Machado to the Dodgers. Hand to the Indians. Rumors are flying. Trade speculations running rampant. Die hard Oakland Athletics’ fans are scouring the internet for the tiniest morsel of trade talks to whet their appetites.
I’m guilty of it as well. This is my life as a fan of the Oakland Athletics from now until the July 31st deadline. Sleep is optional. Eating becomes a chore. My wife shakes her head at me as I check my Twitter feed for the fifth time in the last five minutes. That seems reasonable, right? One check of the feed for each passing minute?
It’s insanity… but it’s what we do. We have to stay on top of things. We have to be there for that moment when an eye-opening trade breaks because this is our team. We are invested.
We may be in the stands but we are living out this season alongside the players; each of us, in our own way. We all share this urgent need to know which member of the family is moving on, and who in turn are we opening our arms for?
The second-half of the regular season begins tonight and so far, we have yet to read of any behind-the-scenes action for the Athletics. Who are we targeting? A starter? Two starters? A reliever? A left fielder? Nobody?
All we can do at this point is speculate. What better place to start than to closely examine the recent words of Billy Beane? Susan Slusser, the Oakland A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, interviewed Billy Beane on the A’s Plus podcast earlier this week.
For those of you not familiar with Susan’s work, simply put, nothing happens in Oakland without her knowledge. Nothing.
I urge all of you to follow her on Twitter @susanslusser for the latest breaking news about the team and also to listen to the A’s Plus podcast she hosts for the San Francisco Chronicle. Both will be worth your time.
In Billy Beane’s words…
For those of you interested in hearing the podcast conversation between Susan Slusser and Billy Beane in its entirety, it can be found here. Now, let’s take a look a closer look at some of the things the A’s Vice President of Baseball Operations had to share with Susan.
"This time of year, everybody who is in the race, or feels like they are in the race, is always looking for some form of starting pitching – Billy Beane"
This speaks volumes for those of us on the outside looking in as we try to assess what the current trade climate is. It’s not a secret that pitching wins championships. We know it and the other 29 major league ball clubs know it as well.
The need for starting pitching by nearly every team in contention will only drive up the asking price as we approach the deadline. We can say with certainty that the front office will not give away top prospects for pitching so unless we are willing to take on some salary, we may already have been priced out of the starting pitching market.
"“Looking at the (starting pitching) market this year, it’s not a real robust group” – Billy Beane"
Beane elaborates further on this statement and illustrates how the cost for starting pitching may be driven up as we approach the deadline due to a lack of quantity in terms of quality starting pitching available on the market. It’s a simple supply and demand game here.
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Again, we aren’t going to get into a bidding war with teams over starting pitching. Listening to the interview, it was clear to me that while we may consider sending off a fringe prospect or two for a solid starter, we aren’t going to get locked into the mindset that adding a starter is the only way to contend.
Beane goes on to say that the front office may take a more “dynamic approach” in addressing the needs of this team. One of the options he discusses as a possibility is more reliever-oriented.
"“Alright, as an example, we say we think the reliever market may be better and we may be getting more value… maybe we attack this from the other side” – Billy Beane"
Slusser follows this by mentioning that the “go-to move” for the Oakland Athletics this season has been for our starting pitching to go “3 plus or 4 plus innings” and then hand it over to the bullpen. It makes perfect sense. You play to your strengths and our bullpen is certainly a significant part of the reason we find ourselves three games out of the final Wild Card spot as we begin the second half.
Beane only spoke of the reliever market as one of the many options that would make sense in terms of cost returning value, but if you listen to the entire context of the interview, it’s difficult to shake this feeling that the front office may be leaning that direction.
Devil Rays approach…
I’ve been watching baseball for a couple of decades. When I see that our team is lacking in starting pitching, my thought as we near the deadline is which starters are we going to target? It’s an old school approach to a problem that this interview showed has many solutions. Beane is a baseball genius so if he believes the Oakland Athletics stand to gain more value and a better shot at a playoff run by going the reliever route, I’m all in.
Toss the starters for a few innings and then give the opposing team a few different looks with some talented mid-relief arms. Then shut them down with a Trivino in the 8th and Treinen in the 9th. Sounds like a winning deadly combination to me.
Reading between the lines (can you say that for an interview you listened to?), I think Billy Beane is hinting at a relief arm or two here before the deadline unless a solid starter happens to drop in our lap. At least, that will be the direction my fanatical search of Google and Twitter will take moving forward. Also, I may or may not increase my Twitter feed check to twice a minute as the deadline approaches if the battery life on my cell phone cooperates.
Tip of the iceberg
Lastly, in the interest of transparency, this was but a few snippets of the information contained in the Slusser-Beane interview. So if you need a way to pass the time during your commute home this afternoon or you just want to listen to something A’s related tonight while your wife sits next to you watching The Crown, this is a must listen. Hmmmm… the reign of Queen Elizabeth II or Athletics baseball sports talk? If you’re reading this article, the answer to that question better be a no-brainer!