Yesterday's game against the Red Sox was a nice "pick me up" for a team that has frankly underperformed so far this year. Sure, they lead the division and have gotten by without playing their best baseball thus far. But there are worrying signs on the horizon.
After losing Parker and Griffin, the once-vaunted starting depth is now pretty much non-existent.
The casual downplay of defensive shortcomings has been minimized, and yet, with the exception of random web gems from Barton and Reddick, the defense as a whole has not really improved since the beginning of the year.
The team still has not gotten anything from the 2nd base position besides defense...and 1st base for that matter as well.
To me, this adds up to a situation where the A's need to understand their place in their unique contention window and act accordingly.
In another thread, I advocated a simple, two-step process for addressing these issues. My plan, more fully explained, is outlined below:
1. Trade any combination of Arnold Leon, Josh Whitaker, Chris Jensen, Jeff Urlaub, etcetera for Brandon McCarthy: Bmac is throwing great besides what his ERA might suggest, AZ is tanking and has incentive to cut payroll and get something back (since they aren't going to offer him a QA), he has rapport, familiarity and ties to this org, and would immediately solidify the A's rotation behind the nouveau Big 3 of Gray, Kazmir and Chavez. His salary is not extravagant. Adding him would bump one or both of Milone/Straily to AAA to stay stretched out and work on some issues: depth would be revitalized.
2. Wait until just after the June draft and then sign Stephen Drew to a 2-year, $16 million deal (backloaded to 2015) with a mutual option for 2016. Drew's market is hampered by his draft pick compensation and his desire for more than a 1-year deal. Eliminate the draft pick issue after the draft and then guarantee him 2015 and I think the A's will be in the best position to grab him. Why two years? Well, Addison Russell has gotten all of 3 plate appearances so far this year, and while we are all eager to anoint him the savior of the franchise, there is still a lot of uncertainty between now and that heralded future. With Lowrie likely not able to man SS for the A's past this year, signing Drew (who is also very willing to swtich positions as needed) in the fold for 2015, the A's can take their time and allocate their resources optimally to ensure their window stays open for as long as possible...and the best part about it is, with this signing, the A's would shift Lowrie to his more effective defenisve position (2B) replacing a complete blackhole, while improving defense and garnering a valuable insurance policy in the process...sure, it would cost money, but for the situation the A's are in, they should spend it while it might actually mean something...
Which gets me back to the real point of this post. By some miracle of happenstance, the A's have assembled a team just good enough, just young enough and just plain stubborn enough to outlast their richer AL West counterparts the past two seasons. This is not a confluence of events that will happen in cycles...it's a window and it will close abruptly...probably a lot sooner and a lot more violently than we all hope it will.
As of this writing, the A's will have no home ballpark past 2015. It would be nice to enter that uncertain period with the certainty that this organization did all it could to capitalize on this window of opportunity and bring back a championship to the East Bay at some point within the next 16 months.
It's time to act decisively, and yes, sacrifice a prospect or two and some cash in the process, but this run is special and it might very well be the last one here in Oakland...let us hope that the A's make it one for the ages regardless of whether they head my above recommendations or not!