Sitting pretty at 51-31, the A’s are entering the month of July as the toast of the American League and have a commanding lead in the West. However, there are some troubling holes on the roster that need to be addressed, likely via trade. Even though Billy Beane is not commonly a big player during the season, I think he should attempt to upgrade the roster in some fashion ahead of the July 31st trade deadline.
As Jason discussed here, Beane has long track record of executing beneficial trades for the team. And more than any other team, the A’s roster is the story of trades and transactions and not one of homegrown talent and player development. This team’s strength is putting the right guys in the right places to have success at the major league level no matter where they’ve come from.
That makes predicting the next big trade a difficult proposition with the Athletics. Any player they go after has to fill a need at a low cost, both in the cost of acquisition (via prospects, etc.) and in salary. I can see the A’s taking on an overpaid veteran’s salary to lower his cost in trade, but I have a hard time imagining that they will sacrifice much flexibility for coming years’ rosters in doing so. However, if Beane sees this year as the only window, I wouldn’t put it past him taking on an ugly contract if he thinks it can get him a championship this fall. So what does this team need? The league’s best scoring offense could use a little help up the middle in the infield and our core of starting pitching could certainly use some reinforcements as the season takes its toll.
We need an upgrade at the keystone.
The guys who have seen time at second base this year (Eric Sogard, Alberto Callaspo and Nick Punto) have combined to be worth -0.2 fWAR together, which is not exactly what I’d call inspiring. I enjoy Nick Punto and think he has a role on this team, though it’s a little redundant to have both him and Callaspo on the roster as utility infielders. Even more since that’s probably Sogard’s ideal role as well…he’s not the type of guy who should be starting more than half a competitor’s games.
I’ve heard lots of names floated for this spot: Chase Utley, Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy, Aaron Hill. Pretty much anyone with a pulse playing 2B on a bad team has been whispered about as a likely target in one corner of the internet or another. I think Utley and Zobrist are good fits on the roster, but I wonder if the cost in prospects would be prohibitive to the A’s making a trade for them. Murphy hits for empty average and is a butcher with the glove, Hill looks like he’s on Dan Uggla’s aging curve and is signed (not very cheaply) until 2017.
Personally, I like the idea of grabbing an unproven young guy and throwing him into the job. Nick Franklin has struggled on the Mariners in limited time, but has been destroying the ball in Tacoma. He’s also a decent defender at second or shortstop and has spent a little bit of time in the outfield. He’s a redundant player in Seattle, and could have the opportunity to play himself into the second base job for the foreseeable future if he dons the green and gold. Josh Rutledge is another guy with an interesting bat and limited playing time in Colorado, even though he’s not an elite defender by any means. Both of these guys would come at a price, but they are both pre-arb and have with several years of team control remaining.
Another option is to shop for a shortstop and bump Jed Lowrie over to second. Jed started 23 games at the keystone last year, and it’s possible a guy like Jimmy Rollins could join Lowrie up the middle for our stretch run. That’s assuming, of course, that Rollins would waive his 10-and-5 trade protection to come back to his hometown. He seems a lock to have his option vest for next year, so he’ll be making $11MM next year regardless of what uniform he’s wearing for his (gulp) age 37 season. That said, he’s been incredibly productive this year and the vesting option would take some of the pressure off of A’s top-prospect Addison Russell to be ready for opening day of 2015.
The A’s should trade for another strong starter.
I don’t know what (if anything) is wrong with Sonny Gray, the kid has incredible talent but his last month can be most pleasantly described as “troubling” righ now. Scott Kazmir has had some recent bumps but has performed well overall and Jesse Chavez is developing to a quality major league starter. Tommy Milone is playing his crafty-lefty part well enough to be league average, Brad Mills is perfectly acceptable for a dollar and Drew Pomeranz was looking great before he got into a fight with a chair. However well those guys have performed as a unit this far, there’s still half of the season and a hopefully deep playoff run still ahead on the calendar. If someone gets hurt, we’re looking at Dan Straily (Triple-A ERA of 4.71 and FIP of 4.66) and some existential despair.
Don’t take me as being negative on this, our rotation has performed beautifully considering 40% of the expected opening day rotation (Parker and Griffin) went under the knife in the offseason. I just think we need to bring in someone to shore up the rotation with quality innings. An extra starter would allow us to move Mills into a swing-man role or maybe give Sonny a chance to work on stuff in AAA…the A’s are a team that lives and dies by our flexibility, and our rotation has been bent to the point of breaking.
It’s probably clear enough that we won’t be getting David Price or Jeff Samardzija, top flight pitching costs top prospects and we’re not giving up Addison Russell for a rental player. So who? Well, blog-writers for every MLB team are dreaming about the clever and insanely unlucky Brandon McCarthy, with his 5.11 ERA and 2.91 xFIP. And don’t get me wrong, I would very much love to have McCarthy back in the A’s rotation, but it’s not like he’s going to come at a discount just because he has an ugly ERA. At the very least, though, the price for half a season of McCarthy should be something Beane and Company can afford if they choose. That said, It’s important to remember that this is not a team that likes to pay full price, Jim Johnson and Brian Fuentes aside. I could see the FO trying to pick up a guy like Jason Hammel or even going for an average-ish pitcher like Kevin Correia who might not be on the most contenders’ radar.
Another potential wrinkle would be to bring Trevor Cahill back. Yes, he’s been terrible. Yes, he’s owed $12 million next year on the contract he signed with the A’s years ago. But the D-Backs seem ready to be rid of him, having demoted him initially to high A-ball, so they would probably give him up for a prayer while paying a bunch of his salary. And remember: The kid is just 26 years old, his fastball velocity is approximately the same as it was in 2009 and A’s have one of the best pitching coaches in the league with Curt Young. Plus, he’s likely to be available until the waiver trade deadline at the end of August so it’s an option that will remain available for a little longer than others. It would be a risk in a lot of ways, but I don’t see anyone on the rosters of either Sacramento or Midland that I would feel comfortable going with for any length of time on the big club.
When it comes down to it, trying to predict what this team is going to do on the trade market is a shaky proposition at best. The Athletics’ front office could surprise us all and land one of the big fish rumored to be available this summer or they could just as easily stand pat and go forward with the roster as is. One thing is for sure, we’re going to hear plenty of buzz around the Athletics this month as trade talk heats up. What do you think? What do you want your A’s to do at the deadline?
Tags: Oakland Athletics