Not since the days when Barry Zito and Eric Chavez donned the green and gold have the Oakland Athletics been looking to buy at the trade deadline.
But after a torrid July that has seen the A’s win 17 of 20 games, Oakland finds itself nine games over .500, currently tied with the Los Angeles Angels for the first wild card spot and only five games back of the AL West leading Texas Rangers.
With the deadline on Tuesday, the A’s might be looking to bolster a lineup that—while it has been better of late—continues to be near the bottom of the league in most major offensive statistics.
It’s likely that they’ll be looking to upgrade the left side of the infield, as starting shortstop Cliff Pennington is currently on the 15-day DL with elbow tendinitis and starting third baseman Brandon Inge is batting .199 on the year.
The switch-hitting 28-year-old is currently batting .266 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs, but is batting 19 points higher away from pitcher-friendly PETCO Park.
At shortstop, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported via Twitter that the A’s could consider bringing in Oakland native Jimmy Rollins. The 33-year-old shortstop is batting .256 with nine home runs for the Philadelphia Phillies.
But Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle says that there have been no talks between the A’s and the Phillies about a trade for Rollins.
With the A’s playing so well, one must wonder whether rocking the boat by bringing in new players would negatively affect the team. And while Oakland is tied for last in the majors in batting average with the Mariners at .229, the A’s have started hitting the ball much better of late.
In July, Oakland is sixth in runs scored with 106, eighth in batting average at .251 and tied for second in the American League with 33 home runs. Yoenis Cespedes has a lot to do with the last figure.
Now fully healthy, the rookie outfielder is batting .333 in July to go along with four home runs and 15 RBIs. He's also got his season batting average up to .299.
Along with Cespedes, former Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick has been the offensive catalyst for the Athletics. He leads the team in home runs with 22 and is tied for the team lead with 50 RBIs.
But some still wonder whether the A’s are true contenders, or if their current hot streak will eventually come to a crashing end.
The A’s have been winning games in dramatic fashion recently, including a four game sweep of the Yankees in which all games were decided by one run. Consistently winning close games is difficult.
Much like the Oakland teams of the early 2000s, this year’s Athletics have used superb pitching to climb back into contention and are relying on a ragtag pitching squad made up of rookies and journeymen.
As a team, Oakland’s pitching staff boasts the best ERA in the American League at 3.38. Led by rookies Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook—who both joined the A’s in the Trevor Cahill trade—and fellow first-year pitcher Tommy Milone, the young arms have carried the team.
Manager Bob Melvin is hoping that the return of injured starters Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy in the coming weeks will only help strengthen a deep rotation.
So how much could a new starting shortstop or third baseman help a team that has two losses since the All-Star break? While this team wasn’t expected to compete for another couple of years, it’s starting to show the rest of the league that experience and money spent don’t guarantee success. Just ask the Boston Red Sox. Sometimes it’s about having fun too.
Just how much fun are the A's having? Gabe Zaldivar's piece takes a look at the A's and the Bernie.
This Oakland team has also revived the talk about Billy Beane and his knack of doing more with less. The A’s have the lowest payroll in the American League at about $55 million, or about $118 million less than both the Phillies and the Red Sox.
So now that Beane has lost out on Hanley Ramirez—who ended up with the Dodgers—he’s looking at all possible options to improve his team. Tim Kawakami argues that the A’s should look at Diamondbacks’ shortstop Stephen Drew as a possible reinforcement.
Whatever Beane decides to do, he should consider that he’s now playing with house money. Nobody expected the A’s to be in this position, with a real chance of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2006 when they reached the ALCS and were swept by the Detroit Tigers.
Any move he decides to make should also look to the future of the team, and not focus solely on today.