A clear position that the A’s could upgrade this offseason and add some pop to their lineup is second base.
Now, I like Eric Sogard and his “nerd power,” and I know the A’s have Alberto Callaspo and Nick Punto in the mix at second base heading into 2014. Jed Lowrie is also an option at second base if Hiro Nakajima magically turns into a Major League shortstop during spring training, or if Addison Russell propels himself to the Majors faster than expected. Actually, those last two options aren’t all that bad to sit back and think about, if only…
And while the combination of Sogard, Callaspo and Punto will probably hold their own in the A’s lineup and do what is expected of them, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to raise those expectations by heading out and acquiring a guy like, oh I don’t know, Brandon Phillips.
I’m not the first person to connect Phillips to the A’s, and I won’t be the last. From the A’s standpoint it just makes sense. Phillips is coming off a down season in which he only hit .261, but he is a career .271 hitter and has connected for 18 homers in each of the past four seasons. He hit 20 homers in 2009, 21 in 2008 and 30 in 2007. He’s also a perennial Gold Glove winner, with four under his belt already. If the Reds are willing to eat part of his annual salary to move him, then he appears to be the perfect answer for the A’s, at least in 2014. (Personally, I’d rather see a combination of Lowrie and Russell in the infield beyond this coming season, assuming the A’s could retain Lowrie rather than letting him walk in free agency).
The problem is that I don’t see a clear match that makes sense for the Reds. Cincinnati has stated that they would only trade Phillips if the move made them better in 2014, meaning a package centered around prospects isn’t likely to get it done right now, there needs to be Major League ready talent headed to the Reds at a position of need.
Reports surfaced Wednesday that the Reds offered Phillips straight up for the Yankees Brett Gardner, though the Yankees turned down the deal when Phillips asked for his contract to be opened up for him to earn more by accepting the deal. From the standpoint of both the Yankees and Reds, that deal would have made sense. The Reds need an outfielder and the Yankees need a second baseman to replace Robinson Cano.
From the A’s standpoint? Well, Oakland doesn’t have that surplus of outfielders to deal from that they had earlier this season. Michael Choice was shipped out to bring in Craig Gentry, who figures to be a part of the A’s outfield plans in 2014. Seth Smith, who could have been an adequate comparable to Gardner in a trade by a pure statistical standpoint, minus the stolen base speed) has since been traded to the Padres. Michael Taylor? The A’s don’t even have the faith in him to give him an extended shot in the Majors, how would they sell the Reds on taking that chance? Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp? No, no and no.
An Oakland-Cincinnati swap would need to be centered around the A’s surplus of starting pitching. The A’s now have Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker, Scott Kazmir, A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone, Dan Straily, Drew Pomeranz, Philip Humber and Josh LindBlom as starting pitching options. Griffin, Milone or Straily would make a decent starting point in a trade with a mid-level prospect or two as a kicker, but would such a package entice the Reds to swing the deal? Any of Griffin, Milone or Straily would be either a fourth or fifth starter in Cincinnati, not a front-line starter. Is that enough to get a deal done? I’m not so sure.
A deal centered around Brett Anderson may have made more sense, but the A’s chose to send him to Colorado for Pomeranz and another minor league pitcher instead.
It’s more likely that the A’s would need to engage a third team and get an outfielder sent to the Reds to replace their loss of Shin-Soo Choo. As the proposed deal for Gardner illustrates, they are rumored to be in the market for a left fielder and plan to let Billy Hamilton take over center field.
Maybe the A’s could send some of their surplus pitching and prospects to the Yankees for Gardner, then flip Gardner to the Reds?
And then, unless the A’s can find a way to package Callaspo to said third team, how do the A’s move him along to prevent a log-jam in the infield and save some money? The Anderson trade already took $8 million off the books, removing Callaspo’s $4.875 million as well would directly offset the addition of Phillips’ salary in 2014. If said third team is the Yankees, then Callaspo may make some sense since they have that void at second base as well.
It’s way too many “maybe’s” and “if’s,” but it’s an example of how Beane could try to wheel and deal again and pull off the big-name trade. There would seem to be a lot of obstacles in the way to getting a deal done with the Reds, but then again, Beane and company have a knack for pulling off the improbable in swinging trades, so maybe…
Phillips at second base and in the A’s lineup would be a nice addition to a team already considered to be a legitimate World Series contender again headed into 2014.