway-decent start to this season. They likely won't be ready to do so at the very least until he's set to hit arbitration. Knowing this, trading him while they know they can get a nice return could make sense.

While that sounds nice, it's so hard to envision teams offering an arm and a leg to acquire him, and that's all Oakland should accept.

Will the Chicago Cubs be willing to offer a prospect package highlighted by at least one of Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cade Horton, Owen Caissie, or Matt Shaw? Would the Baltimore Orioles be willing to offer a prospect package highlighting at least one of Jackson Holliday, Samuel Basallo, Coby Mayo, or Heston Kjerstad? Assuming the answer is no, why should Oakland consider? Would the San Diego Padres be willing to offer Jackson Merrill? That's what The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal suggested might get it done.

Opposing teams won't give up some of the best prospects in the sport, and the A's shouldn't accept anything less. If the A's get an absurd offer that's too good to pass up, then they should trade Miller. That means multiple top-100 prospects and potentially a couple of decent throw-ins.

Assuming that doesn't happen, then no, they should not trade Mason Miller. The unlikelihood of a godfather offer being on the table is why ultimately a Mason Miller trade will almost certainly not take place, as fun as it would be.