Do you remember that scene in the very beginning of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, on one where the candy man is singing to the kids as they wait greedily below the ladder for him to heave more candy in the air? Well, picture Billy Beane, the Athletics general manager, standing on that ladder looking down on all the other esurient general managers in the game, waiting for Beane to start tossing over some of the excess pitching he’s hoarding in Oakland and remember this:
It is good to be Billy Beane.
All teams should have the luxury of having an excess of outstanding starting pitching and have the problem of having to try and fit them all into the puzzle while being in the playoff hunt. With a starting rotation that currently features Bartolo Colon, Tommy Millone, Jarrod Parker, Travis Blackley, A.J. Griffin, the A’s have the lowest team ERA in the American League. Furthermore, not a single one of the starters has an ERA north of 3.88.
But as I said, the A’s have the unfortunate problem of having to juggle the rotation, as they have Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 2.54 ERA) due back from the disabled list shortly, and both Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson could be heading out on rehab assignments in the coming week. The true conundrum rests in who becomes expendable and who brings the A’s the most value.
Colon easily becomes the most expendable. Aside from holding the highest ERA on the team, he is also signed to a relatively inexpensive contract that expires at the end of the season. With the young arms the A’s currently have on the roster, Colon will not be coming back in 2013.
The same could almost be said about McCarthy. In his two seasons with Oakland, McCarthy has been solid to say the least. Of course, the problem with McCarthy has been keeping him on the mound, as he’s made at least three trips to the DL with shoulder issues, including twice this season. He is arbitration eligible at the end of the season and despite his injury issues, should still see a raise over his current salary of $4.275 million.
Anderson and Braden are a different story. Anderson is signed for the remainder of this season and next. Oakland holds club options for 2014 at $8.0 million and 2015 at $12.0 million. Braden is signed for this season, but will is also arbitration eligible after this season and next, essentially meaning he is still under club control for the next two season. However, Braden is coming back from shoulder surgery and Anderson from Tommy John surgery.
Oakland is winning and has put themselves into the playoff picture on the backs of their pitching staff, but their offense has been absolutely dreadful. They rank dead last in batting average, 28th in OPS and runs scored, and 27th in RBI. Needless to say, they need some help on the offensive end.
That is where the Boston Red Sox come into play.
The Athletics are getting a measly .527 OPS out of the shortstop position and a .547 OPS out of their third basemen. With the emergence of Pedro Ciriaco and the availability to go to Jose Iglesias if they choose to, the Red Sox are more than capable of making Mike Aviles available and could build a package around him. Aviles would bring an immediate upgrade with the bat (.261, 10 HR, 48 RBI, .696 OPS) and could be slotted in at third base or shortstop.
The Red Sox could build a package around Aviles, third base prospect Garen Cecchini, and outfield prospect Brandon Jacobs. Of course, if Boston were to include two of their top 10 prospects in Cecchini (who becomes expendable because of Will Middlebrooks) and Jacobs (who is behind both Bryce Brentz and Jackie Bradley on the depth charts), the Red Sox are more than likely to try and chase a better return than either Colon or McCarthy, Boston will likely want to be in on bidding on Millone, Griffin, or Parker, which means they’ll need to include one of their higher end pitching prospects like Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, or Drake Britton. Matt Barnes would be completely untouchable.
Needless to say, there is room to make a deal here, and Boston and Oakland would seem to be an ideal pair. Whether they can find common ground would come down to who needs what more; the A’s and offense or the Red Sox and pitching.
I have a feeling that the Red Sox would be on the wrong side of that bargain.