A’s could have done more at the deadline


Marc Rzepczynski has been traded at the deadline three times since his 2009 major league debut.

He was traded to the A’s in 2015, the second time he was moved that year. But it will be at least three months before he can be moved again in the standard nature. An unfortunate truth for the A’s, who needed to do more at the deadline, but do have winter meetings to make some more moves.

And while the A’s made out like bandits with the Dodgers, more was there. General manager David Forst balked.

What follows is a hard evaluation of the move without shame or holding back.

A’s did well, but not well enough

Oakland needs a total overhaul. It’s needed badly. And they’re on the right track.

But the best chip they had today wasn’t necessarily their active players, it was the fact that several teams are in the hunt, and only a few vastly improved. They needed to milk that for all its worth.

What the A’s got for Josh Reddick and Rich Hill, traded to the Dodgers this morning, was adequate at least and the upside is very present. Frankie Montas, Jharel Cotton and the headliner, Grant Holmes, add a lot of depth to their minor league system and make it very possible that the A’s have an incredibly deep pitching staff in 2018.

Oakland’s depth at the AA and AAA levels was a joke when the season began, and it’s much better.

They added three pitchers who rank in their top 16, according to MLB.com, and while their offensive help over the next two years won’t be streaming in from Nashville, defense is much less a question.

If Holmes, Montas, and Cotton exceed their initial projections, though, this move could be a coup. Hill and Reddick are rentals for the Dodgers, along with any other interested team. They’ll be around for three months maximum.

While Cotton looks to be major league ready now, and Holmes has frontline stuff, a developed Montas has end of the rotation or long relief stuff. Two useful starters, and an average to plus bullpen arm adds something very solid to the A’s prospects in 2018, the soonest they can realistically contend.

And as much as A’s fans loved Reddick, the reality is that he was an average hitter and his defense had been declining for two seasons. Hill, too, will be looking at his final baseball contract this winter.

One of the things the A’s didn’t do, and should have, is sell their other arms and pester the Indians, offering catcher Stephen Vogt.

While not the best catcher in the game, Vogt is certainly the best everyday catcher in the American League, and Cleveland would have been hugely improved with him in town. They wanted a catcher, and they wanted an affordable salary with more than rental level control, which is why the Tribe went after Jonathan Lucroy.

When that deal fell apart, the A’s needed to take a similar package from general manager Mike Chernoff. And while they have a larger player pool to work with during the offseason — when teams looking to contend will offer extra at times — Vogt’s value was there, with Cleveland, in the hunt for a ring.

More than that, Vogt’s value to Oakland is nil. While he’s good, the team wont be. They’re going to be in the same position they are now. The A’s also failed to move Danny Valencia and Yonder Alonso, two hitters who aren’t major upgrades at any stretch, but provide depth at the corners.

More than that, Oakland needs some time to evaluate Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, two corner infielders blocked in at AAA by the aforementioned, and potential cornerstone assets for the club.

But how will we know as long as they’re in the minors?

What the A’s also need are rangy outfielders. Wonder what the difference is for Sonny Gray this year? It’s not much of what he is or isn’t doing, it’s that Khris Davis and Coco Crisp can’t play defense, and Reddick was also falling behind.

Opposing players have openly commented on how poor the A’s outfield is this season, of marked importance because that hardly happens even when a team is bad. The A’s are really bad.

Finding some two-way outfielders will be paramount to Oakland’s success moving forward, and the best place to find it is in AA ball, where prospects are far enough away from the majors to be highly valued, but also close enough that they can be graded more accurately.

The A’s needed to make a play for one of those types, and if it meant sending a minor leaguer back as well, so be it. This is the best time. They don’t have anybody of help walking through that Coliseum door.

Not now. Not next year.

But here’s where things get real murky. The A’s have traded every one of their notable prospects away recently, looking for sub-standard major league help. See: Davis, Khris.

A three outcome hitter, who could be a serviceable designated hitter, but who the A’s have in left field. Which is where I’d like to respond to a reader comment left on another column titled “Total overhaul needed for the A’s farm.”

Here’s the comment:

“This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read – criticizing Coco and Davis? How would we be winning games right now without their offense? Oh that’s right, the A’s wouldn’t be winning games! Getting rid of Vogt or Semien is absurd. Vogt is great with pitchers and calling games – he’s there to teach younger players like Bruce Maxwell what he does that has made him a two-time All-Star. Semien is leading all AL SS with 21 homers (to put that into perspective the “beloved” and “great” Yoenis Cespedes has hit 23 homers) and Davis has hit as many bombs as Josh Donaldson. And those are just a few of the things in this article where you call “knowledgeable fans” an “oxymoron” … that I know are idiotic and there’s no chance of the A’s getting all those prospects, young controllable players are good to have but they don’t always pan out!”

A few points: Davis has hit a number of bombs, but he’s also posting a terrible .290 OBP and can’t play the outfield to save his life. As noted.

Semien has also hit a lot of jacks. But the plan is to have Franklin Barreto ready when it’s time to compete. So why keep Semien when his value is high?

The final point regards the opening statement. Oakland holds the worst run differential in the American League. Tell me how they’re winning, please.

I can tell you why they’re losing:

They lack quality defensive players who can also hit for contact or run well. It’s not home runs that win games. The Atlanta Braves showed us that in 2014. They had all of the power in the world, but consistent singles and doubles weren’t coming. They struck out a lot.

And even with a pretty solid starting rotation the Braves won only 79 games.

The A’s are in that boat, but to an even more extreme degree. They need to find the shoreline quickly, because the methodology is causing them to sink quickly.

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