October Upgrade Possibilities: Part 1

Each baseball season, there are two events in July that help determine which team hoists The Commissioner’s Trophy, but there is one that does not garner the attention it deserves. The MLB All-Star Game, which decides home-field advantage for the World Series is featured globally and last year, had 11 million viewers. Yet, this special game does not fall on the most important day in July. That day would be the 31st because it is the trade deadline. During these 24 hours, championships can be built and this year’s deadline could be especially important for the Oakland Athletics.

Looking to contend for a championship for a third straight season, there have been few complaints this season as the A’s sit atop the AL at 39-26. Yet, Oakland could still use some upgrades in certain areas and these improvements could have a massive impact on the upcoming postseason. At first glance, particularly coming into the season, starting pitching looked to be the place to pursue help, but the big contributions from Jesse Chavez, Tommy Milone, and Drew Pomeranz have put those questions to rest. This really leaves only two spots that could be enhanced in order to extend an Athletic postseason run, one of which is in better shape than the other.

This first and superior of the two would be the Bullpen.

The reason I will exclude the closer role from this category is because over his last 10 appearances (0.00 ERA, 7/7 saves), Sean Doolittle has finally seemed to brought stability the once inconsistent position.

So, first and foremost I want to say that the bullpen is by no means doing a poor job because the numbers don’t lie. Its 2.60 ERA right now is good for 4th best in the MLB and its BAA (batting average against) is 3rd lowest at .216. These two statistics are generally solid predictors of effectiveness as a group so the fact that the bullpen has a record of 13-10 is quite deceiving.

The leading cause for the bullpens success in 2013 was simply put, striking batters out. Last season, the A’s were 6th in K’s throughout the MLB while this year they are 22nd so far. The inability to not consistently get hitters out on strikes allows more balls to be put in play, which is TRULY why the late-innings can sometimes be an adventure. In Late & Close games (Plate Appearances in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck), opponents are hitting .309 on balls in play and even more importantly, are hitting .324 on balls in play in the 9th inning. These eye-popping numbers could seriously derail any postseason dreams because as Oakland has seen from the last two years, the room for error late in the game needs to be slim-to-none in order to advance.

As to how the A’s can actually improve their pen and secure more wins, the stats point to a need for strikeout pitchers. Although much easier said than done, I believe there players out there within Oakland’s grasp and moves to be made that can bolster the Achilles heel of the relief core.

1)   Trade Jim JohnsonImage

Yes this trade would involve getting rid of a pitcher instead of adding one, but with the amount of boos he has (sometimes unfairly) received from the city of Oakland, I don’t think many would miss him. The only negative is that if he does figure it out, he has the potential to be that 50+ save, lights-out closer like he had been the previous two years. On the other hand, if you can find a team that would be willing to take on some of a $10 million contract from a 31-year old right-hander with a 6.12 ERA, then that could be difficult to pass up. Although finding such a trade partner might be difficult, Sports Media 101 did mention the Yankees as a “Potential Suitor” as well as the Baltimore Orioles who are in the market for bullpen help. Another team who might also have a demand for Johnson’s skills might be the Detroit Tigers as their closer Joe Nathan has struggled so far this year.

2)    Huston Street

ImageName sound familiar? Well Huston Street has managed to fly under the radar for the majority of his tenure as a San Diego Padre despite being an All-Star and a shutdown closer so far this season (18 saves, 1.08 ERA). On top of that, he gets strikeouts (26 K’s in 25 inn.), which as shown, would be a big plus for the A’s. Unfortunately, in order to get such a player, the Padres would need to be heavily compensated and it does not look like the Athletics would be willing to give up any of their top prospects. However, one reason the Padres might consider trading Street for less is because his contract expires at the end of the season, so they might as well try and get some value for him. The likeliness that Oakland could acquire him is slight, but would undoubtedly have a positive impact on another possible “Oaktober”.

3)    Grant Balfour

Image

Another Ex-Athletic, yet after going to Tampa Bay, Balfour, much like Jim Johnson, has yet to find a groove. While a trade like this would not necessarily make sense statistically, the A’s could actually get the Aussie at a bargain price due to his performance this season. Plus, coming back to Oakland might give some comfort and confidence to the 36-year old who was coming off an All-Star year with the A’s. Finally, I’m sure there would be many “Balfour Ragers” that would return to the bleachers should he don the Green and Gold once more.

Part 2 of the Oakland A’s October Upgrade Possibilities will be coming soon.

The focus, Second Base. Stay tuned.

3 comments

  1. Pingback: October Upgrade Possibilities: Part 2 « The O.Co Show
  2. Rays Renegade

    I know it is paramount for the A’s to find a new home for Jim Johnson, but it is hard to trade a starter who is not pumping out positive stats without taking a loss in return. That being said, it can be done but it might entail some crafty tinkering of talent and possibly a small dollar incentive for it to happen.
    As for Grant, he still has a home here near St. Petersburg.Fl and I think he might be here at least for the duration of 2014.
    But as we all know, a players status and team is not set in concrete unless he has a no-trade clause and is pitching or hitting ” lights out”.
    Both closer/relievers have hit a wall of sorts and for them both to have any trade value above a few lower level prospects they would have to hit that high value in less than 3 weeks.
    Got a feeling the A’s are stuck with Johnson until possibly after August 1st then might find someone willing to do a small deal…..hopefully.

    • egiddings10

      All valid points, I wrote this right after the draft when “apparently” Jim Johnson was still tradable (Marlins almost gave up the 1st round compensation pick), but in hindsight yeah I totally agree with you on both Jim and Balfour. Hopefully both of these guys can get back on track for both of their teams!

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