Oakland Athletics: 15 Sluggers the A's Could Add for a Playoff Run
Oakland's starting pitching has been everything that was promised to us in the offseason and more.
The league's best pitching staff has given the A's a chance to win almost every game they have played so far this season; the culprit of the losing ways has been the team's offense.
The new acquisitions (David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui) have been inconsistent, as have the returning starters. Coco Crisp represents the hottest A's hitter, and he is batting just .281.
Pitching depth and a number of young prospects that would be appealing to other teams in a trade give the A's the opportunity to add the impact bat they are sorely lacking.
Here are a few sluggers (in no particular order) the A's could target as the trade deadline approaches after the All-Star break, or preferably before—some obviously more realistic than not.
Which player would you want to trade for? Which ones do you not want any part of? And more importantly, who did I miss that you think would be a good fit for the Oakland A's?
Jonny Gomes: Left Field
Jonny Gomes would be a reasonable pickup for the A's.
Gomes hit 18 home runs and drove in 86 runs for the Reds last season. Despite his slumping batting average this season, he is off to a quick start with the long ball at six home runs for the season.
Gomes is only signed to a $1.75 million contract this season, and reaches free agency in the offseason. He would not cost Oakland any of their major league regulars, and likely none of their top prospects.
A Gomes trade would be reminiscent of the Rajai Davis trade to Toronto over the offseason. A pair of bullpen prospects or a pair of mid-level prospects is likely all it would take to pry him away from the Reds in midseason.
Being from Northern California (Petaluma), the A's would stand a reasonable chance of retaining Gomes to be the designated hitter and occasional outfielder beyond this season as well.
Mark Reynolds: Third Base
Mark Reynolds reminds me too much of Jack Cust to really excite me about the prospect of trading for him.
He batted below .200 in 2010, is below .200 again so far this season and strikes out a ton; but Reynolds can hit the long ball.
He had 32 home runs for the Diamondbacks last season and 44 the previous season.
Reynolds is signed through 2012 with a club option for 2013, so he would be with Oakland beyond this season. Reynolds earns $5 million this season, $7.5 million in 2012 and has a $11 million club option for 2013 with a $500,000 buyout.
A straight swap of Kevin Kouzmanoff for Reynolds is likely all it would take to convince the Orioles to ship him to Oakland.
He definitely adds a power threat to the lineup, but I'm not sold on trading for a guy that hits below the Mendoza Line.
Alex Gordon: Third Base
The former No. 2 overall draft pick of the 2005 draft just may be available this season.
Overall Alex Gordon has disappointed Royals fans who had high expectations of him. He has endured injuries in each of the past three seasons that have cost him significant playing time.
He hit 15 home runs in his rookie season in 2007, and 16 home runs in 17 fewer games in 2008 before being injured for most of 2009 and 2010.
Despite being off to a fast start in 2011, Gordon is currently batting .356, he could benefit from a change of scenery.
Gordon is financially affordable at only $1.4 million for 2011 and remains under team control in 2012 as he enters his final year of arbitration eligibility.
The A's swapped players with Kansas City during the offseason, sending Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks to the Royals for David DeJesus; it would take less talent than that to land Alex Gordon in a trade.
Grady Sizemore: Center Field
Admittedly an acquisition of Grady Sizemore probably falls into the realm of "wishful thinking."
Sizemore's $8.5 million team option for 2012 makes him affordable and reduces the chances that the Indians will explore a trade. If they were to consider swapping their star center fielder for major league prospects though, he would have good trade value to the tribe.
After missing practically all of 2010, Sizemore is off to a hot start in 2011 with a .357 average and already two home runs on the season.
Sizemore is a consistent hitter with power, but he is also injury prone. He could benefit from splitting time with Coco Crisp in center field while seeing the rest of his playing time at DH if Matsui struggles.
Despite their hot start to the season, the Indians will not be competitive in the AL Central, and could choose to build to the future.
They would likely look for pitching help, which the A's have, and an outfield prospect plus a low-level prospect.
How would Josh Outman (if he returns to form), Chris Carter or Michael Taylor and Ian Krohl sound to Cleveland?
Andre Ethier: Right Field
I admit I never liked the trade that sent Andre Ethier to the Dodgers.
The Dodgers financial troubles under the McCourt ownership opens up a potentially enticing opportunity to bring Ethier back to the green and gold.
Ethier batted .292 last season while knocking 23 balls out of the yard for the Dodgers. He is currently batting .382 with a pair of home runs on the early season.
Ethier has publicly stated that he expects to be traded at some point this season.
