For the second summer in a row, the A’s are poised to make headlines.
Just not in the fashion they would prefer.
Their fourth place standing in the American League West, 15 1/2 games out of first, makes it likely that Oakland will be a seller as the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. They have pitching that will be attractive to contenders, both starters and relievers, not to mention impact position players such as right fielder Josh Reddick and third baseman Danny Valencia.
One thing the A’s typically don’t do in this situation is stand pat. The following is a look at teams considered to be “buyers” that appear to be potential matches for the A’s, and what these teams might have to offer in return. We’ll start with the neighboring club that the A’s haven’t done business with in quite a few years.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Record: 57-33, 1st place in NL West
The possibility of these teams finally swinging a trade is too juicy not to contemplate. They haven’t struck a deal since 2004, when the A’s acquired pitcher Adam Pettyjohn for cash. Their last player-for-player exchange came way back in 1990, when the A’s sent outfielder Darren Lewis to the Giants for infielder Ernest Riles.
The Giants are rolling with the majors’ best record despite losing several players to injury, including right fielder Hunter Pence. They like Reddick, but their need for a corner outfielder is probably trumped by their need for bullpen help. The A’s have relievers they could make available in John Axford, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle (though he’s on the DL with a shoulder injury) and situational lefty Marc Rzepczynski. It’ll be tough for Oakland to pry away a top-shelf prospect such as right-hander Phil Bickford, but the Giants’ farm system is deep in power arms that would be attractive.
A’s general manager David Forst has a good rapport with his Giants counterpart, Bobby Evans. They’ve played pickup basketball games against each other in spring training over the years. But it stands to reason that if equal deals are available with the other 28 clubs, then these neighboring rivals would just as soon not deal with each other. As one Giants source put it:
“I don’t think they’re out to help us, and we’re not out to help them.”
BOSTON RED SOX
Record: 49-38, tied for 2nd in AL East
The Red Sox need starting pitching and they’ve got a talent-rich farm system from which to deal. They’ve been scouting Hill, a Boston native who is a natural target, especially considering the electrifying four-start run he enjoyed with them last September. But there have long been reports that the Red Sox also covet Sonny Gray, who is under team control through the 2019 season and doesn’t even become eligible for arbitration until this winter. The A’s would ask the moon for him. It would probably take second baseman Yoan Moncada — the top prospect on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 list — right-hander Anderson Espinoza or center fielder Andrew Benintendi as the starting point to a prospect package to land Gray, or perhaps two of those three. The A’s farm system needs outfield talent, and it’s possible the A’s might push for the 22-year-old Benintendi, currently at Double-A, even in talks for Hill.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Record: 45-43 (tied for 3rd in AL Central)
Why not? These teams hammered out a deal last summer that worked both ways, with Kansas City acquiring Ben Zobrist to fortify its World Series run and the A’s landing starter Sean Manaea in their package from the Royals. Kansas City reportedly is eyeing both Hill and Reddick. Would the Royals be willing to part with a prospect such as outfielder Bubba Starling? It’s been a slow climb through the farm system for Starling, the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, but his hitting has picked up since his recent promotion to Triple-A.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Record: 51-40, 2nd place in NL West
We’ll go back to the well on this one after listing the Dodgers’ as a potential trade partner last summer based on front office familiarity. GM Farhan Zaidi spent several seasons with the A’s. But beyond that, the Dodgers injury-riddled rotation needs some reinforcement, and Hill has to stir a degree of interest as this team tries to stay within striking distance of the Giants and remain in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card berth.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Record: 51-40, tied for 2nd in AL East
The Jays have been among several teams scouting the A’s recently, and they’re looking to boost both their rotation and bullpen. But the fact is, Toronto depleted its farm system with its huge deadline splash last season, when it acquired starter David Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. There’s no way the Jays make even a remotely similar splash. But considering the arms the A’s can offer, a deal can’t be counted out.