October Upgrade Possibilities: Part 2
Since the Oakland Athletics have been able to remain dominant in the regular season, I believe any trade possibility should be based purely on its potential to affect the outcome of the playoffs. For the past two seasons, Oakland has fallen to the Detroit Tigers in back-to-back ALDS Game 5’s and if they want to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship, they will most likely have to go through the Motor City again in 2014. This means that in order to get over the hump, somehow the Athletics will need to get better than they were last year. Now some may argue they already are better, but a team is only is strong as its weakest link and right now that link has to be upgraded.
As discussed in Part 1 of the possible upgrades, the only other spot besides the bullpen that could use improvement is Second Base. So far this season, the primary second baseman – Eric Sogard, Nick Punto, and Alberto Callaspo – have all struggled mightily at the plate, hitting .197, .252, and .218 respectively. Punto has done the best job of getting on base (.350 OBP) but without much power or consistency, it could be very difficult to depend on him in the big moments that are the playoffs. At this position there are three primary options that could have a substantial impact on the A’s chances of prolonging their postseason run.
1) Trust the Second Half:
This is the easiest choice for the A’s, but also requires the most faith. Believing a hitter will bust out of their slump means putting them in situations where they are the most likely to succeed and luckily for Oakland, the second half of the season presents that. Specifically, Sogard and Callaspo have shown they are much better hitters as the season progresses. Sogard is a near .260 second-half hitter while Callaspo is a career .273 second-half hitter. Both of these stats are encouraging considering their current performances at the plate, but the real area they need to show up is in the playoffs. Combined, they are a career 1-20 in October and in order for the A’s to score runs against aces like Verlander or Scherzer, they need everyone in the lineup to contribute. The optimistic view of this is it doesn’t seem like they can do much worse and with a playoff series already under their belts, fans should see improvement come October.
2) Chase Utley:
The longtime second baseman has been borderline iconic in the City of Brotherly Love but at the age of 35, the Phillies have little use for Utley as they are likely to use this season to re-build. This addition would likely propel the A’s to be the favorite to represent the AL, although at this point seems relatively unlikely. For the same reasons I explained in Part 1 with Huston Street, a trade for a man of this stature would require huge returns and right now it just does not look like the A’s are willing to give that up. Also, the Athletics would probably have to pay the majority of the $10 million he is owed next season. However, if they somehow could manage this trade, his .262/.402/.500 slash line in the playoffs with a knack for clutch hitting could be what Oakland needs to catch that ever-elusive title.
3) Ben Zobrist:
Here lies probably the most realistic option for the A’s as the Rays are always looking to wheel and deal during the midst of “throw-away” season. Besides a contract suitable for the A’s ($7 million with a $7.5 million club option for 2015), Zobrist would also fit the way Bob Melvin likes to cycle his batters in and out of the field and the lineup. He would be able to do this because Zobrist is the ultimate utility man, proficient at playing second base, shortstop, third base, and outfield. From an offensive standpoint, the 33 year-old is a career .262/.353/.785 switch-hitter who does have experience in the playoffs, a definite upgrade from what the A’s are working with now. The asking price for Zobrist would also be less than Utley as he has flown under the radar for the better part of his career. No name player who can help his team get W’s? Sounds like a A already.
Feel free to leave comments and ideas about what you think the A’s should do before the deadline. I’m open to all who love the Green and Gold as much as I do, thanks.