While his $9.25 million salary this season is not cheap, his acquisition cost in a trade could be reasonable to the A's.
The Dodgers will need to shed payroll and won't be looking to add major league salaries. A package of 3-4 prospects is probably reasonable.
Ethier remains under team control for 2012 before reaching free agency in 2013.
Matt Kemp: Center Field
While Matt Kemp is financially more affordable than Andre Ethier, he likely would cost Oakland much more in a trade.
This probably falls into the "not going to happen" category, but since I mentioned the Dodgers financial problems as a reason for trading for Ethier, I had to explore the opportunity to bring his talented teammate, Kemp, to Oakland.
Kemp is younger than Ethier, and arguably more talented. He definitely has the more impressive statistics. Kemp hit 28 home runs last season and 26 the year before. He is currently batting .402 with five home runs.
He is signed this season for just $6.95 million and is due a big raise in arbitration for 2012, but he would give Oakland more than just half of a season of production.
The price for Kemp would almost certainly include one of our young pitchers as well as three of our top prospects.
If Beane could pull it off without including Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson or Gio Gonzalez then I would be all for a trade for Matt Kemp.
If the Dodgers gave the A's a window to explore a contract extension with Kemp then he may be worth a steeper price.
I don't want to see any of those three pitchers traded for just a season and a half of Kemp though.
Vladimir Guerrero: Designated Hitter
Only a prolonged slump or injury to Hideki Matsui would make this trade a reality, but it is still worth at least exploring.
Vladimir Guerrero is no longer capable of playing the field, but he could fill the DH role adequately for half the season.
He currently has three home runs on the season, and connected for 29 just last season. He doesn't fit Oakland's approach of patience at the plate, but no one can deny that Guerrero can mash.
He is earning $8 million this season and Baltimore may be willing to trade him for a few bullpen arms or a back-of-the-rotation-type starter to shed payroll when the Orioles fall out of contention.
Guerrero could earn another year with Oakland if he produced well enough to lead the A's into the postseason—of course the same can be said of Matsui though.
Jim Thome: Designated Hitter
Jim Thome is practically a mirror image of my reasoning that Vladimir Guerrero could be a trade option.
Thome is still productive with a bat in his hand. He is virtually limited to the designated hitter position now, but could fill in at first base in a pinch also.
Thome batted .283 with 25 home runs last season for the Twins and has a pair of home runs and seven RBI so far this season.
He is currently earning just $3 million this season and would not be costly in a trade either; likely the same package as Guerrero or even less.
The Twins should be in contention through the trade deadline with the White Sox and Tigers though, so Thome may not be available unless one of the other AL Central teams runs away with the division early.
Corey Hart: Right Field
Corey Hart's name surfaced in trade speculation most of 2010 and figures to continue to surface in 2011 after he returns from the disabled list.
Last season he hit 31 home runs and drove in 102 runs for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers were seeking rotation help last season when they shopped Hart. After trading for Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum during the offseason they no longer need front-of-the-rotation talent.
With Prince Fielder potentially ready to depart Milwaukee in the offseason, the Brewers could be looking for another power-hitting first baseman to fill his shoes.
The A's just happen to have one of those in Sacramento by the name of Chris Carter. Carter's future in Oakland is shaky at the moment, but he could be valuable to the Brewers with the right package around him.
Hart would make one of our outfielders expendable and available in this trade as well (all our outfielders are free agents at the end of the season and would free up payroll for the Brewers in the offseason).
Hart is signed through 2013, giving the A's 2.5 seasons of his production before he can reach free agency. He is set to earn $6.5 million this season, $9 million in 2012 and $10 million in 2013.
Alfonso Soriano: Left Field
Let's start this slide off by saying this: Only if the Cubs eat a whole lot of his salary.
Soriano is set to earn $18 million per season through 2014, which instantly eliminates the A's from any trade talks for Soriano.
The Cubs could look to eat some of his salary though in an attempt to pick up some prospects and build a younger team capable of competing with the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers for several years.
Soriano has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past nine seasons. He currently has six this season.
He would be an option in both the outfield as well as designated hitter.
His value has greatly diminished since he first signed his massive contract, and the Cubs would not necessarily be looking to win any trade for Soriano.
Arguably, shedding any of his massive contract would be a win for the Cubs, and he could likely be had for a few mid-level prospects and a player such as Ryan Sweeney or Conor Jackson.
A straight swap for David DeJesus may also be possible; however swapping the two would not necessarily make the A's any better overall.
