Looking back at Oakland's trade deadline history since 2001, I noticed something curious in the timing of trades. The Athletics' rebuilding-type trades typically began not later than July 16, and postseason-push trades were all in the last week of July.
Generally, the better Oakland's record, the later July trading began. I can hypothesize why that is the case. At the end of July, there will be more teams in "wait 'til next year" mode than "push for this year's postseason" mode. As a result, rental players will be cheaper as the deadline approaches. I suppose this is obvious given the difference between off-season trades and deadline trades, but I had not considered this to be a factor within the month of July.
The one outlier is 2008, where trading began on July 8 despite the A's standing only five games back. 2008 was unusual because the year started with several obvious rebuilding trades in shipping out Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, and Mark Kotsay. Those July trades to get rid of the oft-injured Rich Harden as well as Chad Gaudin seemed a mere continuation of the move to rebuild.
In any event, I think other than waiver claims and dollar value menu pickups, the A's roster will probably stick to internal options until player values fall as baseball's franchises finally sort themselves into "go for it" and "sell sell sell" mode. As of right now, the only team out of it in the American League is the Tampa Bay Rays. In the National League, the Padres and the Diamondbacks are the only ones I am comfortable saying don't have a prayer. The Cubs are a close call, but the noises about extending Jeff Samardzija have me thinking they might try, however unwisely, to hang in from 7.5 back of the wild card.
So what do Athletics fans have to look forward to between now and July 24?
Saturday's starting pitcher
On the one hand,
On the other hand,
Brad Mills will work out with the Athletics at the Coliseum on Thursday, according to Jane Lee at mlb.com. He last pitched for the Nashville Sounds on June 14. The River Cats rotation projects as follows:
Pitching tonight, Leon is presumably unavailable for Saturday's start. The A's have until 5 o'clock tomorrow to decide whether Dan Straily should start at Round Rock or be held back as a result of Mills' work out.
Saturday's starter likely replaces Jeff Francis on the active roster. Francis has options, but optional waivers and Francis' permission must be obtained to send him to Sacramento. There's a decent chance that Francis will be designated for assignment ahead of his outright release, which clears both a 25- and 40-man roster spot.
Josh Reddick - As soon as June 24, not later than July 27.
Josh Reddick began a rehabilitation assignment today which can last for up to 20 days. John Shea reported on Monday that Reddick could re-join the team in New York as soon as next Tuesday.
The simplest solution would be to reverse Stephen Vogt's call-up, but Vogt has been outstanding in his 39 plate appearances entering today (.359/.359/.462), with no walks and five strikeouts. His right field defense has been spotty at times, however.
Eric Sogard or Josh Reddick himself could be the odd man out by the time a decision is made. Absent Sogard, both Alberto Callaspo and Nick Punto can play second base. Absent Reddick, Stephen Vogt, Brandon Moss, and Craig Gentry can play right field.
The A's could even postpone a decision for 39 days, giving Vogt and Sogard time to rise or fall by using up Reddick's 20 days rehab time and 19 days on optional assignment to avoid using Reddick's last option year. July 27 is thus the latest day for Reddick's return without constraining the A's choices for Reddick next year coming out of spring training, and it gives the A's more data to understand Stephen Vogt's value on the 25-man roster this year before making any trade for the postseason push.
Eric O'Flaherty - Not later than July 6
Eric O'Flaherty's rehabilitation assignment began on June 6 and can last 30 days. He must be activated on or before July 6 because he is out of options. Once that happens, he will join closer Sean Doolittle and out-of-options Fernando Abad as left-handed relievers in the bullpen, so one of our struggling right-handed relievers will be down-and-out by then.
Who's out? We could see:
- Jim Johnson (6.18 ERA: 19 earned runs in 27⅔ innings) designated for assignment;
- Ryan Cook (10.38 ERA in 6 appearances since returning from the disabled list) optioned with Raul Alcantara placed on the 60-day disabled list to create a 40-man spot for O'Flaherty; or
- Evan Scribner optioned back to Sacramento and Alcantara placed on the 60-day DL.
Let's not forget Fernando Rodriguez is hanging out in Sacramento as well. Two-out-of-three would not be totally impossible.
Drew Pomeranz - Gone until September?
Pomeranz said fracture is to lower pinkie area of right hand. Has a brace, no cast. Unsure of timeline. "I think it's best case." #Athletics— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) June 17, 2014
I'm not a doctor, but it sounds like Pomeranz has a boxer's fracture. My Google-fu led me to Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's freak accident two years ago, where he ultimately missed two months recovering from a boxer's fracture caused by his wife dropping a suitcase on his throwing hand. The initial time lost projection for that injury was 4-6 weeks.
While it is entirely possible that Pomeranz will be fully recovered before the deadline, if our new number five starter is Brad Mills, and he puts together a string of decent starts, Pomeranz might remain in Sacramento because Mills is out of options. As Bob Melvin said last night,
Melvin: "I know he feels horrible. It wasn't intentional. It was out of frustration. But he's also gotta realize there are ramifications."— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) June 17, 2014
In terms of roster flexibility, it costs the A's nothing to keep Pomeranz in Sacramento, because he has a fourth option year available for next year because Colorado rushed him to the major leagues.
Other 40-man puzzle pieces
- Infielder Jake Elmore, 27, recently completed his rehab assignment and was optioned to Sacramento. The A's could save an option year by promoting him by July 5, though I imagine they'll want to see if he can garner more extra base hits than he has in limited time with the River Cats.
- Infielder Andy Parrino, 28, returned to the River Cats after serving as Alberto Callaspo's paternity leave substitute for three games. His defense was questionable during the Yankees series, though his performance this year (.312/.382/.417) makes me think his 2013 minor league performance (.210/.300/.302) was a fluke, and that he'll continue in AAA at his career AAA-level figures (.280/.359/.396).
- Left-handed relievers Joe Savery and Justin Marks are on the 40-man in Sacramento. Barring an injury to or trade of Fernando Abad, neither seem likely to be activated before September. Marks is more probably a project for next year.
- First baseman Nate Freiman, outfielder Nick Buss, and outfielder Shane Peterson are all players sitting behind much better players at their positions in Oakland. Freiman has been decent in Sacramento (.275/.354/.481) but still strikes out twice as often as he walks (61 Ks, 30 BBs) and remains behind Kyle Blanks in the depth chart. Buss and Peterson have the same issue, and they're behind six other capable outfielders.
The roster is set: Who gets traded?
By the time we reach trade deadline week, it seems the A's will have an excess in catchers and an excess in left-handed relievers. Just spitballing here, but it also seems the Angels have zero left-handed relievers, and Texas does not have a left-handed hitting catcher. Who knows what they'll overvalue if they both run for the wild card?
Statistics from Baseball Reference.