Oakland Athletics Trade Deadline Shopping List: Ben Zobrist

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Oakland Athletics Trade Deadline Shopping List: Ben Zobrist
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The Oakland Athletics are sitting pretty with a six-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for first place in the American League West. At 47-28, they've been baseball's most consistently dominant team and are showing no signs of slowing down.

However, while a six-game lead is nothing to sneeze at, it's far from comfy at this stage of the season. Oakland is notorious for not having the deep pockets to go after hefty contracts at the trade deadline, but it should still look to make an acquisition or two to put itself over the top as the best team in the West. 

One area the A's could look to address is second base.

Current second baseman Eric Sogard came close to winning the "Face of MLB" social media competition in the offseason, but he hasn't produced at the plate to this point. In 52 games (143 at-bats), Sogard has an ugly .196 batting average with 14 walks, five doubles, nine RBI and six steals.

While he's yet to make an error in the field this year, Sogard's defense hasn't compensated for his lack of offensive production, as his -0.2 WAR suggests, per FanGraphs

Sogard is a quality defensive infielder who would be a strong bench option for manager Bob Melvin down the stretch. But to solidify themselves as the best team in the American League, the Athletics would be better off getting Sogard's bat out of the starting lineup.

So where can they turn for an upgrade?

At 30-46, the Tampa Bay Rays have the worst record in baseball and will likely be selling off veterans come July. Among those veterans is Ben Zobrist, who is arguably baseball's most versatile player. One of the positions he plays? Second base.

While Zobrist is no batting title contender at the plate, his offensive production is far superior to that of Sogard.

With a .248 average, five home runs, 12 doubles and 29 walks, Zobrist would provide the Athletics with a steady offensive option at second without sacrificing the defense that has allowed Sogard to keep his job to this point. Zobrist's versatility would also provide Melvin and the A's with a replacement at nearly any position should the injury bug hit Oakland, giving him additional value to a team without the financial means to make multiple flashy deadline moves. 

In terms of a potential trade package, a group of pitchers Raul Alcantara and Bobby Wahl in addition to outfielder Billy Burns would likely be sufficient to pry Zobrist away. The Rays are known for loving their pitching, and Burns would give Tampa Bay a gritty, speed-first player who could develop into a solid leadoff hitter. 

Zobrist's style of play and versatility perfectly fit into the Oakland style of baseball, and his ability to handle perhaps the one position the team desperately needs to address makes him a perfect trade target this July.

The Athletics could likely win the division if they stood pat, but acquiring Zobrist would put them over the top.

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