So, you’re not satisfied being the best team in the AL, and probably the best team in baseball. You’re not satisfied with winning at a 100 win pace, and playing like a 110 win team (according to run differential). You want to pick out individual players as being "unproductive" or "terrible in every conceivable way". Sure, just because their performances are covered up by Josh Donaldson and his MVP status doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have weaknesses. It doesn’t have many, but they exist.
The trade deadline is actually nowhere close, but we’re going to start hearing rumors soon. I’d figure I’d preempt these talks by starting a rundown of potential realistic trade candidates. Beane will make a move, and it’ll probably be a move absolutely no one’s expecting, like Green for Callaspo last year. But it doesn’t matter, because this is fun. It’ll dominate every comment thread from here to July, so might as well make the most of it.
2nd base has been a weakness of the A’s since Jemile Weeks decided that he was a superstar who didn’t need to do things like "hit" or "field". This year the A’s are getting a cumulative 0.0 WAR out of their 2B spot, good for #24 in the majors. It’s actually even worse than that: only the Padres, Yankees, and Orioles are below us without any longterm answer at the position. The Braves have Tommy LeStrella, the Giants have Brandon Hicks (who’s been really good! ), Cleveland has Jason Kipnis. We have Eric Sogard. 2B is absolutely our weakest position, and it’s not really up for debate.
I’m going to note here that I don’t expect that the A’s get a young guy. We just don’t have the pieces to pick up a Nick Franklin from someone’s minor league system, and they probably wouldn’t if they could. I’m expecting a rental – an immediate improvement, not a lottery ticket. I want a known commodity.
Here are the top middle infield upgrades on the trade market:
Absolutely not happening. I will eat my socks if this happens. I will eat every sock I own. I will publish my address so you can send me socks to consume. He’s a great player in the middle of a great season, but expensive and old. He’s also probably signed through 2018; he has vesting options if he totals more than 500 PAs through a season. $15 million vesting options. Absolutely will not happen.
Will probably happen to the Giants, just to spite us.
Here’s a more likely option. He’s signed through 2015, which is just about perfect. The Rays are selling and Zobrist is aging, so he probably won’t be as productive during the next contention cycle. He’s been worth 1.4 WAR en route to what looks like another routine 5 WAR season. He’s having a down season offensively, but look for the .270 BABIP to rise. He could absolutely be a 3~ win upgrade.
He also comes at a huge bargain: less than $7 million (exact figure depends on how much salary the A’s pick up), with a $7.5 million team option for 2015. Getting him might even save money next year: with Addison Russell the presumed shortstop in 2015, having a second baseman means that we could let Lowrie walk without having a hole.
Obviously the underappreciated Zobrist is a fit for Oakland, the world capital of under-appreciated players. However, there's likely to be a bidding war for his services: Ken Rosenthal says that Zobrist's cheap price is going to make him one of the most sought-after commodities on the market. Meaning, we'd be giving up prospects. Tons of prospects. Good ones. Alas, deadline rentals don't come free.
This is a guy we already know is being shopped around. The Mets tried to trade him during the offseason, but apparently didn't get any decent offers. You can imagine they're going to be doing the same thing during the trade deadline, and the longer they wait, the more his price drops. The rest of these guys are hypothetical, trades that would make sense. This is a trade that might already be in the works.
He’s also in the middle of putting up the best season of his career. He’s already been worth 1.6 WAR, making him one of the premier second basemen in the Majors. He has plus speed (23 SB last year), excellent contact skills, average defense, and has upped his BB% to career high levels. He’s a great player, and without the age and injury concerns of basically every other player on the market today.
The only problem is this: the Mets don’t need to trade him. They don’t have any great 2B prospects moving to the majors, and they’re looking to compete when Matt Harvey returns in 2015. Murphy could absolutely be a part of the next great/good/decent Mets team. Basically, the Mets hold all the leverage, and could demand a package that the A’s just couldn’t give up.
Jimmy Rollins is a Hall of Famer that continues to be productive while stuck on a team that isn’t going anywhere, and won’t go anywhere for a very long time. That alone makes him a prime trade candidate. There’s one problem: he has a no-trade clause in his contract. However, Rollins is from Oakland, and is languishing on a team that’s made it very clear that they don’t want him around anymore.
Would he give up his celebrity status in Philadelphia for a shot at another World Series title? Only he can answer that question. But it’s still fun to fantasize about.
He’s also weirdly in the middle of a career renaissance at 35. He’s hitting .249/.347/.403 (at a low .279 BABIP) with 8 HR, and he’s a good bet for a 20 HR/30 SB guy. He’s also an actual plus defensive SS. Jed Lowrie’s defense is certainly improved at SS, but he really belongs at 2B – Jimmy Rollins could take over at SS, and improve the team's infield defense vastly. His contract situation is favorable: he was due $11 million this year, and has a $11 million vesting option for 2015 if he makes it to 600 PAs. So, barring injury, he’ll be signed through 2015.
Of course, Rollins does have that no-trade clause. This all depends on him signing off. But the Phillies would be complete idiots if they didn’t at least try to trade Rollins, and Oakland offers championship hopes and a return to his hometown. I would be very surprised if there weren’t rumors flying around soon.
I don’t trust Rickie Weeks. I don’t want him on the team. Maybe it’s just the last name giving me flashbacks of over-slid bases, infield pop-flies, and misplayed grounders. But I don’t like him. I would be completely amiss if I didn’t at least talk about him, because I think he’s the most likely to actually get traded.
He’s hitting .307/.365/.443, with an elevated BABIP of .385. Obviously that’s going to come down, but ZiPS predicts him to hit .245/.331/.411 the rest of the way. He’s not a great defender, either – just about league average for his career. He’s no All-Star candidate, but he’s a solid piece and an improvement over what we have.
His contract is a huge plus, too: $11 million due to him this year, with a vesting option for 600 PAs that almost certainly won’t vest. He’s expensive for a marginal piece, but that’s why he’s so realistic. He’s a $11 million player playing backup to a rookie making league minimum. We’d be able to get him for little more than a salary dump.
Also, I’d get to unretire my Weeks shirsey. And that’s absolutely worth the price of admission. Plus he’s a superstar.