It’s time to quit screwing around. This is simply not the A’s year. They find new ways to lose just about every night. I realize that they aren’t as pathetic as they were in May, but let’s not get any false illusions of the playoffs. Yes, they have made up ground before and won the division – just look at their amazing charge in the second half of 2012. And yes, they’re within touching distance of the second Wild Card spot. But keep in mind that every other American League team is closer to that spot than Oakland is. They’d have to leapfrog everybody else.
I don’t enjoy being pessimistic, but reality is upon us. Three former All-Stars, presently on the 25-man roster, will most definitely not be back in Oakland next season. Sometimes it’s wise or at least worth the effort to hold on to a guy in a walk year because he will help you in the playoffs (i.e. Barry Zito in 2006) But starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, reliever Tyler Clippard, and infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist are all impending free agents and will be wearing uniforms of teams not called the A’s in 2016, most likely sooner. The quest for Billy Beane is to get the most possible talent in return for these gentlemen. The good news, A’s fans, is that it’s a sellers’ market.
There is huge potential value in all three of these free agents. Kazmir was an All-Star just last season and sports a sub-2.50 ERA. He also has pitched in the World Series, with Tampa Bay in 2008. Clippard can fill the important role of setup man and also the vital role of closer. He presently is 17-for-19 in save opportunities and is playoff-proven with a postseason ERA of 1.50 during his time in Washington. Meanwhile, Zobrist is a Swiss army knife of a player and can fill several roles, either through depth or being a starter. He can provide solid defense at three infield spots and will ably man either corner outfield position. He’s also an attractive bat for National League teams looking for pinch-hitters.
You might say that Beane will officially be giving up on the season when he makes any of these trades. Never tell that to Bob Melvin, as he and his charges will always try to win every game they play. But after the GM decimated the A’s farm system last year, and with the terrible bullpen and horrifying defense the big club is playing, it’s time to cash in on these three guys. Yet this time I want Beane to be greedy … like Gordon Gecko greedy. The A’s traded away their top prospects in Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson (even Billy McKinney is now an MLB Top 100 prospect) and have tried to replenish their system with guys like Rangel Ravelo, Joey Wendle and Franklin Barreto, along with the most recent draft picks. I want a top prospect. The A’s keep trading them away, so why can’t we expect one back this time?
I’d love to test the will of a GM who knows the addition of one, two, or all three of the A’s pending free agents would be enough to put them over the top. How bad does Farhan Zaidi of the Dodgers want to go to the World Series? Ask for SS Corey Seager in return and stand your ground. Remind Zaidi (who cut his teeth in Oakland) that the A’s really don’t strive to win at all costs, and that they’ll simply sit on those three players and look forward to the compensatory picks their signings will bring. See if he blinks.
Look even further south to San Diego, where new GM A.J. Preller has discarded almost all of his useful farmhands in a mad attempt to be relevant. See if he will dig an even deeper hole for the Padres by grabbing OF Hunter Renfroe, just about the last first round pick not sold down the river by Preller. Or see if smug Sandy Alderson of the Mets would part with one of his prized prospects, such as Steve Matz, Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto. And Beane should also test the intestinal fortitude of the ambitious Theo Epstein of the Cubs and see if he’d give up Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, or C.J. Edwards.
It’s time to play hardball over the phone. Beane is in a tremendous position to revamp the entire organization. Now is not the time to sell on the cheap or to hang on to hope for this season.