July 31 (or in this year’s case, Aug. 1) is Christmas Day for about half of Major League Baseball fans. Playoff-bound teams will receive reinforcements in the form of seasoned veterans, vying to win a World Series ring.
But for the other half, it’s the equivalent of getting your heart ripped out of your chest. Fans of losing franchises will watch their favorite athletes get traded to winning teams, like a spoiled rich kid buying all their favorite toys with their daddy’s credit card.
I am, of course, talking about the MLB trade deadline.
The Oakland A’s are 45-54, fourth place in the American League West, and are anchored to the ground with the cost of two dead contracts. The future of the franchise in the coming years rests on the shoulders of a former Cal Bear, a 6-foot-5 Samoan, a baby-faced third baseman and a guy with a curly mustache.
With the A’s 12 games out of first place, it has been clear for weeks that the team will be sellers instead of buyers this trade season. But while the majority of A’s Nation is holding back tears for the inevitable trade of outfielder Josh Reddick and other fan favorites, I am waiting to see what kind of return he can fetch.
For me, a fan of the firesale-bound A’s, the trade deadline is Christmas Day.
The deadline isn’t so much of an end to a crappy year, but more of an early start to the 2017 season. The returns from older players with expiring contracts not only help the team by restocking the Oakland farm system, but also help shed payroll to open up free agent spending in the winter. With the emergence of young talent such as shortstop Marcus Semien and third baseman Ryon Healy, one can hope that with the right moves the A’s can field a competitive team next year. But it all starts with trades.
Though David Forst is officially the A’s General Manager, everyone who knows the A’s knows that Billy Beane, vice president of baseball operations, will be doing all the dealing this trade deadline.
This year, pitcher Rich Hill will be the ace in Beane’s poker hand, followed by Reddick and third baseman Danny Valencia. If given the right package, pitcher Sonny Gray, catcher Stephen Vogt and second baseman Jed Lowrie could move to greener pastures as well.
But what A’s fans will have to realize with this year’s trade fodder is that each player carries warts that will surely drive down their trade value. Hill — with a 2.25 ERA and 90 strikeouts over 76 innings — will probably not bring home a top-50 prospect because of his age and injury history. Reddick’s price tag will probably also get talked down because of durability issues and inability to hit off of lefties. And Valencia — although he is hitting .300/.352/.475 and .360/.429/.613 versus lefties — will probably only be worth an organization’s 15th best prospect because of how big of a dick he allegedly is.
While I’d want nothing more than to trade the 36-year-old Hill to the Rangers for 23-year-old Jurickson Profar, it’s just not going to happen. If the A’s are to get the optimum return for Hill, they’ll most likely have to settle for a high risk, high reward prospect in the lower minors. For Reddick, the A’s should be targeting Double-A or Triple-A outfielders who will eventually be his replacement. Unfortunately, they may have to take anything they can get in return for Dad Valence.
But if anyone can make something out of nothing, it’s Billy Boy. This is the guy who traded one year of Jeff Samardzija for a franchise shortstop in Semien. This is the guy who traded half a year of Scott Kazmir for seven years of mustachio’d Daniel Mengden and multiple years of power hitting Khris Davis. If Billy wants a guy, there’s reason to believe that he has the potential to do something big in the Show.
With Billy’s knowledge and eye for underrated talent, there’s a lingering confidence from the fan base that surrounds every move he makes. So instead of having a horrible Christmas, Billy makes sure his fans have a half-decent one. He’s not going to get you that Macbook Pro you’ve been asking for, but he’ll get you an ASUS Chromebook and the promise of getting you something better for your birthday.
Contact Chris Tril at [email protected].