COMMENTARY | The Winter Meetings are always an interesting time around MLB.
General managers get together to dissect rosters with their staffs and speak about potential trades with front office executives from other organizations. Agents are seen huddling with executives in the hotel lobby in an attempt to create a bidding war for their free-agent players.
Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane has been a fixture in these meetings in the past and got a little bit of a head start this past week by acquiring the likes of Jim Johnson, Craig Gentry, Luke Gregerson and Scott Kazmir.
With all that being said, there is still one major missing piece to the A's offseason as Beane embarks on the meetings. As we saw over the course of the last two postseasons, Oakland doesn't necessarily have the lineup to go up with the big boys and come out on top. While Yoenis Cespedes is hitting .350 in his postseason career, other A's power hitters have struggled a great deal in the second season.
Over the course of the last two postseason, Brandon Moss has hit .121 with 20 strikeouts in 33 at-bats, and Josh Donaldson put up a pedestrian .211 average with zero RBIs in 38 at-bats. Meanwhile, Josh Reddick has a career .176 average in his postseason career. I fully understand that Oakland was going up against the best pitchers the game has to offer, but that's going to be the case the vast majority of the time when October rolls around.
It's time to add that one big bat that can come in and give Cespedes protection in the middle of the lineup. After all, a 45-percent strikeout rate among three of your best hitters just isn't going to get it done.
Oakland has been rumored to be interested in Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz and could very well sit down with his agents at the meetings. It also has enough money in the budget to pull of a major free-agent deal like that.
Cincinnati Reds infielder Brandon Phillips has appeared all over the Internet world as a possible trade chip over the last couple weeks. It was reported by Jeff Passan last month that the Reds were going to trade Phillips and that the infielder was "gone" from Cincinnati. A recent report from from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, via Twitter, ran contrary to what Passan indicated.
"Sources: Reds unlikely to trade Phillips."
Either way, Beane should have real interest in Phillips. The veteran has put up between 17 and 30 homers in each of his last seven seasons, has won four Gold Gloves and has a career .749 OPS. At 32 years old, Phillips is also entering the back end of his prime years and still has a couple solid seasons ahead of him. The one hiccup here is that Phillips is set to earn a total of $50 million over the next four seasons, a mighty high price for a middle infielder.
Oakland already has a platoon of Eric Sogard and Alberto Callaspo at second. The two combined for seven homers, 57 RBIs and 41 extra-base hits for Oakland last season. Callaspo, who was acquired in a midseason deal with the division rival Los Angeles Angels, is set to earn $5 million in the final year of his contract next season. Oakland would need to find a trade partner for him, which shouldn't be too difficult considering what he brings to the table.
It's also important to note that Oakland signed Nick Punto to a contract earlier in the offseason. He can play every infield position and is a solid bench guy. That could possibly eliminate the need for Sogard should Oakland acquire Phillips.
Another name that has come up in rumors is Angels power hitter Mark Trumbo, who has jacked 95 out of the ballpark over the last three seasons, but has also struck out a ridiculous 457 times during that very same span. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register has indicated recently that Los Angeles doesn't believe a fair trade is on the table for Trumbo, which would likely require a top-tier starting pitcher. It goes without saying that Oakland will not part with Sonny Gray, especially when it comes to moving him to a cross-state division rival. There should also be some concern over his high strikeout rate given the issues Oakland has had making contact in each of the last two postseasons.
One interesting option is Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler, who appears to be available on the trade market. He batted .289 with a .364 OBP last season with Kansas City and is one year removed from an All-Star campaign that saw him hit .313 and drive in 107. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported last month that Butler was on the trade block, mostly due to the $8 million salary he is set to earn next season.
This is the type of trade that makes too much sense. Kansas City has coveted A's starting pitcher Brett Anderson. Oakland is also said to be looking for a designated hitter.
In the end, I fully expect Beane to pick up a power hitter before all is said and done at the meetings. It just remains to be seen who he is going to get. If I had to make a bet, Butler makes the most sense.
Vincent Frank has been a follower of the Oakland Athletics since the late 1980s and has written about the team on multiple sites, including SB Nation and eDraft. He attends games on a consistent basis and talks about the team on his weekly radio show.
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