The MLB trade deadline of July 31, 2015 may not seem close, but it's just 43 days away, and teams are already deep in the process of narrowing down what positions they need to upgrade, and which payers they might target. One team that seems ripe for the plucking is the Oakland A's, as their record stands at 28-39 (the worst in the American League), and are 10.5 games out of first place in an upside down AL West.
Billy Beane spent the better part of the 2014 offseason trading away almost every starter and loading up on fresh faces, but it hasn't worked out well. If there's any GM in the game that's willing to admit his experiment failed and blow up a team, it's Beane. He's constantly forced to work with a meager payroll, and as a result is used to trading away players even when it's an unpopular decision.
As July 31st gets closer and closer, Beane will likely trade more than a few players away from the A's, and begin restocking his team for the 2016 season.
Who are the likely candidates to be traded?
Unlike the offseason, Beane has far less star caliber players to work with to try and bring back top prospects. Josh Donaldson and Jeff Samardzija were his golden eggs, but in 2015 his most valuable asset seems to be left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir. He's a free agent at the end of this season, and has roughly $6.5 million left on his deal, but could be a huge boost for a team looking to add a starting pitcher.
It's been well documented that Beane and Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos have a great working relationship, and Toronto could desperately use someone like Kazmir. In 76 innings this season, Kazmir has posted a sparkling ERA of 2.84, along with a better than average FIP and SIERA of 3.61 and 3.80, respectively. He'd immediately become their best pitcher, and while he's not a true ace, Kazmir would be an incredible addition to their rotation. Other teams that could make some sense for Kazmir are the Giants, Red Sox, Royals, or the Orioles. Each of these teams rank near the bottom of the leaderboard for starting pitching fWAR, and may look for outside help.
Ben Zobrist is another player that is almost assuredly going to be traded before the deadline. While he lost time due to a meniscus injury, it's not a long-term issue like Tommy John surgery, and now that he's healthy, Zobrist is back to being a productive major league hitter. His BABIP of .195 is dragging down his batting average, but he owns an OBP of .339, and a wRC+ of 113. Zobrist's positional versatility also increases his value dramatically, as he can play everywhere except on the mound and behind the plate.
Like Kazmir, Zobrist is also a rental player, which unfortunately means that Beane can't ask for the moon in trade talks. The Cubs were connected to Zobrist earlier this year, but realistically any team that is a buyer at the deadline could use him. Beane will likely have many options to choose from while shopping Zobrist, and can play teams off each other to get the best deal.
Beane isn't likely to stop there however, and players like Ike Davis and Tyler Clippard should also brace for the possibility of a change in scenery. Davis is currently on the 15-day DL, but before injuring his quadriceps, he posted a slash line of .282/.348/.427 with a wOBA of .340 and a wRC+ of 122. Clippard on the other hand has pitched to the tune of a 2.96 ERA and could be a nice addition to someone's bullpen.
Josh Reddick and Billy Butler are both signed beyond 2015, but Beane could pull the trigger and trade either of these players should he get an offer he can't turn down. The baseball world was shocked when Donaldson was dealt to Toronto, but just like your favorite Game of Thrones character, nobody on the A's should ever truly feel safe. Beane is going to do what he thinks is best for his team, and while we can't know how that will manifest itself just now, we can be sure that he'll be active at the deadline.