9 Potential Deals Billy Beane Should Propose at the Deadline
The Oakland A's are off to such a fine start in this 2014 season that it seems all but clear that they should be buyers at the trade deadline. Of course they don't have to, but you can guarantee other contenders will be. If Billy Beane wants to advance to the World Series, he'll have to pull off moves to keep pace.
It's hard to find a solid position that makes sense outside of the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Catcher is out. Derek Norris and John Jaso are both hitting well, and Stephen Vogt lies in wait in case one falls that bad. The outfield is stacked with Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Craig Gentry. It helps that Brandon Moss can play right field as well.
Josh Donaldson is an All-Star workhorse at third base. Shortstop isn't likely to upgrade either.
The bullpen has hit some snags, but is there really room to add another dynamic arm?
First base seems like the spot, except that the A's have Moss, Daric Barton and Nate Freiman in Triple-A. Alberto Callaspo can play first if necessary, too. The same can be said for second base. The A's currently have Eric Sogard and Nick Punto in addition to Callaspo.
It's a crowded roster.
To make a move, someone will suffer. Let's take a look at potential trades and their aftereffects. Some may be completely ludicrous, but would you really put anything past Beane when it comes to the trade deadline?
Before the list, though, let me make it clear. These are not nine potential moves Beane must make. He should simply kick the tires, propose one or two and see what happens. The A's do not need to make a move. But it wouldn't hurt.
Lastly, these are ordered from least likely to most likely.
9. Mark Buehrle from the Toronto Blue Jays
Mark Buehrle could make sense because he's 7-1 with a 2.04 ERA in eight games. Beane has also shown a willingness to trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Examples include Frank Thomas, Rajai Davis, Jesse Chavez, Michael Taylor and more.
Richard Griffin of The Toronto Star claims Buehrle could be the first to go if the Blue Jays are out of contention by July.
So why not pull the trigger if that time comes?
Buehrle's price tag is an issue. Currently, he's making $18 million this season and will make another $19 million in 2015. To get him, Toronto would need to eat a large chunk of money, and the A's would almost certainly look to trade Buehrle at the season's end.
It would help the team, no doubt about it. So it's worth at least checking into. But the cost makes it unlikely.
8. Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn from the Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are seven games back in the American League Central. They have a couple of aging veterans they could plausibly offload to bring in younger talent. The A's, meanwhile, have quite a bit of young talent. These two teams seem to be a match made in heaven.
However, the A's are limited by where they can upgrade.
One spot does stand out: first base or designated hitter.
Adam Dunn could be a nice complement to Moss at first base. Moss hits lefties well; Dunn hits better against right-handers than he does against the lefties. Admittedly, Moss does hit better still against those right-handers.
Again, it could be a nice complement piece.
The lineup could look like this: Jaso at DH, Moss at first, Norris catches and Dunn sits. When Reddick needs to sit, Moss moves to right field and Dunn goes to first. If Jaso sits, Dunn is the DH. If Norris sits, Jaso catches and Dunn is the DH.
He costs $15 million now, and then he's a free agent. With some money kicked in by Chicago, it might be worth a shot.
A lesser gamble would be to take Paul Konerko off Chicago's hands.
He's making $2.5 million, with $1 million deferred until 2021. If Chicago pays that $1 million, Konerko would come cheap in both terms of money and prospects. He isn't wowing anyone currently, so again, it's a gamble for a veteran who knows the game well (and is cheap).
7. One of the Big Names from the Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Shoot, maybe even a pitcher.
Howard would be a nice addition to fill the role of first base or DH in the scenario I listed in the slide prior. But would he be as OK with taking days off frequently as Dunn or Konerko? Probably not. And for the price of $75 million over the next three years (not including a $10 million buyout option for 2017), it's just too much.
If money were no object, maybe.
Utley may be a bit up there in dollars, but he's much more realistic. He currently makes $15 million this season, $10 million in 2015 and will cost $2 million to buy out before 2016. But why Utley?
Second base is a position the A's could easily upgrade. Utley is one of the best-hitting second basemen in the game right now. His .343 average is tops among the position. His .973 OPS is also the best in the category.
Rollins makes $11 million in 2014 with an option for 2015.
He's hitting .267, lower than Utley, but he's producing nearly the same amount of home runs and RBI. With a trade for Rollins, Jed Lowrie would slide over to second base (or is it out of the question to push Rollins to second?).
Similar to Howard, if money were no object, Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels would be fantastic adds.
Because money is an issue in Oakland, A.J. Burnett could make plenty of sense. He's making $7.5 million this year and will cost $1 million to buy out. He has postseason experience and pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team similar to the A's in structure (young, cheap guys mixed in with cheap veterans).
6. Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs (or Jason Hammel)
Jeff Samardzija is going to be one of the most sought-after pitchers on the market. If he's going to be on the move, then the Oakland A's should at least try to land him.
