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"We're always looking to make ourselves simultaneously better now and in the future."

This has been Billy Beane's mantra for years, and it makes sense: A team's job is to be good now and good later, because it is folly to sacrifice one for the other on any day except Judgment Day (and possibly Groundhog Day if you're Bill Murray, but we're not here to talk about rodents).

Anyway, the A's will need a 5th starter about 8 times the rest of the way, and the answer doesn't appear to be blowing in the Windsor any more than a Hawaiian can Komine-nd get the job done. Overall, the candidates for the rest of the season, joining AAAA-star Jason Windsor and foray-into-mediocrity Shane Komine, appear to be two more likely options, Kirk "Hey, my mirrors aren't working!" Saarloos and Brad "1.50 WHIP, this year and for my career!" Halsey.

Today, I explain why all four are the wrong choices, and why the A's should be going with Chad Gaudin.

Now is Gaudin, if inserted into the rotation, likely to pitch at the level needed in the dog days of a pennant race? Well, it's a roll of the dice because Gaudin has not recently been starting (though he has been a starter prior to 2006), and certainly he has yet to fully refine his control. But with the other 4 candidates, the problem is that it really isn't a roll of dice. Windsor and Komine have shown that they have a bit to work on before they can lay claim to getting major league hitters out consistently. Halsey has proven that he will allow lots of people to reach base--three every two innings--and that he is pretty good at wiggling out of trouble most of the time, except when he can't. And Saarloos, the candidate with the best track record, has average stuff and gets by on guile--and not so much this season, unfortunately, as "average stuff" has caught up to "guile" more often than not. With any of the "4A-ces" you will be happy to squeeze 5-6 innings of 3 ER ball out of them, and will not be surprised if they turn in an "oops, right numbers, wrong place" performance of 3 innings, 5-6 ER.

Gaudin is no more of a guarantee, but he has major league stuff, and he has now gained confidence at the major league level. True, he would not be able to go more than 4-5 innings his first start, because he hasn't stretched his arm out this season, but the others would likely not go more than 4-5 for worse reasons. (So in his first start, you would probably go with Gaudin for 4 IP, and Saarloos for 3, and that's no big deal there because hey, if you didn't choose Gaudin you were going to start Saarloos anyway.)

But ultimately, it seems to me that Gaudin is no worse of an overall gamble and he has, by far, the biggest upside. He is, in essence, the best of the 5 candidates for the now, because he is just as likely to pitch as well, and far more likely to pitch better.

And if Gaudin is going to be a strong candidate for next year's rotation, do you suppose he will be better in 2007 if he gets 7-8 starts in 2006 or if he doesn't? "We're always looking to make ourselves simultaneously better now and in the future." In that case, shouldn't Gaudin be the one who is getting the call for the next few Tuesdays?