CLEVELAND — The A’s impressive run since the All-Star break has everyone in Oakland’s clubhouse feeling good about the second half moving forward.
The strong play has also resonated with general manager David Forst, but Forst also stressed Thursday that the team’s decision-making in regard to the trade deadline won’t necessarily be influenced by the recent hot streak.
“You look at it, even including the last series before the break, a couple of walk-off losses in Houston and then a walk-off loss Monday, we could be very close to looking at .500,” Forst told CSN California. “We’ve played well, and with a couple of tweaks we made at the break, guys have responded. It makes it a lot more enjoyable for everybody. It is not lost on us that we’ve played better. (But) I don’t know that it impacts our conversations around the trade deadline significantly, one way or the other.”
That would suggest the A’s could indeed trade one or more veterans before Monday’s 1 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, despite posting the American League’s best second-half record to date at 9-4. Perhaps that’s not surprising for a club that’s never been shy about trading for the future if it appears there’s too much ground to realistically make up in the standings.
Oakland (47-55) entered Thursday’s play 11 games out of first place in the American League West and 9 1/2 back of the second Wild Card spot.
If the A’s do pull the trigger and deal, left-hander Rich Hill remains the most likely to go given his excellent performance this season (9-3, 2.25) and the fact he’s only signed through this year. Hill has been dealing with an ongoing blister issue that leaves him still questionable to start Sunday against the Cleveland Indians.
But Forst does not believe the possibility of trading Hill hinges on the left-hander being able to go Sunday.
“I don’t know that necessarily our conversations have been contingent on him pitching before Monday’s deadline,” Forst said. “Look, it’s a blister. It’s not his elbow, it’s not his shoulder. It’s going to heal. Whether he pitches Sunday or not, we’ll have the same opportunities we’d otherwise have. We’ll have that decision in front of us regardless of what happens Sunday.”
But it stands to reason that teams showing interest in Hill would be willing to give up a stronger return package for him if they’re convinced the blister issue is a thing of the past.
Hill, 36, is scheduled to throw off the mound Friday to test the blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. If that session goes well, he’ll start Sunday. If not, Sonny Gray will take the hill.
Right fielder Josh Reddick, infielder Danny Valencia, second baseman Jed Lowrie and any of several veteran relievers (Ryan Madson, John Axford and Marc Rzepczynski among them) have all been mentioned as other trade candidates. And though Hill is the strongest possibility to be dealt, the A’s no doubt will listen on everybody if they find offers enticing enough over the next four days.
Nonetheless, Forst is encouraged by what he’s seen on the field over the past two weeks. He specifically mentioned the improvement of young starters Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea as one of the most promising developments.
“It’s unfortunate we’ve dug the hole that we have. That’s not going away,” Forst said. “But there’s a lot of value in playing well and winning games now and in the next two months.”