Just want to build upon this week’s Friday Feature by getting out ahead of the speculation and stating, directly, what I think the A’s should do about the upcoming trade deadline.
This contradicts the very essence of this week’s commentary, but–I think Oakland should take a wait and see approach, and hold off on trading any of their best players (Ben Zobrist seems to be the number one bargaining chip right now) until the last possible minute. And in fact, unless the A’s completely tank in the next three or so weeks, I think they should be thinking not in terms of a fire sale, but of adding talent to the roster, especially in the bullpen.
That may seem like a strange prescription for a team that, despite better play recently, still sits seven games under .500 and nine games out in the division (six games out of the second wild card position) as of this writing. But not only have the A’s begun to play much better recently (five in a row, 8-2 in their last ten games), but they’ve been doing it in all phases of the game: scoring a ton of runs, getting great starting pitching…even the bullpen and defense–the two fatal flaws so far–have been coming around lately.
With quality starting pitching like we’ve seen from Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, and Jesse Hahn, it’s hard to count the team out even given the current, overall losing record. Plus, the offense has turned into a real force, especially since Zobrist returned to the lineup after being injured. If they get Sean Doolittle back–and perhaps add another arm in the bullpen via a trade–the possibilities for the A’s getting well back into the playoff hunt will get a real boost, especially with struggling teams like the Rockies, Indians, and Mariners on the upcoming schedule. (The Royals and Yankees will provide stiffer tests, but at least KC will be playing in Oakland.)
Remember, last year’s team steamrolled through the first half, then struggled after the All-Star break (and after dubious trades); flip that script around and Oakland zipping back from last place into contention becomes much more plausible.
True, last year’s team was last year’s team; not a lot of those guys are still around. But if the idea behind the off-season moves was to get better, then it’s reasonable to expect the present team to outperform the past team. They haven’t done that so far, but with health and a little more help, the possibilities are still there.
So the smart thing for Billy Beane to do: nothing, other than hunt around for another lively arm for the bullpen. At least, that’s the prescription for now, until July 25th or so rolls around; if the team is still under .500 at that point, then sure, go ahead and rip it up. But, unlike Oakland of yesteryear, there still might be some there there–if the team is given a chance to keep driving forward.