The July 31 trade deadline may have passed, but the Oakland Athletics can still add to the roster to bolster their playoff chances.
Before July's deadline, Oakland acquired pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester. It also added outfielders Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld. Arguably only the Detroit Tigers' pitching staff rivals the caliber the A's possess. And with a returning Coco Crisp, the outfield contains plenty of depth (more once Craig Gentry returns from injury).
The three-headed monster that is Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso has been one of the most consistent units for most of the 2014 season.
Lastly, after a few bumps, the bullpen ironed out the kinks.
Production from second base had fans clamoring for an upgrade prior to the trade deadline. Eric Sogard, for example, hit .201 heading into August. In four games since, however, he's hitting .333. Alas, outside of second, there aren't many places to get better. Of course, the A's could add another superstar pitcher (that would be pretty shocking) or a power-hitting outfielder (you know, like Yoenis Cespedes).
Since losing Cespedes, the team is 3-3. They've scored an average of three runs per game—down from five runs scored on average with Cespedes on the team. Yes, it's early. But the offense lost a punch in upgrading its pitching.
The waiver wire may be the place to try to get some back.
First, here is a refresher on how August trades work, by Jeff Todd of MLBTradeRumors.com. Similarly, MLBTradeRumors has compiled a list of players who have been placed on and passed through waivers already.
Essentially, nearly all players go on waivers. Teams from the bottom up in standings have the first crack. If a player goes unclaimed, he remains with his original team but can then be traded to anyone. If a team claims the player, the two sides have 48 hours to work out a deal, or the player's original team can pull the player back from waivers.
Unfortunately, the waiver process won't do the A's any favors.
Their record as it stands places the A's at the bottom of the waiver list, meaning a player will have to pass through all 29 other teams first. Yet another problem: Multiple teams are in need of a second baseman. So a solid replacement for Cespedes' bat is likely to get swooped up before Oakland even gets a chance.
That said, here are a few reasonable solutions.
Ben Zobrist likely gets claimed before the 30th waiver claim. The same goes for Chase Utley. And though Aaron Hill might make it into Oakland's hands, he's much too expensive to consider, short term and long term.
The older brother of former Oakland Athletic Jemile Weeks, Rickie Weeks may come cheaper than you might expect.
Though he's hitting .249 in 88 games this season, Weeks is coming off a terrible 2013 campaign in which he hit just .209 in 104 games. Additionally, the lifelong Brewer is 31 years old, and his eventual replacement, Scooter Gennett, is hitting .305.
The A's could use a cheap upgrade while the Brewers should jump at the chance to receive anything for the veteran player.
In adding Weeks, Oakland would dip in defense on the right side of the infield. However, they'd gain a guy who may add double-digit stolen bases and home runs.
Weeks currently makes $11 million, but considering the season is more than halfway over, Oakland wouldn't be on the hook for all of that. He can be bought out for $1 million at the end of the year assuming he does not reach 600 plate appearances in 2014 (he's at 207 now).
The New York Mets may be reluctant to trade second baseman Daniel Murphy. And if he is placed on waivers, he may also be scooped up quickly. But if for some reason he does make it past the San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles—teams that need a second baseman—the A's should consider him.
To avoid arbitration, the Mets signed him to a $5.7 million deal. He's arbitration eligible again next season.
Like Weeks, his fielding average is below the league average (.974 to .983). But also like Weeks, the A's would net a guy with a bit more pop and speed than the incumbents. Between the two, Sogard and Nick Punto have three home runs, 26 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Murphy, hitting .300, has nine home runs, 47 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
If he hits waivers, Oakland must make a claim.
Then it'll just depend on whether anyone else tries as well. And also if the two sides can work out a deal. Of course, that hinges on the Mets not pulling him back off waivers if claimed.
Gordon Beckham OR Alexei Ramirez
Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham is the most likely to be the last man standing once contending teams claim their second baseman. That's because he's hitting .224 with seven home runs, 35 RBI, 18 walks and 65 strikeouts.
And yet that's still more production (RBI-wise) than the incumbents.
Here's the thing. Punto is hitting lefty pitchers OK. Sogard isn't hitting against lefties at all. Beckham? He's annihilating left-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .315 average.
Who knows, maybe a change of scenery and a hitting coach like Chili Davis is just what Beckham needs.
He's earning $4.175 million on the year and is arbitration eligible next season.
Now, if the A's want to really go all in this year, they could make an even bolder trade with the White Sox. That would be one for shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
That's a mighty assumption that Chicago is willing to deal Ramirez. But if so, the 32-year-old, Cuban-born infielder is hitting .288 with double-digit homers and 56 RBI. That could certainly help fill the void left by Cespedes.
Ramirez can either continue at shortstop with Jed Lowrie moving to second or could finish this season at second base before moving back to short in 2015.
His 2014 salary is $9.5 million, and he will earn $10 million in 2015. In 2016, he will make an additional $10 million, or he can be bought out for $1 million. Let's say worst case scenario happens and the A's do not win the World Series this year and fire sale veterans. Ramirez would not be impossible to move.
Should the A's look at shortstops as an option (and move them to second or move Lowrie to second), Bay Area native Jimmy Rollins could be an option.
Why him and not Utley?
Well, first, Utley may be claimed by multiple teams. Many outlets, such as John Shea of RantSports.com, have linked Chase Utley to the San Francisco Giants.
Second, his contract is much easier to take on.
J-Roll makes $11 million this year (again, most of which is already or should already be paid by the Phillies). He has a guaranteed option if he reaches 600 plate appearances this year, which he is around 200 away from making. It may sound shady, but a team could hypothetically prevent that from happening. If the option is not reached, Rollins could trigger a $5 million player option himself.
For one year, that's fine.
Born in Oakland, the 35-year-old still steals about 20 bases a year and has averaged 15 home runs per season since turning 30. Likewise, he's averaged about 56 RBI in that same span.
With the option, his contract is a slight gamble. But he could be a quality addition to a team in need of offense heading toward the postseason.
Tweet me your options @Nick_Houser.
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