I’ve indulged in an inordinate amount of wishful thinking during this trade deadline season, but more than 24 hours left to spare, I’m going to keep at it. I continue to think that SS/2B Chris Owings, in particular, fits another team better than the Diamondbacks because the team is set at SS and 2B for the foreseeable future (Didi Gregorius under control through at least 2018, and Aaron Hill and Martin Prado both signed through 2016). Before this piece about possible matches with Oakland, I did some daydreaming about fits with Toronto.
It’s clear from an analysis of the bullpen that an upgrade would be very helpful. With yesterday’s trades of Scott Downs, Jose Veras and Jesse Crain, the trade options for relief are dwindling. As I discussed in the bullpen analysis, minor league pitchers on the cusp of the bigs might be the very best type of target to help the bullpen this season.
There are surprisingly few teams with middle infield needs right now. For the most part, teams are either set with a veteran or are waiting for a highly touted prospect (in Houston’s case, that would be 2012 1st overall draft pick Carlos Correa). St. Louis is getting by with Pete Kozma at short after Furcal’s injury this spring, but second base prospect Kolten Wong has not been discussed as a possible replacement. Toronto has a second base hole and a need to cover for Jose Reyes during injury. But Oakland is also looking for a solution at second.
As John Hickey writes, the Athletics are also interested in adding a starting pitcher; he speculates that there could be interest in Edinson Volquez, Bud Norris or Kyle Lohse. What about Ian Kennedy? Kennedy’s fly ball rate has soared to a career high this season, but that would be much less of a problem at spacious O.co Coliseum. Arizona retains two years of club control over Kennedy, which can only help drum up interest. I did not enter this trade season thinking that Kennedy could be moved, but apparently Towers has shopped him.
Oakland is tied with Tampa Bay for the top record in the American League and is six games ahead of Texas in the AL West. Oakland hasn’t had a lead like this during trade season for a while now, which could be extra motivation for GM Billy Beane to shore up this year’s squad.
But second base has been killing them. Despite a three-hit performance yesterday, 2B/SS Eric Sogard’s only notable contribution to his club has been being the first two-bagger since Jay Bell to look slick at second while wearing glasses. His defense has been decent, but even appearing in matchups, his offense at second (.268 AVG, .333 OBP, .377 SLG) has not. Adam Rosales has been the RHB side of the platoon, but he’s fared even worse (.197/.274/.326). And as Beaneball blogger Jason Wojciechowski has examined, Grant Green does not look like a solution. Former top prospect Jemile Weeks has also stalled out, faring well in AAA as a 26 year old after an abysmal major-league performance in 2012.
Baseball America rated Chris Owings the Dbacks’ best defensive infielder in the 2010 and 2011 offseasons. He’s come on strong in July, and now sports a .347/.371/.498 line at AAA in 106 games. Other than the relatively low walk rate, what’s not to like?
With or without the addition of Kennedy, Chris Owings should be compelling trade target for Oakland. And while contender-contender trades are rare in July, Oakland has arms to deal. The Athletics have started only six pitchers this season, and as it currently stands, the rotation is manned by A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone, Dan Straily, a rejuvenated Bartolo Colon and former Arizona farmhand Jarrod Parker. Straily has made his 16 starts this year as the replacement for Brett Anderson, who went down with a foot injury but is expected back within a few weeks. It’s thought that if Oakland obtains a starter via trade, Anderson could be tried in the bullpen.
So who might Oakland ship to Phoenix? If he weren’t further away from contributing, Anderson might actually be a good target for Towers; he could blow hitters away as a lefty in the bullpen for the rest of the season, and then get a chance in the spring to compete for a rotation spot. Given their status in the playoff race, Oakland is unlikely to move any member of its outstanding late-inning trio of Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook or Sean Doolittle.
The answer could be Sonny Gray. The 18th overall selection in the 2011 draft, Gray has shown this year that he has little left to learn at the AAA level, where he’s started 19 games with a 3.38 ERA and very good peripherals (9.24K/9, 2.97BB/9, 3.11K/BB). Like Owings, Gray showed up on no one’s top 100 prospect list this last offseason (although he did the offseason before). Also like Owings, Gray is ready to contribute at the big league level now — and in fact has recently done so, pitching 4 innings in relief.
Gray may not be a perfect fit for Arizona because he throws with his right arm, but it seems to me that if Towers is willing to move Owings for bullpen help, a young pitcher that profiles as a great relief prospect would be the right kind of return. If Beane has interest in Kennedy, perhaps Anderson could also head to Arizona. It would take a couple of other spare parts (probably from the Dbacks system) to make this happen, but I hope it gets considered. The few days before the trade deadline are for daydreaming — we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled broadcast on Thursday.
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