Oakland A's: Why Billy Beane Should Sell High on Ryan Cook at the Deadline
Oakland has fared well so far this season, far exceeding expectations by finishing at the .500 mark at the All-Star break despite being tagged as being in a “rebuilding” mode.
However, with the A’s still crippled by their small-market budget and lack of a new ballpark plan, they could still find themselves on the selling end at the trade deadline despite trailing by just 2.5 games in the AL Wild Card race.
But who exactly is the top candidate to fall victim to Billy Beane’s trade machine?
Well, it should come to no surprise for longtime A’s fans, as well as persons who study advanced baseball metrics (or read Moneyball, for that matter) that the team’s lone All-Star, Ryan Cook, is the most likely player on the roster to be dealt in the near future, as he fits perfectly into Oakland’s “Sell the Closer” ideology.
Cook has definitely had the wow-factor going for him this season with his stats, posting a microscopic 1.41 ERA through 38.1 innings, including a 23-inning scoreless streak to start the season. He’s asserted himself into the A’s closer role and has converted eight of his last 11 save opportunities.
And with those numbers put amongst baseball’s elite out of the bullpen, it takes just a basic understand of sabermetrics to understand that Cook’s phenomenal first-half numbers will eventually level out as time wears on.
Examining Cook’s pitching style, he’s one that relies heavily on his sinker and slider to force ground balls and record quick outs. Broken down to metrics, it’s easy to see that Cook’s wildly successful season can be highly attributed to luck and outstanding defense.
Opponents' batting average on balls in play is unsustainably low at .146, so once those balls in play start finding room and turn into hits, his numbers are bound to rise. His 1.57 power-to-finesse ratio shows that most of the outs Cook records are produced by his defense, so even subtle changes in opponents' BABIP would have devastating effects on his performance.
Though his numbers are unsustainable, his short-lived performance does provide Beane with a considerably large chip to bargain with at the deadline.
Bullpen assistance is always a hot commodity to contenders looking to make a run at the postseason this time of year, and with closers like Heath Bell and Jonathan Papelbon receiving huge contracts last offseason, there should be a GM willing to pay top dollar for Cook’s services.
Oakland landed slugging right fielder Josh Reddick in the Andrew Bailey trade last winter, and perhaps a team like the Mets would be willing to give up a top prospect or two as they dream out a playoff berth in the National League.
Unless the Athletics get hot before the July 31 trade deadline and emerge as a clearer threat to steal a Wild Card seed in the playoffs this year, Cook’s days in Oakland could be numbered, and rightfully so.
And even if the A’s are performing well, flipping Cook for an infield bat to counteract Brandon Inge or Cliff Pennington’s woes at the plate could prove to be more beneficial to the A’s. It is Billy Beane’s team after all, and A’s fans have learned to trust in his front office decisions, no matter how brazen they might seem.
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