The Athletics are dealing with a run of injuries that VP of baseball operations Billy Beane calls “the worst one since I’ve been here,” as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. The pitching staff, in particular, has been dogged by health issues.
“Where it’s really hit us has been our starting pitching — and that’s an area we tried to create a lot of depth,” explained Beane. “We’ve already wiped out that depth in the first six weeks.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that Oakland is ready to sell. In Beane’s view, “There’s no rational reason to move anyone when you don’t have enough bodies.”
It’s fair to note, too, that several of the team’s hypothetical trade pieces — especially outfielder Josh Reddick, but also infielder Jed Lowrie and even staff ace Sonny Gray — are or recently have been unavailable due to injury, meaning that they aren’t really near-term trade candidates regardless. That also helps to explain some of Oakland’s struggles.
On the other hand, the A’s now sit nine back in the division, in a dead heat with an Astros club that also hopes to climb out of the cellar. And the team has numerous other players that could hold significant appeal to the rest of the league.
No player has done more to increase their stock early in 2016 than southpaw Rich Hill, who Beane says is “doing exactly what you want a number one starter to do.” MLBTR’s Connor Byrne took a look at Hill’s trade deadline profile just yesterday, explaining that he could conceivably be the best starter made available this summer. While his modest $6MM salary making him affordable for any contender, he could be in high demand.
Hill isn’t alone, of course. Oakland could market third baseman Danny Valencia, who is stinging the ball while earning a reasonable $3.15MM salary with one more year of arb control still to come, and is also capable of playing the outfield. Veteran outfielder Coco Crisp owns a useful .250/.305/.429 slash in the final guaranteed year of his contract, though as MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted recently his vesting option could come into play. The 36-year-old is also playing on a relatively expensive $11MM annual salary, and defensive metrics have soured considerably on his glove.
Struggling DH Billy Butler wouldn’t seem to hold much appeal to other organizations, but pen arms such as Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, and John Axford might. All three of those relievers come with future seasons of control, though only the southpaw Doolittle is controlled at below-market rates.
As Slusser explains, the A’s do not typically prefer to abandon hopes of contention, and probably won’t have much interest in a full-blown teardown. But the club is in a tough spot. While it seems that the front office will at least give things a few weeks, it may prove hard to resist an opportunity to cash in a few expiring assets later this summer, with Hill and Reddick still looking like the most plausible and valuable chips.