7 Under-the-Radar Players the Oakland A's Could Nab at the Deadline
By now it should be pretty clear that no matter how much Oakland A's fans clamor for a "big" trade, it won't happen. Instead, expect an under-the-radar player to be acquired, if any at all.
The A's have a knack for doing it. Just this season, they traded for Kyle Blanks. Blanks was a top prospect when first drafted, but never quite lived up to the hype. Now as a platoon first baseman for Oakland, he's doing everything expected.
That's the kind of guy you'll get.
First and foremost, an "under-the-radar" player means they aren't a big name. Sure, it'd be an under-the-radar move to acquire a big name no one knew was on the block. However, the chances of that don't seem very likely.
Therefore, names like Chase Utley or Ben Zobrist won't make this list. (But, boy, wouldn't either be a great add?)
Next, you have to look at teams that make sense.
Teams that are out of playoff contention already are good trade candidates. Teams that may be in contention and have a glaring weakness also could work, but trading to a strong playoff contender in the A's doesn't make sense if there's the potential to meet them in October. So for these purposes, we'll stick to bottom-dwelling teams.
Last, you need to know your team needs.
Catcher is stacked. First base is already platooning and doing a fine job. Shortstop and third base are high-caliber as is. Same goes for the outfield. When and if Josh Reddick struggles, Brandon Moss and Craig Gentry are options.
That leaves a back-end starting pitcher, a reliever and second base.
A pitcher—reliever or starter—would be a luxury, not a necessity. At second, it's doubtful you'll see an All-Star come in and take over. Get used to the platoons. For this position, though, it's about finding someone who can and will platoon, but will also do a better job than the current performers.
Let's see a few names at each position.
All statistics via Baseball-reference.com and are current as of June 11, 2014.
The Tampa Bay Rays are struggling this season. Because of this, pitcher David Price's name is on everyone's mind. Should the Rays pull a fire sale, Price likely will fetch a massive return. But flying under the radar may be fellow starting pitcher Erik Bedard.
Here's why it works:
Knowing they can receive a large haul for Price, the Rays may be OK moving Bedard for grossly cheaper returns. Besides, the pitcher is 35 years old.
Because of this, the A's can land him cheap.
Though he's 35, he has experience and he's pitching to the tune of a 3.61 ERA with only three home runs allowed. He's walked 23 and struck out 42. That ratio isn't overwhelming by any means, and neither is the ERA. But they're efficient.
Bedard slides into the fifth starting spot, and the A's sacrifice one low-level prospect (not even a top-20).
Why it may not work:
Drew Pomeranz has actually filled in quite nicely, and Tommy Milone has somewhat turned things around. Bedard's current ERA isn't better than either guy, so one would get bumped. Also, replacing one-fifth of your rotation is easy. Two of the five, though? A bit more tricky. The Rays might keep veteran Bedard around just to stay afloat and not turn fans away.
How about a backup plan for this trade? Brad Boxberger.
He currently owns a 2.61 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched. His walk-to-strikeout ratio is just about 1-to-3.
For a reliever, though, there's only room if someone else gets punched out. By least used that would be Jeff Francis (unlikely). By most ineffective, that would be Jim Johnson (unlikely).
Jeurys Familia, a reliever for the New York Mets, is 24 years old. He currently holds a 2.78 ERA, the best he's ever had in MLB.
In 32.1 innings, he's allowed 10 runs total and just one home run. He's also struck out 29 and walked 10. Familia is effective, and it wouldn't cost hardly anything at all to get him. But again, where he'd be put is anyone's guess.
It's worth noting the A's will get Eric O'Flaherty back soon, and he'll certainly bump someone. So trading for another reliever may not even be feasible.
Then again, let's say O'Flaherty returns and Jim Johnson is designated. Then Oakland makes a minor trade for a guy like Familia and uses a bigger name like Luke Gregerson to net a second baseman.
The bullpen wouldn't be as powerful on paper, but in reality, it may just be even more effective.
The Chicago Cubs are an easy team to target. They're almost annually bad. But most people think about the Cubs, and they key in on Jeff Samardzija. He's a big name, so he's out as an under-the-radar guy. Chicago's best guy on offense is Anthony Rizzo. But he's too valuable to give up.
