What’s the likeliest solution to the team’s current needs?

First off, let’s establish some current conditions:

  • The A’s currently trail the Angels by 8.5 games for the division lead, and the Indians by 6 games (and would have to leapfrog the Mariners and the Twins) for the wild card
  • All of the teams in front of the A’s for playoff spots (with the exception of the Twins) have deep pockets and/or GMs willing/able to make costly deals for “impact players” for the stretch run
  • The A’s have some significant and intractable injury/debilitation problems
  • Injuries aside, the A’s have some significant roster problems—most notably, a below-average offense and a not-so-VORP-y middle/back of the rotation [y es, I do think that, “injuries aside,” the A’s 3-5 starters (+6-7, as every team needs to be prepared for occasional subs/scrubs making spot starts) are dicey at best. I considered the A’s 1-2 from the outset of the season to be Haren and Blanton, and that it was folly to count on Harden as a consistent, healthy presence in the rotation. While Gaudin and Kennedy started nicely, their recent struggles demonstrate that they’ll likely both be pretty inconsistent. Loaiza, if healthy, would have eaten a lot of innings and pushed Gaudin and Kennedy back to more “natural” spots (and kept DiNardo in the ’pen), but he likely would have been league-average at best.]
  • The offense, while dismal only at 2-3 positions, requires more than one “big bat” to boost its performance appreciably
  • The A’s don’t really have a whole lot of trade ammunition, as the players with the most potential trade value (Haren, Swisher, Buck, Blanton) are young, healthy, and cheap enough that Beane essentially can’t trade them
  • The short-timer potential rent-a-players (Piazza, Kendall, Kennedy, Kotsay) are mostly underperforming and expensive and therefore wouldn’t bring much of value back
  • The areas where the A’s need offensive improvement just to reach league average (SS and C; CF since Kotsay is an untouchable) are tough positions to find offensive production from anyway, and are currently filled by good defenders (albeit all on downward defensive trends); and good offensive players at those positions command premium trade value
  • The areas where good offensive players are available on the trade market (corner OF, 1B, DH) are positions where the A’s already have a glut of productive and potentially productive interchangeable parts, and the marginal upgrade wouldn’t be worth the acquisition costs
  • The area where an A’s strength has taken the most significant hit in performance this year (the “late” end of the bullpen—Duke, Kiko, and Huston) is another premium-trade-value sector, and likely not worth the expense
  • Beane has never made a truly “blockbuster” trade—not in the sense of trading a player before his expense has clearly exceeded his performance value (I don’t think Chavvy’s there yet; which means that unless he really regresses at bat and in the field, he won’t for the remainder of his contract), not in the sense of trading a major roster contributor not about to walk for an overvalued contract, not in the sense of trading away 2+ major roster contributors at once or genuinely overhauling the roster, not in the sense of trading for an expensive (both salary and trade-cost) “name” player

That said, I’d look for Beane to follow three paths, either separately or in combination, between now and July 31st:

  • Remain relatively inactive
  • Acquire cheap middle-to-back-of-the-rotation pitchers
  • Acquire cheap LOOGY/ROOGY/mopup-duty/bullpen-spackle pitchers

Of course, having typed this up, I’m sure to see within 15 minutes a RotoWorld sidebar saying that Beane has finally traded Chavez, Kotsay, Kendall, DJ,and Harden to the Yankees for A-Rod and Posada … as well as to be smacked down in any number of my initial assumptions by an angry AN mob.

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