The A’s are just past the one-third mark of their season, and it’s a tricky time for forecasting.
Their recent two-week stretch of good play is enough to provide hope, to make you believe that just maybe there’s enough time, and they can jump back into contention if some of their division foes start to slip.
Then they come out and drop two in a row at Fenway Park, including Saturday’s 4-2 defeat, and it’s tough to envision them making a run based on how they’ve looked in those games.
The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is still nearly eight weeks away, enough time for the A’s (23-35) to sway the front office to proceed in one direction or another depending on how well they play.
But consider these comments from general manager Billy Beane on Thursday, when he was asked during his weekly radio show on 95.7 The Game about what it would take for his team to be a “buyer” at the deadline and not a “seller.”
“First thing, we’ve got to get to .500 before you even consider yourself quote unquote contending, or being a part of the conversation,” Beane said. “You can’t realistically be a team under .500 and expect that you’re a playoff-type team. It just doesn’t happen. It’s too early to say. I think we have to be realistic when the time comes and see where we’re standing.”
What we do know is this: A’s players already are generating trade interest, and it will only increase as the deadline approaches. Second baseman/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been linked to the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals and New York Yankees in reports, with Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal saying the Nationals have explored preliminary talks with the A’s about the 34-year-old Zobrist, who will be a free agent at season’s end.
Now consider Beane’s revelation that he expects closer Sean Doolittle and left fielder Coco Crisp both to be sidelined long-term with their respective injuries. Crisp is dealing with a cervical strain in his neck that already was expected to sideline him past the All-Star break. Doolittle re-injured his shoulder on the last homestand after missing nearly all of the first two months of the season.
“One of the things we have to be realistic (about) is that both Sean and Coco probably aren’t going to be playing a whole lot this year,” Beane told 95.7 The Game. “They could come back, maybe later, but they’re a long way off, and I think we have to keep that in mind with whatever we do.”
Translation: Brace yourself for the likelihood that the A’s will part with some of their more marketable veterans, with Zobrist and starter Scott Kazmir – another free agent-to-be – headlining that list. If Beane and his staff are convinced that neither Doolittle nor Crisp will be able to make an impact for the remainder of the season, figure that it will only help to persuade them to make moves with an eye toward the future.
Not that anything is set in stone. Who knows if the Houston Astros will have staying power atop the AL West? The same goes for the second-place Texas Rangers. And neither the Los Angeles Angels nor the Seattle Mariners have played as well as expected.
The A’s on-field happenings will help dictate what does or doesn’t happen as July 31 approaches. But there’s a ton of ground to make up for the A’s to get back into contention. If they want to convince the front office to keep the current roster together, the time is now to start making a move up the standings.