Emilio Bonifacio could work though.
He's 29 years old and on his third team. Just like the Rays, the Cubs might accept less knowing they'll steal a handful of prospects from someone in a Samardzija trade.
The great thing about Bonifacio is he can play a ton of positions. Listed as a second baseman, he's playing center field for Chicago. He also plays third base. Moreover, he hits left-handed pitching very well. His career split against lefties is .286. It's .298 against left-handed starters.
Of current A's second basemen, Nick Punto is hitting lefties the "best" at .242. Alberto Callaspo is hitting .159 and Eric Sogard is at .125.
Acquiring Bonifacio means the end for Punto or more likely Sogard.
Didi Gregorius of the Arizona Diamondbacks may not qualify because he's not quite an under-the-radar player fully. However, while he used to be a pretty big-named prospect, he's slipped behind shortstop Chris Owings.
Gregorius makes this list simply because he's a backup player at this point. The A's could say, "hey, we're not giving you top talent for a backup player." Especially when he plays in a position the Diamondbacks are wealthy in.
Now, if Oakland acquired him, he'd either spell Lowrie, flat-out bump him to second base or play second himself. The best scenario would be the latter. It's not a lot, but Gregorius has experience at the position.
Lastly, in 20 at-bats this year, he's hitting .300. In Triple-A, he's hitting .310 in 226 at-bats.
Adding him would add another solid fielder and even more speed to the lineup. His ceiling is likely higher than Punto, Sogard and Callaspo's and at around $500,000 in salary for 2014, he's cheap. The A's might even permanently slide him to second, and when Addison Russell arrives, that could be a fantastic middle infield duo for years.
DJ LeMahieu is on a Colorado Rockies team that is struggling this season. Injuries have decimated its roster.
LeMahieu has pieced together a solid season, however. He's hitting .275 after 62 games in 2014. That production includes seven doubles, one triple, two home runs, 17 RBI, five stolen bases, 18 walks and 35 strikeouts.
LaMahieu may very well be the definition of an under-the-radar player.
He's just 25 years old, and in part-time roles, he's maintained a career .281 average. And it might not be too difficult to acquire him either. Now, he doesn't hit lefties as well as he does righties, but he's consistent from both sides this season, so the A's could hypothetically start him three-quarters of the time and mix Punto and Callaspo in.
Should the Rockies trade LeMahieu, they can easily slide Josh Rutledge—hitting .341 in 18 games this season—into the lineup and on the field at second.
Rutledge could even be a backup plan for the A's too. He'd probably be cheaper to acquire, but he's more risk because hasn't consistently hit well as LeMahieu has shown he can do. One of these two men could be the 2014 version of Alberto Callaspo. The A's had two options at second in 2013 and still acquired Callaspo when many questioned how much of an upgrade he could possibly be.
That risk turned out OK.
It would be so Billy Beane to acquire a guy like Ed Lucas. First, it'd have everyone asking: "who?"
Lucas plays for the Miami Marlins currently, hence, he's already flying under the radar. The Marlins have three guys listed as second baseman, and they've played in 41, 37, and 27 games, with Lucas as the player who's appeared in 27.
What I'm trying to highlight here is two things: the Marlins wouldn't miss him, and they have guys who could fill the spot.
In those 27 games, Lucas is hitting .299. Granted, it's a small sample size, and he really hasn't done too much in terms of power or RBI. He's an older player who had a ton of speed (as evidenced by his stolen bases per year early on) that can still provide a threat once he's on. And the chances he gets on this year are pretty good.
Again, it's limited, but against left-handed pitching he's hitting .458 this year.
Burke Badenhop may be the Ed Lucas of relief pitching. He's not well known and he's older, but he's quietly doing his job extremely well this year.
In 35.2 innings this year, Badenhop has a 1.77 ERA—a career best so far.
Sure, he's only struck out 17 and walked 10. But again, he's getting the job done. For pitchers, an out is an out, and he's giving up less than one hit per inning pitched. Badenhop has allowed just seven earned runs this season. If he were in the A's bullpen, only Fernando Abad would have less runs allowed (of those with similar or more innings pitched).
The Boston Red Sox are struggling a bit, but there's time to right the ship. If they do, they'll keep Badenhop. If it starts to sink, though, he may just be fair game.