In eight attempts, he's 0-3, but look past his record. He owns a 1.45 ERA, has walked 16 and struck out 45. Furthermore, he's a cost-efficient $5.345 million. At the end of the season, he'd be arbitration eligible.
It might take a few more prospects to snag him, though.
But the A's have a quality farm right now. Even with Addison Russell off-limits, they could conceivably find a match. With multiple first basemen and catchers in the system, one could be packaged with the likes of a Daniel Robertson and pitching to make the deal.
Competition for Samardzija will be tough, but there's a fallback option on the same team.
Jason Hammel could be on pace for a career year. Only once has he finished with an ERA under 4.00, but so far in 2014, he holds a 2.45 ERA in seven starts. He's striking out seven per nine innings and walking about two per nine. Best of all, he costs $6 million on a one-year deal.
5. Rickie Weeks from the Milwaukee Brewers
Rickie Weeks hasn't impressed too many in the past two seasons, but so far so good in 2014. Why would the Milwaukee Brewers give him away when they're currently contending? Because they have 24-year-old Scooter Gennett hitting .287 right behind him.
Weeks is hitting .333. While he's only hitting .217 against left-handed hurlers, he's hitting .455 against righties. That's only two-and-a-half times what Sogard is hitting. Sogard could take the role of Barton, the late-inning defensive switch.
A trade for Weeks could also mean the end of the line for Sogard or Punto.
Weeks currently makes $11 million, so like most others on this list, his team would need to eat quite a bit of money to make this deal happen.
4. Brandon Phillips from the Cincinnati Reds
For the same amount of money—$11 million in 2014—the A's could inquire about Brandon Phillips.
Phillips is hitting .285 in 10 more games than Weeks. He's also bringing more to the table in terms of home runs, RBI and overall production. Unlike Weeks, there would be significantly less time split with Sogard, Punto or Callaspo. If traded for, second base would be all Phillips'.
Luckily, though, there would be no loss in defensive ability. Phillips is a defensive wizard.
Is he available?
So what's stopping the A's?
Money, again, and as always. The $11 million this year may be doable. But the combined $29 million in the following three seasons won't work. This would have to be another trade-for-a-year-and-then-trade-in-the-offseason type of move.
Worth it in the long run? No. Would it help them contend now? Absolutely.
3. Scott Feldman from the Houston Astros
Scott Feldman from the Houston Astros could come in and immediately pitch out of the fourth spot. The rotation would then be Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Feldman and Drew Pomeranz. Tommy Milone and Dan Straily keep starting roles in Triple-A and are available if the need is there.
Feldman would also be a cheap answer.
Moreover, Billy Beane isn't afraid to trade with AL West rivals. This offseason, he traded one of the organization's top prospects in Michael Choice to arguably their closest rival, the Texas Rangers. Besides, the Astros are less competition for right now (but let's talk in a few years).
Feldman shouldn't cost an arm and a leg.
It might be possible to snag him for one top-20 pitcher and another low- to mid-level prospect. However, if Oakland did acquire him, Houston would need to eat a chunk of his $12 million contract.
In five starts, Feldman is 2-1 with a 1.98 ERA. He's walked nine and struck out 15, but he's also kept opposing batters to a .184 average. He spent time on the disabled list with a bicep issue, so that could lead to an even cheaper price tag on him if a move is made sooner than later.
Feldman costs $10 million and $8 million, respectively, in the next two years. So while it works well short term, long term could be a different tale.
2. Options from the San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres should be sellers at the deadline, and they have plenty of available options.
Seth Smith is their best hitter by a long shot, but the A's have no role for him. So that's out.
The A's are rumored to be interested in outfielder/first baseman Kyle Blanks as well, via Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. However, that move doesn't make too much sense in the short term. The outfield is stacked so first base is his best bet, but he doesn't appear much different than Nate Freiman in build or production.
Pitching could work, though.
The Padres have three starters with a 3.12 ERA or better: Andrew Cashner (2.67), Tyson Ross (3.02) and Ian Kennedy (3.12). Whether or not any of them is available is another story. It might take a haul to grab Cashner, but it'd take considerably less to reacquire Ross or the 29-year-old Kennedy.
1. No Trade; Sign Kendrys Morales
The A's love them some drafting. Hey, it's cheaper than signing free agents most of the time. So will they give up a draft pick to the rival Seattle Mariners to sign Kendrys Morales? Nope.
But after the draft, things could change.
In the last four seasons, Morales has averaged a .286 batting average, 22 home runs and 75 RBI. And he's a good all-around hitter too. For his entire career, he hits .286 against right-handed hitters and .262 against lefties.
Like the Konerko-Dunn option, Morales can be used primarily as a DH on days Jaso or Norris take off. Or he can play first when Moss sits or plays right field.
Morales made $5.25 million last year, so to sign him halfway through, we're talking an affordable $3 million or so.