The Oakland Athletics had to do something. With the team continuing to struggle badly of late, having lost the first three contests of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels to fall a season-high four games behind their AL West rival, the A's acquired veteran slugger Adam Dunn in a waiver trade from the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
Oakland's once formidable lineup has been particularly problematic recently, to the point where Angels shut out the A's the past two days. Saturday's scoreless outing was especially troubling, as the Angels used eight different pitchers—none of which was a starter—to tame the A's.
Not that Oakland's offense hasn't been tamed often as is. As Matthew DeFranks of MLB.com wrote after Saturday's contest, "The Athletics haven't scored a run in their last 22 innings and were shut out on back-to-back nights for the first time in more than two years."
The A's landed Dunn, a 34-year-old veteran who sports a .220/.340/.433 triple-slash line to go with 20 home runs, in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Nolan Sanburn.
Dunn, who hits from the left side and has 460 career homers, is in the final year of his contract and has never been to the postseason in his 14-year career.
The Athletics (78-57) pulled off the swap just in time—and not just because their offense desperately needs a lift. Sunday, Aug. 31, is the date by which a player has to be on a team's roster in order to be eligible for the postseason roster.
|Athletics' Offensive Splits: First and Second Half|
|STATISTIC (1ST HALF RANK)||466 (2)||.251 (16)||.328 (5)||.400 (8)||98 (T-6)||277 (8)||.323 (6)||109 (3)|
|STATISTIC (2ND HALF RANK)||171 (6)||.239 (25)||.312 (16)||.380 (17)||36 (T-9)||109 (12)||.307 (18)||97 (11)|
|MLB.com, Baseball Reference, FanGraphs|
"Over a 162-game period," A's manager Bob Melvin told DeFranks, "you're not going to be as good as other times, and right now is a low point for us."
How low, you might be wondering?
Well, after Saturday's 2-0 defeat to the Angels, the A's are just 19-21 since the All-Star break and only 12-16 in August, notes Jane Lee of MLB.com.
In the first half of the season, Oakland's offense was deep and dangerous, arguably the very best in baseball, scoring 4.91 runs per game.
Since the break, however, the A's are managing merely 4.28 runs per—a decrease of more than half a run.
While there are a number of reasons behind the decrease in production, it's hard to dismiss the club's lack of performance with the bats in the wake of the July 31 trade of righty slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
Sure, that swap brought lefty ace Jon Lester aboard, but the lineup hasn't been the same without the outfielder, who spent most of his time batting in the third, fourth and fifth slots in the A's lineup.
As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports writes:
The Athletics’ offense became even more unsettled after losing Cespedes. Injuries to catcher John Jaso and shortstop Jed Lowrie contributed. So did the in-and-out presence of center fielder Coco Crisp, not to mention massive slumps by first baseman Brandon Moss, catcher Derek Norris and infielder Alberto Callaspo.
Is the loss of Cespedes to blame for all that? Again, it hardly seems logical. But do the Athletics’ players believe they miss the threat of Cespedes? Did they look to him to provide an intimidating presence? Are they putting more pressure on themselves without him?
Over the past 30 days—that's how long the club has been sans Cespedes—Oakland has been even worse, scoring just 3.64 runs per game while ranking 28th in batting average (.224), 19th in on-base percentage (.304) and 23rd in slugging (.351).
In that time, the club has just 22 home runs in 28 games, a total surpassed by 10 other clubs. By comparison, Oakland's 98 homers in 95 first-half games was the sixth-best total in that span.
As Brandon Moss said to Lee:
I think we've all played baseball long enough to know you're going to go through tough spells, some tougher than others, and this one obviously has not been very fun. I know that we're capable of winning these games, right now is just one of those times we're not getting results.
While Dunn no longer is the offensive force he was in his prime, when he hit 40 home runs over five straight seasons from 2004 to 2008, he should help the A's get some better results, thanks to his power and on-base savvy.
That sort of skill set should fit in well, especially with Melvin deftly deploying Dunn's lefty bat at designated hitter, which likely will shift Moss' fellow powerful lefty bat (.456 SLG, 23 homers) to a corner outfield spot on a regular basis.
As frustrating as the past few weeks—and especially the past few days—have been for the Athletics, two things remain in their favor.
The first is time, as Oakland has 27 games left—including three more against Los Angeles from Sept. 22-24 after Sunday's series finale—to try to catch the Angels and avoid falling into a fate that would force them to survive a one-game wild-card playoff game.
The second is that the club, despite its slump, remains very much in command of a postseason berth with a four-game lead for the top wild-card spot.
Regardless, the Athletics' need for a change on offense has been overwhelmingly evident lately. By itself, the acquisition of Dunn isn't going to solve all of the problems, as Oakland needs key players like Moss, Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp, Derek Norris and others to perform down the stretch too.
But if Dunn finds a spark from the possibility of making his first-ever trip to the playoffs, he could provide a lift for an A's offense that so badly needs a spark of its own.
Statistics are accurate as of Aug. 31 and come from MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11