OK, you can call off the dogs now. The Athletics performance in New York has convinced me that this team does not have what it takes to make a run and get back into the playoff picture. Oakland should be sellers, not buyers, at the trade deadline.
I’ve been following the progress of the Oakland A’s in their efforts to turn around their season, with an eye towards the upcoming trading deadline and whether or not the team should seek to add pieces to improve their chances, or send talent away and get prospects for the future. (See previous posts in this sequence here, here, and here.)
In those earlier posts, I argued that the A’s had reason to believe–due to their run differential and league rankings in scoring and pitching–that they could claw their way back into contention, even though they sat in last place in the AL West. After being swept by the Royals, I set a goal for the A’s to go 7-3 in their upcoming ten games against the Rockies, Mariners, and Yankees in order to show that they had something real to work with and justify adding on to the roster with acquisitions.
Unfortunately, after today’s uninspiring effort against New York, the team has gone only 5-5–not nearly good enough, even with three more games against the Indians before the All-Star break. The games against the Yankees–who, despite being in first place in the AL East are a flawed and not very challenging team–were particularly telling. After taking the first game of the series and giving themselves two chances to win the set and remain on the outskirts of hope, the A’s came out and played two flat games that showed no sign of the kind of gumption required to dig themselves out of their hole and make a real run towards a Wild Card spot.
Also, math. Remember, a team that wins two out of every three games it plays will win the World Series. (Think it through; you’ll see it’s true.) If the A’s played .666 ball the rest of the season, they’d win another 49 games. Given their current 39-49 record, that would have them finishing at 88-74, a .543 winning percentage. Compared to the rest of the AL, as of today, that would be a good enough record to win a Wild Card spot (.543 would currently be the third best percentage in the league, good enough for the first extra playoff slot)–but there’s no reason to believe that the A’s, even with newly acquired help, would win at that rate. They’re going to be an also ran, and they may as well finish in last place–with newly acquired talent in the farm system–as struggle their way up to third place, ten games behind the second Wild Card team.
The questions are, who will be traded and whom can the A’s get from their trading partners? Ben Zobrist seems sure to be gone; headlines keep touting interest in him from the Mets, among other teams. Scott Kazmir will also probably generate interest, assuming his recent triceps tightness proves to be a fleeting problem. Josh Reddick may have talked his way out of Oakland recently (a shame if he goes; he’s one of my favorites on the team). One or two of the other pitchers may be available for the right price. (Not Sonny Gray; he’s untouchable. At least I think he is; it’s often hard to tell with Billy Beane.)
And what do the A’s need? A shortstop and relief pitchers. If Beane could send Marcus Semien away to some
suckers other team and get a young shortstop and live arm in return, he might refresh his reputation as the game’s premier general manager. After those two pressing needs, it’s get what you can get.
The one thing the A’s will not be getting this year is playoff bonuses–that is now clear. Let the fire sale begin.