Suddenly, the A's are Moneyballin' again
As of this writing, the A's have not made any major (or even minor) moves to boost what has been a very surprising 2012 team that currently contends for an American League wild-card spot. For a team that many had losing a minimum of 90 games and upwards of 100, being 53-45 as July winds down is a minor miracle.
Consider this is being done without ever getting a game from Manny Ramirez, the injury woes of Brandon McCarthy and Yoenis Cespedes, and zero innings pitched thus far from Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden.
With the news that Oakland was very much in buy mode in trying to acquire recently traded Hanley Ramirez, it is apparent that A's GM Billy Beane has some latitude to acquire pieces to improve the team. That said, here are some of the more pragmatic moves the A's could make to help them in their final push toward what would be a remarkable playoff appearance.
Could the A's be playing a game of Marco Scutaro?
One of my favorite players from the mid-2000s in Oakland, Marco Scutaro would be a very welcome returner to the Green and Gold. A good defender, Scutaro has splits of .271/.324/.359 on the year. Admittedly, those numbers won't blow you off the page. But when you consider that A's shortstops have splits of .184/.244/.276 on the year, Scutaro would be a marked (and inexpensive) upgrade.
In addition, Scutaro has the ability to play both shortstop and second base, meaning he could step in for the underwhelming combination of Brandon Hicks and Cliff Pennington and also spell the struggling Jemile Weeks at second base. My gut feeling is that Scutaro will be available right at the trade deadline, so it would not surprise me to see the A's make a move with Colorado for him.
Let me tell you the story of a man named Jed...
Another economical (relatively speaking) option, Jed Lowrie would also be a great fit for the Athletics.
Currently having a solid year, Lowrie has 14 home runs and splits of .253/.343/.456 in 2012. Although he is arbitration eligible in 2013, Lowrie is not a free agent until 2015, giving a team two years of club control. For a team like Oakland, that would make him an intriguing choice.
Like Scutaro, Lowrie would be valuable because he can play anywhere on the left side of the infield, which is where the A's biggest hole lies. Brandon Inge has struggled by and large, though he has had plenty of big hits. Having already discussed the woes at shortstop, adding Lowrie would provide a huge boost at that spot.
Defensively, Lowrie is average, but he more than makes up for that with the improved bat the A's would get. Billy Beane would probably have to give up a good pitching prospect, but that is one area where Oakland is not short.
The A's may be in the "Chase" for Headley
The reality is, Chase Headley would be a fantastic acquisition for the Oakland Athletics. He is having a career year, and, although he strikes out a lot, Headley would also represent an upgrade for the left side of the A's infield.
However, I feel he would cost the most, as Oakland is not the only team in the market for a quality third baseman. Players like Daniel Strally are completely off-limits and the thinking may be the A's might not quite be ready to push in big chips to make a push for a spot in a one-game wild card.
On the other hand, Headley would serve to further balance out a lineup that has finally started to hit the ball a bit in the month of July. Headley could be put in the 6-hole and makes the team that much more dangerous as the home stretch comes around.
Furthermore, like Lowrie, Headley would be under club control for at least two years, making him another relatively inexpensive pickup salary-wise. With no one on the immediate horizon set to step in at third base, Headley would be an upgrade over Scott Sizemore.
Would the A's make the move for Upton?
Yes, the A's have a pretty solid outfield with Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick anchoring the corners and Coco Crisp on fire in center field. But Justin Upton is still a blue-chip player, and his acquisition would be not just for this season, but for seasons going forward. Coming off an MVP year in 2011, Upton has not been as good, with splits of .271/.364/.404.
But again, Upton is a premier center fielder. Salary would probably be the biggest hindrance (he is set to make $14.25 million in 2014 and 2015), but an outfield of Cespedes, Reddick, and Upton would be potentially the best in all of baseball.
Arizona would probably want top-end prospects like Raul Alcantara, A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock. Depending on what the A's could send back in terms of salary, it is still not out of the question.
Bob Melvin continues to push the right buttons
Another player the A's may have had interest in was Jimmy Rollins, but it is pretty clear the Phillies will attempt to make a desperate push for him with all of the talent they still have.
All told, the weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles will go a long way in determining what Oakland's plans may be at the deadline. If they win another series, it could prompt Billy Beane to pull the trigger on a move or two (or more).
In addition to the players Oakland is interested in acquiring, there is still lots of talk they may be selling as well. Prominent names include Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour and potentially Coco Crisp (though that appears to be a long-shot).
Invariably, no matter who the team takes, it will still be up to the American League's best pitching staff to continue giving this surprising team chances to win. If Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, A.J. Griffin and Travis Blackley pitch like they have been, you might see the A's in the postseason whether they make moves or not.