Aramis Ramirez: Third Base
Aramis Ramirez does not qualify as a defensive upgrade over Kevin Kouzmanoff, but he does have more pop in his bat.
The Cubs third baseman has a $16 million team option for 2012 that the Cubs will likely buy out for $2 million. They could choose to trade Ramirez midseason to a contender and let that team deal with the option or buyout.
Ramirez hit 25 home runs and drove in 83 runs last season, and is currently hitting .329 with nine RBI this season.
Kouzmanoff is younger and better defensively, so the A's may be inclined to stick with him rather than sacrifice his defense for a little extra power.
Those same reasons may be why the Cubs would be willing to accept an even swap of the two players though, perhaps with a low-level prospect as a throw-in to the deal.
Prince Fielder: First Base
Okay, this one is the definite "not going to happen" trade scenario, but what slideshow of potential impact bats would be complete without Prince Fielder?
We all know what Prince brings to the table in a trade; he is young (26 years old), has lots of power (195 career home runs) and drives in a ton of runs (141 in 2009, 83 in 2010 and already 22 in 2011).
He also happens to be a very durable player. Fielder has played in no fewer than 157 games in each of his first five full seasons in Major League Baseball.
Fielder would require a huge package in a trade to acquire, and a monster extension to retain beyond this season.
Simply put, the A's can't afford to give up the package it would take to acquire Fielder without re-signing him beyond this season, which they also can't afford.
It's nice to dream what he could do for the A's though.
Carlos Beltran: Center Field
When healthy, Carlos Beltran is a threat with a bat. The problem is that he is rarely ever healthy.
Beltran's last full season, 2008, he hit 27 home runs and drove in 112 runs. So far this season he has appeared healthy and has a .296 batting average and three home runs to show for it.
The Mets are expected to go into fire-sale mode at some point in the coming months and they would love to shed at least a portion of Beltran's $18.5 million contract.
His injury history makes it unlikely that they will find anyone willing to take on his entire contract without some financial help from the Mets.
The Athletics are in a rare position where they could offer to take on a larger portion of the contract if it meant not having to give up as many prospects in exchange for his services.
A trade for Carlos Beltran is also one of the rare scenarios in which a prospect such as Michael Taylor may still have significant value if packaged with a player such as Conor Jackson and a bullpen arm or a back-of-the-rotation-type of pitcher.
In reality a package far less than that would get it done if Oakland took on a larger portion of his salary.
Beltran was connected to Oakland in trade speculation during the offseason.
Ryan Zimmerman: Third Base
Ryan Zimmerman would probably require a deeper package of prospects headed to Washington than our offseason trade for Josh Willingham.
Zimmerman is just 26 years old and signed through 2013. He also hit .307 with 25 home runs in 2010, and .292 with 33 home runs in 2009.
He is batting .357 with one home run so far this season.
Any package for Zimmerman would likely start with Tyson Ross, and include several of our top prospects throughout the season.
The Nationals would not be out of line at all to ask for one of our top three starting pitchers, but Billy Beane could probably put together a deep enough prospect package to still get the attention of the Nationals.
The Nationals will be looking to build a team around Bryce Harper and Steven Strasburg, so prospects will be attractive to the team. It is worth noting, though, that Zimmerman is young enough to still be a part of that core in the near future.
With his long-term deal in place, the Nationals are not in any hurry to unload their young third baseman, although he would be perfect for the A's.
David Wright: Third Base
David Wright is the other New York Met that Oakland should have its eye on if he becomes available.
Wright is still just 28 years old and signed through next season, making him extremely valuable to the Mets in a trade.
He is also the face of the franchise though—Mr. Met if you will—making it harder for the team to trade him without a significant backlash from its fanbase.
Wright is a two-time Gold Glove winner, and a five-time All-Star. He averages 27 home runs a season to go along with his career .304 average.
Wright is earning $14 million this season, $15 million in 2012 and has a team option for $16 million in 2013.
While this is a steep price for the A's to commit to one player on their payroll, it is not a huge difference from what was offered to Adrian Beltre during this past offseason.
Wright's game also translates well to playing in the Oakland Coliseum as his current home, Citi Field, is considered a pitcher's park as well. The transition should not hurt his statistics as much as many of the hitters in this list would suffer.
The Mets can demand a deep package starting with major league-ready, young talent.
The question is whether trade talk would even get off the ground without the inclusion of Cahill, Anderson or Gonzalez?
My proposal would be Kevin Kouzmanoff, Tyson Ross, Jemile Weeks, Michael Taylor and Ian Krohl. A steep price, but worth it for an impact bat to anchor our lineup through 2013.