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It was announced today that Athletics starter, and all-around nice guy, A.J. Griffin is facing the very real possibility of undergoing Tommy John surgery. For more details on this, Andrew Brown (@andrewbr0000) wrote an article on this site just a couple of hours ago. Andrew handled the details, I’ll handle the speculation.
Assuming A.J. Griffin is out for the next year, what does that mean for the Athletics moving forward? If everything stays the same, and nobody else gets hurt, then the Athletics should be looking like a contender come October. But that is not how A’s GM Billy Beane operates, and neither do we.
Luckily, there is one more arm that the A’s already have that could be called upon to start games and would assumedly do a great job: Drew Pomeranz. Heck, he may be added to the rotation without any additional injuries the way he is throwing. It is feasible that the A’s would swap Pomeranz for either Tommy Milone or Dan Straily if either continues to prove inconsistent, moving them from the rotation to the bullpen.
It hasn’t been a healthy season for the Athletics thus far, so let’s say someone gets hurt. Let’s make it a big piece of the Athletics 2014 rotation. Let’s say Scott Kazmir goes down as well. Moving Pomeranz into the rotation would be a must at this point. This also leaves the Athletics with no major-league-ready options for spot-starts or long-relief.
In Sacramento, Evan Scribner could always be called up to fill in the long-relief hole. Behind him, is Arnold Leon who has a 3.86 ERA and has been pitching well of late. Josh Lindblom, who had a spot-start for the Athletics at the beginning of the season, has been getting lit up in the minors, with an ERA close to 8. The A’s have options, but these players are more stop-gap players for 2014, not ones that will propel the Athletics to the Championship they are seeking.
The best option may be to look outside of the organization. In the offseason, the likes of David Price and Jeff Samardzija were being dangled by their respective teams. Price is likely out of the A’s range, and Samardzija may be on the outer cusp of what the A’s would be willing to part with.
Before long, the Astros will be having a fire sale, but after seeing what they have to offer from a pitching standpoint, there is little to be had. Brett Oberholtzer under the tutelage of Curt Young could be a decent acquisition, and at a low cost, but he would be a 3rd or 4th starter for the Athletics, and that’s with the injuries.
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Yes, the Royals expect to contend this year, but Shields is in the final year of his contract. Being a contract year, Shields is likely to be focused and gearing up for a big pay day. If traded, he will be a huge asset to the new club, because the better he does, the more he makes next season. The Royals are a small market team, much like the A’s, and deals like these are how they stay competitive. The A’s and Royals also have a history of making deals, so there is a relationship to be built upon. The later in the season a possible trade happens, the less the Royals are likely to ask for.
It is feasible that acquiring Shields would mean giving up top-prospect, Addison Russell. Yes, the Royals are already covered at shortstop, but second base is seemingly up for grabs. One of the two could slide over.
In his one October start in the past 3 years, Shields has a 1.00 ERA and allowed 2 hits. Over that same span in August and September, he has ERAs of 2.67 and 2.70 respectively. He would be a solid acquisition, and would cost about as much as Scott Kazmir (2/$24M) to resign. It could mean giving up the Athletics top prospect, but at this point in time, he is still just a prospect. James Shields is a proven commodity. It’s always better to take $1 today, than $1 tomorrow, because the true value of a dollar will change in the future. James Shields is our $1, and that dollar could be what the Athletics need to bring home a Championship in 2014.