Slumping A’s aren’t making use of Mason Miller. Would trading their star closer make sense?

OAKLAND — Mason Miller had to ask permission to pitch Sunday, and you can hardly blame him.

Pitchers for the Athletics have faced 1,844 batters through 49 games, and one of the most explosive talents in Major League Baseball has faced 70 of them. Miller has pitched 19 1/3 innings in 15 games. At this rate, he’ll pitch in 50 games.

A’s manager Mark Kotsay went into the season with the plan of being ultra-careful with Miller’s valuable right arm, but having him pitch three times in the last 17 games was never part of that plan.

But a skid that was commonplace for the A’s last season when they lost 112 games has made their closer irrelevant. The A’s lost eight in a row three times last season and this time last year were in the midst of an 11-game losing streak.

When the A’s lost their eighth straight game Sunday to fall to 19-30, Miller came in with an 8-1 deficit to pitch the bottom of the eighth against the Royals.

He put up another zero — this time without a strikeout — and Kotsay said afterward he had granted Miller’s request.

“Mason wanted some work,” Kotsay told reporters. “You don’t really like to use your closer in a game like that, but he wanted to be out on the mound. He wanted to throw some pitches, and we’re fortunate that it went well for him.”

The A’s, coming off a 1-9 trip, begin a six-game homestand on Tuesday night with three games against Colorado, followed by three more against Houston. The Astros just outscored the A’s 22-4 in a four-game sweep in Houston.

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Trade rumors regarding Miller have surfaced, with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reporting the A’s would be willing to listen to offers but that their price was likely too steep. Under John Fisher’s ownership, it wouldn’t be the A’s usual style to part with a young talent who is still under club control at a minimal salary. The A’s usually wait until an established player is due a major payday before shipping him out of town in exchange for prospects.

That doesn’t mean they won’t do it, and there are two reasons to think it isn’t the worst idea ever.

First, the part no one says out loud. Miller had a UCL strain a year ago but avoided Tommy John surgery. He was moved to the bullpen to throw fewer pitches and utilize velocity, which routinely breaks 100 miles per hour, along with a devastating slider.

Can Miller be the rare pitcher who can throw pitches as high as 103.7 miles per hour and hold up over the long haul? The more pitchers are trained for velocity, the more likely they are to break down. They get a new UCL and return in a year, sometimes throwing just as hard.

You can still make the case that the human body wasn’t meant to throw a baseball in an overhand motion at that speed. So, if there’s a team out there that considers itself a contender and has a well-stocked farm system, it would make sense to at least make an outlandish trade request:

“You can have Mason Miller. We want at least four of your top 10 prospects.”

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A’s second baseman Zack Gelof is a homegrown talent who looks like a keeper. Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

This brings us to the second reason trading Miller must at least be considered. Developing their own prospects has been an issue for the A’s.

Shortstop Nick Allen is back in Triple-A, and he may or may not return to Oakland. Lawrence Butler wasn’t ready for full-time outfield duty. Zack Gelof has gotten off to a slow start but looks like a keeper, and the same could be said of Tyler Soderstrom.

We’ll have to wait and see about Max Muncy, Jacob Wilson, and others.

Having a nuclear closer on the A’s is like parking a convertible sports car in the garage during a long winter. It’s a luxury item that sits there because it’s in the wrong environment.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that if the A’s traded Miller, they’d correctly identify the right prospects to turn around the franchise. Jettisoning Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Sean Murphy, and Sean Manaea hasn’t done much to bolster a return to respectability.

The Chapman trade brought back infielder Kevin Smith and pitchers Gunnar Hoglund, Zach Logue, and Kirby Snead. Shea Langeliers, Cristian Pache, and pitchers Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes arrived in exchange for Olson.

Murphy, in a three-way trade with Atlanta and Milwaukee, made way for pitcher Kyle Muller, outfielder Esteury Ruiz and pitcher Freddy Tarnok. Manaea was sent to San Diego for infielder Euribel Angeles and pitchers Aaron Holiday and Adrian Martinez.

The danger in trading for prospects is that they haven’t proven a thing. But there are not many options if you’ve got an owner who refuses to pay the going rate for proven talent.

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Kotsay seemed buoyed that Kansas City, which lost 106 games last season, is now 29-19 and 10 games over .500 for the first time since their World Series championship season of 2015.

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“That team’s not going to catch anybody off-guard,” Kotsay said. “It’s good to see a club like that that was in a similar situation as us have success.”

Except that the Royals aren’t in a similar situation. They spent over $100 million over the length of several contracts last offseason to upgrade their roster and guaranteed shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. $288 million. Contrast that with the A’s, who let Marcus Semien walk without a serious offer and aren’t likely to ever change under Fisher, even if Las Vegas is more jackpot than a pipe dream.

That’s life with the A’s under Fisher. They’re weakest at the top, and the trickle-down effect has the most exciting closer in baseball, asking if it’s OK to throw an inning now and then.

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