22-14. Tied for the most wins in baseball. Tied for the best record in the AL. A 99-win pace. It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
It makes sense that a 22-14 team’s “problems” are good problems to have. Having too many good starting pitchers and more than 25 players deserving of a major league roster spot. Hanging on to the most expensive players rather than trading them because the team is still in contention, even though that wasn’t in the blueprint. Most teams would envy these issues.
Now almost a quarter of the way through the season, it’s clear this team has a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, even if it doesn’t play quite this well the rest of the way. Which brings us to the major point of discussion this morning:
It would be incredibly unlikely for any key A’s player to be traded away this season.
Although the free agency clock is ticking on a few A’s mainstays, rest assured that Billy’s no longer planning to flip guys like Ellis, Duke, or Blanton for younger and cheaper players this season, like he did in the Swisher/Haren deals. Aside from being illogical at this point given the team’s success, we can predict that it would be politically impossible, once we look at the numbers.
The A’s are exactly 59 games away from the All-Star break on July 14th, and 71 games away from the end-of-July trading deadline. For the sake of argument let’s focus on the first figure (59 games), and assume that if a major deal were to take place by the end of July, the teams involved probably are at least talking to each other by the All-Star break.
How bad would the A’s need to be over the next 59 games in order to be “sellers” in trade talks?
Let’s say the A’s go 25-34 from now until the All-Star break. That would represent a very poor stretch – a .424 clip, or the winning percentage equivalent of a 69-win season. Ugh. It’s a nasty thought and I don't believe it will happen – this team is too deep and too well-rounded to suffer a long-term stretch that bad.
But even if they did, the team would still be 47-48, on the strength of their terrific start to the season. And as a former player, Billy knows better than most that the locker room would be forever bitter about trading away a key piece of the puzzle when the team was still playing .500 ball and in Wild Card striking distance.
In short, the A’s have started so well that it is almost impossible that they’ll be out of contention by the trading deadline. Could they slip from this pace? Absolutely. This team won’t win the 99 games they’re currently on pace to win. Can they slip far enough that they have no chance at the All-Star break? No.
So feel free to stay emotionally attached to your current favorite Athletic for at least six more months. The way the team has played thus far, they've earned the right to stay along for the playoff ride.
That leaves Beane (and us) crossing fingers in hopes that Mark Ellis can somehow qualify as a Type A free agent, that Harden and Duke can stay in one piece for at least six more months, and more importantly, that the improbable run of team success can continue.
In the interest of spacing our content and topics as best we can, look for a Part II of “Good Problems to Have” in the next few days, either on the main page or as a FanPost depending on our front-page activity level.