The trade deadline isn’t until July 31st, but the Oakland Athletics need to become sellers now.
The week before the trade deadline is normally the time where every ball club makes the final but difficult choice as to whether they want to become buyers or sellers. Rumors will begin to heat up right after the All-Star Game, but the decision to begin making phone calls inquiring about players will take place this weekend.
The only problem: we haven’t heard much about many trades coming close to fruition. One reason for this is that there are many teams who feel like they are still in contention.
Those such as the Chicago White Sox (40-44), Boston Red Sox (41-46), Atlanta Braves (42-45), and Arizona Diamondbacks (42-43), who all at some point in the first half were expected to become sellers, have now felt a resurgence and have got themselves back into the playoff picture.
Even the Oakland Athletics who currently hold an AL-worst 39-51 record, even after yesterday’s win, felt for a time that they were still in it. Despite their record, this year has been different from other typical ‘throw it all away and start over’ seasons. It hasn’t been a ’08 or ’09 year, where from you knew from the start – however much you tried to convince yourself otherwise – that the Green and Gold had zero chance of playing quality baseball.
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The reason for most fans see-sawing has been because of the A’s Run Differential, a statistic considered to be relatively accurate in evaluating a team’s level of play. Based off of their +41 in this category – only seven teams have a better differential, four of them being division leaders – Oakland’s record should, statistically speaking, be among the top of the MLB. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t turned out that way.
Athletics General Manager Billy Beane has been a big proponent of this statistic. As a result, it is making it difficult to decide when to turn his ball club into sellers.
Last Thursday, in an interview on 95.7 The Game for the Damon Bruce Show, he mentioned, “This is probably one of the few years where we haven’t got to that position yet.”
He continued to speak on his hope for Oakland’s record to normalize based off their Run Differential.
"“We’re going to wait as long as we can and hopefully give this team a chance to get themselves back in it … it just seems like we’re treading water right now.”"
To be realistic, it seems more like the A’s are drowning.
However, this may not be the worst year for Beane to take to his usual chore of cleaning house. Oakland’s puppet master is a firm believer in the economic strategy of “buy low, sell high”, and with the MLB Trade Market looking slim in terms of sellers, this could be a perfect opportunity to do just that. Especially with valuable pieces in the form of three sought-after commodities: a quality left-handed starter, a utility switch-hitter, and a back-of-the-bullpen reliever. Scott Kazmir, Ben Zobrist, and Tyler Clippard all could contribute heavily to playoff contenders.
Now, that doesn’t mean that Beane should be dealing his players like liquid assets in the stock market. The key is finding a buyer willing to give up more value than a future first-round compensation pick, because that is what the Athletics would likely receive if they offered each of their three soon-to-be Free Agents a qualifying offer once the season ends. However, based on the current market, which has few teams to buy from, contenders would have to pay a high price to pry any of the three from Oakland’s grasp.
With Beane making it clear this past off-season he wanted to replenish the franchise’s prospect pool while still fielding a competitive roster, this could be the ideal opportunity to do both. At this point, trading one or all of his chips in isn’t going to change the outcome of this season, but it could have a positive influence on ones to come.
No team ever wants to give up on their season before it’s officially over, but a team – in a small market with not much room for mistakes – must also understand when is the right time to start revamping for next year.
Now is that time.