With the trading deadline less than two weeks away, you have to wonder what is going on with the Oakland Athletics. For several years, Billy Beane was the king of adding for a race with deals for Jermaine Dye, Ray Durham, Jose Guillen and Ricardo Rincon.
This year, the A's are in first place and have several teams right on their heels. Barry Zito recently changed agents to Scott Boras, making it a virtual lock that he's going to be in another team's uniform next season. So Billy Beane has to be wondering what to do as the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline approaches. Zito would normally be as close to an untouchable as the A's would have, especially considering his rebirth this season. He's been 2002 Z all over again.
At the same time, Beane would be negligent in doing his job if he didn't at least listen to offers. The teams searching for someone with Zito's credentials would be teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Mets. All teams that have legitimate chances to do some postseason damage this season. The A's are in that mix to at least make the postseason, and as A's fans are painfully aware, all you have to do is make it and then it's up to fortune which team will prevail.
So, what kind of deal will Billy Beane be tempted by? He will be looking at getting some kind of young and cheap starter in return and possibly some additional offense. The A's need some help in the rotation come 2007. There just isn't the kind of depth there that the team would want. Haren, Blanton, Harden, Windsor and Loaiza would be fine if Loaiza could straighten himself out and if Harden wasn't made of glass. Blanton has also been pretty inconsistent so far, so you don't know what kind of year you're going to get from him. The A's could pull Halsey, Kennedy or Duchscherer out of the pen, but that would weaken one of the better bullpens around. But all this has been covered before.
I brought this up in yesterday's thread, but I could see Beane being tempted by a deal for someone like Chien-Ming Wang. He's relatively young, just turning 26 but better than that is that he's cheap and just joined the team last season. He's also an extreme groundball pitcher who could truly excel with the A's league-leading defense behind him. You get someone for the rotation next year and beyond while some of the younger guys develop in the system.
You also aren't necessarily throwing in the towel on this year either because you're getting a major league starter in return who is more of a proven commodity than someone who is doing well at Triple-A. You're being both a buyer and seller, and we all know that's what Beane loves to do around this time of year.
Now, it makes me sick to my stomach to think about Zito in a Yankees uniform, but it may happen any way so why not try and get something for him in the meantime. Why would New York consider something like this? For several reasons...first, celebrity can not be overstated in a city like New York and a team like the Yankees. Zito has been starving for that spotlight and New York could give it to him. The Yankees would also get an exclusive window to try to negotiate an extension with Zito before he hits the open market. And they would be in the driver's seat ahead of teams like Boston, the Mets and Dodgers who will likely make a run at the A's star lefty.
I don't think Beane will wind up dealing Zito, but it will take an offer of something similar to that for him to even consider it. If he believes the team can still compete for the World Series in 2006, dealing Zito would likely be a significant blow to those chances. But as the rumors heat up (supposedly Minaya has put Milledge on the table again, according to Ken Rosenthal), expect to hear Zito's name in all of those places. It's just a matter of if they fit the above criteria and how Beane judges sees this team and its true chances for World Series glory in 2006. There was a time when I would think that Beane would let a player like Zito go and just accept the draft picks and say, thank you. After the offseason of 2004-05, I no longer think that way.