The Oakland Athletics stormed out of the gates to open the 2013 season, leading the pack in the American League with a 12-4 record. The team finally looked to be setting itself up for a season-long run of success rather than digging themselves a hole they would have to spend the rest of the first half digging out of. Then came the disastrous road trip, the A’s went 1-5 against the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox, then came home and lost the first three games of a four game set to the Baltimore Orioles. That 12-4 record had become 13-12, and ever since then the A’s have been treading water.
Right now the A’s sit at 17-14, and haven’t found a consistent winning formula since the 9 game winning streak that put them ahead of the curve in the first place. Losing games like they have recently should begin to open some eyes as to what imperfections exist within the 25 man roster. This is a team that is good enough to contend, good enough to perhaps win the AL West once again, but they cannot sit back and simply expect it to happen for them. The burden is on Billy Beane to make moves and continue to fine tune the roster in order to make that happen.
As of this moment, there are a few candidates playing for the River Cats in Sacramento who would be able to fill the remaining needs on this roster. I detailed yesterday the weakness that still exists in the middle infield, specifically with Eric Sogard, and the possible candidates who could help boost the team’s offense. In that case, Jemile Weeks, Grant Green, and the rehabbing Hiroyuki Nakajima were presented as viable upgrades.
Meanwhile, as the River Cats lead the PCL Southern Division with a 17-13, there are a few other members of the Triple A squad who could theoretically help the Athletics right now. The first one on the list would be Shane Peterson. Peterson has posted a very good .304/.450/.457 line through 118 plate appearances, briefly made his MLB debut when Brandon Moss went on paternity leave, and is capable of playing all 3 outfield positions as well as first base. As you may or may not have noticed, the A’s outfielders have had quite the knack for finding the disabled list thus far, so Peterson’s talent and versatility would be an asset to the team.
An old friend by the name of Daric Barton is quietly having an excellent season down in Sacramento, posting a .300/.446/.500 line in 118 plate appearances. The complication with Barton of course is the fact that he was designated for assignment prior to the beginning of the regular season, so someone else would need to be removed from the 40 man roster to make room for him as well as from the active roster. Barton is certainly a polarizing figure, but his skills could prove valuable in Oakland if he were able to translate them to the major leagues.
Michael Taylor is now with the Athletics, after Chris Young was placed on the DL, and he’s been great in Triple A so far this year. Taylor was once thought to be a possible cornerstone for the Athletics future, and while that may have passed, there’s still hope he can contribute at the major league level. This may be his best chance yet. With Coco Crisp and Young on the shelf they need to use this opportunity to see if Taylor has figured out how to use the tools he has in the Show.
There have been rumblings over the last couple weeks for the Athletics to eschew finances and start the arbitration clock of Michael Choice. By the numbers, it might seem that doing such a thing wouldn’t be the craziest idea ever. Choice is hitting .302/.420/.528 with 6 home runs and a team leading 26 RBI. Choice is very much built in the Yoenis Cespedes mold, and should become an impact player at the major league level at some point. That time may be soon, but I don’t think it’s quite yet.
The A’s could also use a pitcher who can help bridge the gap between a struggling starting pitcher and the bullpen, or eat up a few innings in extra frames so the previously scratched starter isn’t forced into duty. This would have been Travis Blackley, but the A’s jettisoned him from the organization, a move I imagine many regret making now. This is a perfect role for Pedro Figueroa, who is able to pitch multiple innings, and could be stretched out into a full time starter if needed. He may be a little wild at times, but he can get hitters out at baseball’s highest level. He hasn’t dazzled though in Triple A, with a 6.94 ERA in 11.2 innings of work, and he has walked 9 batters in that span. So he will need to right the ship before he can be considered for a call up.
Right now, there really isn’t another strong long man candidate, maybe Billy Beane can somehow convince the Astros to give Blackley back?
There are other honorable mentions for the most productive River Cats, Stephen Vogt sits atop that list, the young catcher is hitting an impressive .394/.448/.691 and many thought he should have gotten the call up over Luke Montz. If he keeps hitting like that, he may force his way onto the roster somehow. Sonny Gray gets an honorable mention as well, he’s posted a 2.61 ERA in 31 innings with 25 K’s to 12 walks. He should be in a starting rotation though, no long relief duty for this young hurler. Hideki Okajima has also been solid as well, pitching to a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings of work, his presence in the Athletics bullpen seems more likely at some point in the near future.
There are many ways to improve this Athletics team, but Billy Beane and co. can take comfort in knowing the solutions to their problems may already be in their possession. It’s up to them to realize just who will best serve their needs. The perfect solution has to be in there somewhere, right?