By now, the entire baseball world knows about the blockbuster deal in which the Athletics acquired Samardzija and Hammel. The main question I’ve heard is “Why? They already have a great staff.” That is true. Their pitching staff as a whole ranks 2nd in baseball with a 3.18 ERA. Only Washington comes in at a lower clip of 3.09. Why improve the pitching staff? Allow me to explain.
With the addition of Samardzija and Hammel, the A’s now boast a wealth of starting pitching. Currently, they have Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez in the rotation to accompany Samardzija and Hammel. Beyond the starting 5, there is also Tommy Milone who was just optioned down to Triple-A, and Brad Mills who will likely be optioned before game time Sunday. There is also Drew Pomeranz who is currently on the DL, along with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin who the A’s expect back next season.
Right there the A’s have 10 players (9 with Hammel most likely departing this season via free agency) that most A’s fans would say they feel alright when they’re starting. You know what Billy Beane likes to do with surplus? Trade it to rebuild for the future.
Tommy Milone being optioned caught many by surprise. My guess is that he was sent down for one of 2 reasons. The first is that the A’s don’t plan on using him until after the All-Star break and want to keep him fresh. The second is that he is about to be a part of a package deal with Jim Johnson to acquire a middle infielder. Why package Milone with JJ? Milone has been the hottest starter the A’s have had over his past 11 starts. Of the pitchers they would trade, his value is arguably the highest. The addition of Johnson to the deal is just to unload him and his contract onto another team, NBA style.
If Milone was optioned just to stay fresh, then my guess is that Jesse Chavez is on the trading block, possibly for future talent. While I love what Jesse has done for the team this year, his value is about as high as it will get if he were to be traded. Moving Chavez would allow Milone to come back up, and to slot Pomeranz into the long-relief role upon his return (assuming JJ is also gone by then). The other reason I would trade Chavez over Milone is partly because of the age difference (Chavez is 30, Milone 27) and also the unknown. This is the most innings Chavez has pitched in a single season. How will his arm hold up? An old Beane adage: “It’s better to trade them a year too early than a year too late.” In this instance, it could be to trade Chavez before his arm falls off.
That is what the trade for Samardzija and Hammel means going forward, but let’s talk about what it means in the playoff hunt. The A’s have 2 threats for their division title. The Angels and Mariners. The Angels have lots of offense. What beats offense? Pitching, as evidenced by the A’s 6-3 record against them this season. The Mariners on the other hand have lots of pitching and not as much offense to go along with it. Ideally, this move could gain the A’s one extra victory against the pesky Mariners over the course of the season, which could be the difference.
Since Justin Verlander said this move was made for the Tigers, let’s talk about them. Because everything revolves around the Tigers, right Justin?
As I said in a previous post, the Tigers’ series should be taken with a grain of salt. Pitching match-ups weren’t what they would be in the playoffs and the A’s were on another of their 3 city road trips, with Detroit being the last stop. The A’s record in the third city of these road trips? 4-11. Sorry Justin, it wasn’t just the Tigers that swept the A’s. It was the schedule makers too.
Adding Samardzija and Hammel bolsters the starting rotation in a short series. Kazmir or Samardzija will likely start games 1 and 2 in a potential ALDS series, with Gray and Hammel taking 3 and 4. Of course, this could all change depending on who’s hot at the moment. The addition of Samardzija and Hammel may come down to 1 run. In the playoffs, every run matters. If they can allow one fewer run than Chavez or Milone would have, then that could be all the difference between advancing in the playoffs and being sent home early–again.