Can Billy Beane Afford to Play It Safe at the Deadline After Texas' Garza Trade?

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Can Billy Beane Afford to Play It Safe at the Deadline After Texas' Garza Trade?
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
With Matt Garza in a Texas Rangers uniform now, is a corresponding trade mandatory for the Oakland A's?

Though the Texas Rangers acquired pitcher Matt Garza, Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane shouldn't feel pressured to respond with an equivalently loud move.

The Rangers are 2-5 since the July 22 addition. The A's, meanwhile, won five out of seven in the same span, increasing their AL West division lead by six games. And best of all, they're earning hard-fought wins with the same sense of confidence we saw late last season.

In comments captured by Jane Lee of MLB.com, Oakland skipper Bob Melvin shared some insight:

I think we got some confidence in the second half of last year going forward, and now we just kind of feel like this is who we are. That's a good thing. To an extent, we do play in the same fashion, but it is a different season and we do have some different personnel here.

Bartolo Colon is having one of the most memorable years of his career. Josh Donaldson cemented his status as not only an everyday third baseman, but an All-Star caliber player. Grant Balfour miraculously saved 44 consecutive games dating back to Apr. 29, 2012 and held a perfect conversion rate in 2013 until July 23.

Although each facet (starting pitching, bullpen, offense) is strong, the trouble is, the three units have yet to get hot and stay hot at the same time.

Starting pitching started the season in ugly fashion, but guys like Donaldson and newcomer Jed Lowrie scored runs in bunches to keep the A's close. Once the team took a lead—even if only by one run—the bullpen shut the door. Unfortunately, as the rotation rebounds, the once scorching bats have simmered down. The bullpen, too, has had its issues recently.

It's no surprise teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers are in the top 10, if not top five, of several statistical team categories. Not coincidentally, those three teams are atop their division leaderboards too.

Every team looks to achieve the perfect balance that will lead to a World Series win. It's why the Rangers trade for top-notch pitching.

It's why the A's might be tempted to make a move too.

Hence, insiders tout Oakland as a possible destination for starting pitcher Jake Peavy. ESPN's Buster Olney is among them (insider only).

But it's not about countering the Garza move. The move will pay dividends for Texas and make the race tighter, yet it won't guarantee an automatic flip-flop of the top two spots. Beane can afford to sit tight after that move. It's Texas' next move that should have him concerned.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Rangers are in the Alex Rios sweepstakes or may aim bigger at Giancarlo Stanton or Jose Bautista (should they become available). Heyman notes about a half-dozen other options too, which means it's pretty clear Texas intends to add a bat.

Interestingly enough, Texas' name popped up in Peavy talks too.

White Sox beat writer Daryl Van Schouwen tweeted the update:

Whether the move is actually to bolster its rotation further or simply to increase the price Oakland must pay for Peavy is anyone's guess. This is exactly why the A's and Beane should be cautious. Beane himself acknowledged that the current market holds more buyers than sellers, according to John Hickey of the Contra Costa Times, which only ups the cost of upgrades. Hickey noted Beane's thoughts on the price tags too:

Beane wouldn’t talk about individual players on the market, but he did say that cost and length of contract would not necessarily be an issue.

“When you are looking at having to give up talent in any kind of deadline deal like this, in many instances you’d prefer to have the player you’re getting for as long as possible,’’ he said.

That talent he's talking about likely is No. 1 pitching prospect Sonny Gray, future stud Addison Russell or both. To give up a future that bright, Beane is absolutely correct: Hanging onto the acquired asset for as long as possible is key. Otherwise, it's a Carlos Beltran-for-Zach Wheeler situation.

That's a move the A's can't afford.

If Texas decides Garza is the answer and moves forward as is, and all Oakland units turn up the heat simultaneously, then Beane can play it safe and take a shot at October with this squad you're seeing in July.

The team believes they can do it.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle obtained quotes from Melvin and catcher Derek Norris after a win over the Los Angeles Angels on July 27. First from Norris:

When the pitching was struggling earlier in the season, the offense picked up the slack, and now that the offense is struggling, the pitching has picked up the slack. That makes us a dangerous ballclub. There’s going to be a time we get both sides going.

Melvin added:

That’s the strength of our team. If a Cespedes isn’t swinging well, or (Josh) Reddick, there’s a Norris or Sogard. We have a pretty balanced lineup. It really is a group type offense for us. In a lot of ways it’s good, we don’t rely on one or two guys to get the job done. When you’re not swinging well, you’re grinding even harder, but we have a number of guys who can pick it up.

It's a strength that has kept them in first place even though the stats wouldn't support the notion. The you-pick-me-up-I-pick-you-up standard works in the long run of a 162-game season. But to progress through five and seven game playoff series, the complete package is the better bet.

So while no major move need be made in response to Texas, it might be in Beane and Co.'s best interest to look beyond their AL West opponent.

To get beyond a team like those pesky Tigers, a bit of risk is quite necessary.

But should that risk be Gray, Russell and cash for Peavy? Definitely not. It's not super risky, it could be very rewarding now, but it's just too expensive. Oakland isn't far off as is, so a move—starting pitching, second base, catcher, bullpen, a combination, all four—should still pay out more than it originally cost.

With so many buyers and so few sellers, that might not even be an option.

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