The July 31st MLB trade deadline is right around the corner, and many fans of the Oakland Athletics are curious to see if Billy Beane is going to make a move to strengthen the roster in the second half.
The recent trade for Matt Garza by the Texas Rangers, along with the seeming inevitability of the AL West foe acquiring another outfielder before the deadline (Alex Rios, Giancarolo Stanton, Jose Bautista and Hunter Pence are a few of the names being floated around) adds that much more pressure on Beane to add a piece to the roster to make sure the A’s remain in first place down the stretch.
Second base continues to be a nagging problem as far as finding a permanent fixture that can contribute quality defense and satisfactory offense. One popular solution in the media is Chase Utley, but there’s been no indication that Beane is interested in the Philadelphia second basemen, and as time goes on it feels more and more likely that the five-time All-Star stays a Phillie.
Several writers have stated the A’s could benefit by acquiring an outfielder. I have to disagree, as the four-man rotation of Reddick-Crisp-Cespedes-Young is solid defensively and can still rebound from a sub-par first half at the plate (Crisp is the exception here, and his value in the leadoff spot cannot be emphasized enough).
If these positions are out of the running for an upgrade, what’s left for the A’s to trade for? Well, you can never have enough pitching, as they say. Wednesday’s news that the A’s could be interested in acquiring Jake Peavy was quite revealing in this respect, and it speaks to several issues in the A’s current starting rotation.
For one, Oakland’s starters are very young, and the addition of a veteran arm could go a long way in the second half and into the postseason. Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker threw more pitches in more games than they ever had before in 2012, and A.J. Griffin didn’t join the club until June last season, and even then he struggled slightly down the stretch.
In other words, these guys have proven they have what it takes to be quality starters this season, but pitching in October is a whole other ballgame, and an extra arm can help to take the pressure off of a four-man rotation.
Some might reply that regular appearances for Dan Straily is the answer, but the right-hander has been somewhat inconsistent in his starts this year, and anyone that doubts this should look at last night’s game against the Angels as evidence. Sometimes he’s great, other times he’s just not in control, and you don’t want your playoff hopes tied to a pitcher who’s still trying to figure out how to deliver a quality outing every time out.
While it’s true that Sonny Gray is waiting in the wings, if one of the qualities the A’s are looking for is reliability, than Gray is even more unproven than Straily. The only place they’re going to find such a pitcher is the open market, and the real question in pulling the trigger is, how much would they have to give up to get that player?
The short answer to that question: a considerable amount. It’s no secret that the A’s have one of the deepest farm systems in the league, and with over 10 contenders looking to improve before the deadline, teams looking to sell have all the leverage. If you’re Billy Beane, do you want to trade the future for a shot at winning now?
This isn’t a problem that’s unique to Oakland, but as is the case with any trade in any sport, the end result is what dictates the success of the trade. What is unique to the A’s situation is the fact that the Biogenesis case looms large over their best starter.
Bartolo Colon is one of the players mentioned in the initial report of targets that the Commissioner’s Office could make a point of suspending, and any pitcher acquired in a trade could be a potential replacement should that scenario play out.
Here’s the thing, though: Colon already served a 50-game suspension, and the League is on shaky ground when it comes to suspending a player twice for the same offense (everyone is assuming that Colon’s association with Biogenesis is directly tied to his positive test last season, and if you’re familiar with the concept of double jeopardy, you know how difficult it will be for Major League Baseball to suspend Colon again without invoking a successful appeal from the Players Association).
So as it stands, you have to assume that the A’s four-man rotation will be intact for the rest of the season. When you factor in Straily, you have a fifth starter that can be called upon, and while an extra arm would be nice to have, the market for starting pitchers isn’t especially deep, at least not deep enough to justify auctioning off valued prospects when you could just sit tight and continue to rely upon the formula that’s gotten you a three-game division lead with 60 games left to play. And let’s not forget that this staff leads the American League in ERA by a healthy margin.
In other words, the onus is on the Rangers to keep pace with the A’s, not the other way around. While you’d like to see the A’s add a couple pieces to shore up the holes in the roster, the fact is that there’s quite a bit of competition out there for the trade chips available, meaning a bidding war is likely to ensue where someone ends up overpaying for a specific need.
Don’t put it past Beane to swing a deal, but don’t expect for it to be a blockbuster trade that changes the course of Oakland’s season, either. After all, this is the A’s we’re talking about. What would a playoff appearance mean if the player’s didn’t overachieve to get there?