With the non-waiver trade deadline three weeks away, the Oakland Athletics find themselves with plenty of options. They can stand pat, make a major splash or acquire minor pieces in hopes they go a long way.
Just as they would for a draft, the A's have a plan in place, a blueprint they're holding close to their vest. No one but management knows what they'll end up doing, but below, you'll see a faux blueprint that covers the "woulda, shoulda" ("coulda" was answered above) of trade deadline moves.
There has been a ton of chatter about starting pitching and second base so far.
Neither positions are necessarily a necessity. But should one or both of these positions be upgraded soon, it could mean the difference between one wild-card game and a World Series berth.
So, is it starting pitching, second base, both, none or a completely different option all together?
What the A's Should Do
A move for second base, right now, is low priority. It really hinges on Grant Green.
If Green plays anywhere in the range of slightly above Eric Sogard to amazing, the A's should not make a move for an infielder. If he matches Sogard's production, they shouldn't make a move unless it's extremely cheap and without much risk. If his output is less than desired, the A's should pull the trigger but still only one on the cheaper end.
The incumbent Sogard is hitting .261, which isn't awful considering he's never been an everyday player until this year. But Sogard hasn't done much of anything else. He's hit one home run and has 13 RBI. Consider Chris Young is hitting .188, and he's knocked in 28 runs.
Stephen Drew (.228, 25 RBI) didn't wildly outperform Cliff Pennington (.230, 17 RBI) in the second half of 2012, but the little spark he provided went a long way.
The starting rotation is in decent shape, too.
Four starters have winning records and one, Jarrod Parker, has an even record. Brett Anderson might even return before the end of the season, and Sonny Gray is dominating Triple-A.
Again, a move hinges on one player—Dan Straily.
If he continues to improve, the A's shouldn't overspend for a starting pitcher. The rotation is doing a solid job, and it's helping the team compete every single game—regardless of the opponent.
Oakland is dominating interleague play. The team also owns a winning record in every month, in nine-inning games and extra-inning games.
It's not broken, so why fix it?
The tweet above by the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea indicates manager Bob Melvin has the same sentiment.
Unfortunately, there's another aspect to consider: Bartolo Colon and a possible suspension.
According to Paul Hagen of MLB.com, "suspensions are looming" and Colon's name is on the list. If Colon is suspended again, Anderson won't return in time, and he's not a lock to turn in high-quality outings anyway, based on his 2013 start.
In this scenario, a trade for a starter is a must.
Moreover, they should target a starting pitcher on the Texas Rangers' wish list. Doing so would either nab one of Texas' targets, forcing the Rangers to a backup plan, or it could start a bidding war which, if we're saying what should happen, the A's would exit after jacking up the price on said pitcher.
That means kicking the tires on Cliff Lee, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, and Matt Garza, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports. Steal one for cheap or show interest to peak the price.
For more logical trade candidates, a guy like Bud Norris makes a ton of sense.
He won't cost an arm and a leg—maybe a literal arm—but he's definitely a quality pitcher (3.63 ERA and 6-8 record on the Houston Astros). Norris has also stated he'd love to play for the San Francisco Giants, his childhood favorite team, via Morosi. In the same statement, he said he rooted for the A's too, due to proximity. If the Giants go for bigger, that could place Norris squarely in Oakland's lap.
So what should Oakland do?
If Green is an improvement, Straily continues upward and Colon avoids suspension, the answer is nothing.
If Green isn't an improvement, Oakland should be cautious in the second base market. If Major League Baseball suspends Colon, Oakland has to trade for his replacement.
What the A's Will Do
This isn't a factual conclusion, it's merely a prediction based on prior observations and gut instinct.
Green has three weeks to prove himself.
For a guy getting his first shot, it's not enough time. He has potential, and he tore up Triple-A. But unless he's the next Mike Trout or Yasiel Puig, it'll be difficult to translate that success to the next level in such a quick span.
This could be a Drew-over-Pennington situation all over again—a small, yet safe move (Gordon Beckham or Nick Punto maybe).
The chances of a move are slim, but if one is made for a second baseman, it'll be small.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Colon is not suspended in the hope that MLB realizes he's already served his time in 2012. For all his "struggles," Straily is a quality fifth starter. Furthermore, Anderson and Gray are safety nets, even if they are questionable.
The rotation remains as is.
What will Oakland do? It is in a fabulous spot to sit tight and fight this one out with the warriors it has on the field already.
That's not a bad strategy to run with.