Programming note: Blue Jays-A's coverage starts today at 12:30 on CSN California.
OAKLAND – The A’s crept a bit closer in the Wild Card standings with Wednesday’s win, but it might not wield much influence in their trade deadline decision-making.
Indications are that A’s general manager Billy Beane might be leaning toward selling as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline draws closer. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted Wednesday that the A’s are “perceived in the industry to be officially open for business” when it comes to making deals.
And that likely would mean shipping out some of their top veterans for younger players as opposed to acquiring players for the “now” as they did last July. The A’s (44-52) are 11 games back in the American League West but pulled to within seven games for a Wild Card spot with Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over Toronto.
Still, there are eight teams ahead of them for the AL’s two Wild Card spots, not to mention the Chicago White Sox, who are tied with them. It’s going to be a steep uphill climb to a fourth consecutive postseason berth.
And though Beane has pointed to the second-half comeback of the 2012 club as inspiration for at least considering keeping this team together, the truth is that the ’12 club had already started gathering steam by now. On July 23 of that season, the A’s were seven games over .500 and closing in on a 19-5 record for July.
This year’s club – with a 21-28 home record and a 10-22 mark in one-run games – hasn’t shown any indication of truly taking off.
That doesn’t mean the A’s will start shipping players out with abandon. Left-hander Scott Kazmir and utility man Ben Zobrist, both free agents after this season, are considered Oakland’s best trade pieces. The A’s will be looking for high-quality return packages, probably minor league prospects based on comments Beane made to CSN California recently. But given that Kazmir and Zobrist both would be “rental” pick-ups based on their impending free agency, that will affect how much teams are willing to give up for them.
The A’s have the option of holding on to some of their soon-to-be free agents and making them qualifying offers in the winter, setting the team up for possible draft-pick compensation.
The Blue Jays, Pirates, Royals and Yankees have been among the teams scouting the A’s over the past week, and all have been linked to either Kazmir or Zobrist in trade speculation. The Nationals and Mets reportedly like Zobrist too. But reliever Tyler Clippard, another free agent-to-be, could also attract interest, likely as a setup man more than a closer. It wouldn’t be surprising if more under-the-radar trade targets such as pitcher Jesse Chavez and first baseman Ike Davis generated interest as well.