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What Will Billy Beane Do at the Deadline?

Posted By Josh Muller On Jul 25 2011 @ 4:08 pm In Oakland A's | No Comments

The baseball trade deadline is rapidly approaching, Ladies and Gentlemen and it’s time to see what types of moves the A’s [1] might make. Earlier in the year hopes were high that this article would be discussing trade possibilities for the A’s to add the right pieces. Clearly Oakland is not in position to solidify their playoff push, as it looks like they will be sellers…again…

Realistically, just about everyone in the lineup and bullpen are available – and even the starters could be had at the right price. Billy Beane won’t give anyone away but if he gets what he likes, we could see a roster overhaul. It would be unlikely but would it really surprise anyone?

So who stays and who goes?

Starters: Despite their record and how terrible they’ve looked, the A’s really aren’t that far off from being a pretty good team. I’ve already talked at great length about the strength of the A’s pitching but it really is worth pointing out again (if only to focus on the one positive aspect of this franchise) how good, young, and cheap the A’s pitchers are. With that type of foundation, the A’s will always at least have a chance to compete.

Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, Tyson Ross etc. have so much talent, are young and are signed to team-friendly contracts, they also represent Billy Beane’s most valuable trade assets. Fear not if you are emotionally attached to any of these guys because they aren’t going anywhere. Braden, Anderson and Ross are hurt for the foreseeable future leaving zero chance they will be moved. Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez, on the other hand, are perfectly healthy and pitching well. For a team to acquire one of these guys they would have to surrender several top prospects and some lower level prospects as well. Too high a price to pay so move on.

Guys like Brandon McCarthy and Rich Harden could be had for much less, but with the aforementioned injuries to the rotation, the A’s might hold onto them. McCarthy has pitched very well this year, so there might be mutual interest in McCarthy signing another contract with Oakland for next year but anyone can be had for the right price.

Harden has already drawn serious interest form Boston [2], who have checked in on Willingham and Dejesus. Boston could easily get Harden by himself but perhaps if they got a package with DeJesus and Harden, Oakland could pry a nice prospect back in return.

The Bullpen: Relief pitchers are a hot commodity at the trade deadline, possibly more than any other time of year. Everyone could use an extra quality arm late in games when gunning for the playoffs and the A’s have plenty to offer.

Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE in the A’s bullpen is available, even All Star closer Andrew Bailey. According to Susan Slusser, the A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s official stance on Bailey is that they’d have to be blown away in order to give up Bailey… that’s code for “he’s available.”

Do I think the A’s are going to trade their elite closer who is under team control for the next three years? No, I do not. But this much is clear: with Andrew Bailey on the roster this year, the A’s did squat and if a team is willing to offer some top offensive prospects for him, the A’s would have to consider it. I hate to take such things for granted but Billy Beane has always been able to find a closer (Isringhausen, Koch, Street, Foulke) and he desperately needs some offense.

It’s much more likely, though, that any combination of Grant Balfour, Michael Wuertz, Craig Breslow, Brad Ziegler and/or Brian Fuentes will be moved. All of these guys have their uses in a big league bullpen and the A’s have enough arms in the minors that they can afford to move some of them. The Yankees, Rangers, Tigers and Phillies are all likely to be looking for relief pitching for a low level prospect with upside. Oakland would be better going with a high-risk high-reward approach by adding young guys with a lot of potential and hoping a few pan out. They don’t need more fringe/average close to ready guys; they have enough of those. Michael Wuertz or Brad Ziegler going to the Braves [3] makes a lot of sense and both teams have matched up for trades before. A guy like Christian Bethancort, young toolsy catcher with upside but some question marks, would make sense.

Outfielders: I also think the Braves could match up well in a trade for Coco Crisp, the A’s starting center fielder. The Braves could definitely use some stability both in center and in the leadoff spot which is where Coco would likely hit, and with him being a Free Agent this year, it isn’t likely he’d stick around in Oakland. I think Matt Lipka would be a good starting point. He’s not hitting in A ball right now, but he has good athleticism and projects well according to John Sickels of Sports Nation.

Another trade with Coco could involve St. Louis. This is pure speculation and I’m not sure how Cardinals fans would feel about this but what about Coco Crisp and Andrew Bailey for Colby Rasmus and some filler. Rasmus is somehow available and would be a perfect fit for the A’s, the Cardinals need relief pitching so it makes me wonder. I doubt that it goes down, but again, that is the sort of impact trade needed to get Bailey form the A’s.

Josh Willingham will also draw a lot of interest, and if you believe ESPN’s Buster Olney, he “will be traded.” It makes perfect sense to move Willingham now: he’s pretty cheap, is having a fairly nice year, and has been hitting really well lately. The Pirates have shown some interest, but don’t have a whole lot of offensive prospects so they might not be the best match in a trade.

The Red Sox have also shown some interest in Willingham (though I can’t imagine why) and have a bunch of intriguing young 3b, which would more than interest Billy Beane. If the A’s can snag one of Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, or Kolbrin Vitek in a package for Willingham, I think they would be satisfied, though Middlebrooks is having a breakout year so he is definitely a reach. A guy can hope right?

Conor Jackson and David Dejesus are certainly going to draw some interest as well and could be had for much less. Neither projects more than a type B Free Agent and are not having stellar years so their value won’t be too high.

If I were Billy Beane, I’d take the safe route with the starters and with Bailey, because I don’t think any team will offer a better value in a trade and they would still provide a solid foundation going into next year. I would, however, trade everyone else we mentioned in this article. All the veteran free-agent-to-be outfielders and all the relievers with any value should be shipped off for prospects. You’re not going to get a whole lot in return but with half a season to go, and not much to play for, the A’s need to see what they have going into next year in terms of borderline prospects. Guys like Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are going to be expected to play in the majors next year and need as many big league at bats as they can get because between now and next year, the A’s offense needs to get better. Or else what was all this for?

Either way itt should be an interesting deadline. It always is for the A’s.

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