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Oakland Athletics: The 1 Hole the A’s Must Address at Trade Deadline

It has become redundant to say, but the Oakland A’s made the biggest assault on a possible 2014 World Series title when they added Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to their already-dominant pitching staff on the Fourth of July.

With the trade deadline just over two weeks away, it may be easy to assume that the A’s will now stay quiet and not make any more splashy moves. The team is already saturated with talent and without their two top prospects, Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, as trade bait.

But here is a scary thought if you are the rest of Major League Baseball: Not only did the A’s land two of the most coveted free-agent pitchers and become immediate World Series favorites, but now with a surplus of young, talented arms, they are primed to be buyers at the trade deadline to address their limitations at second base.

It was not headline news, but when the A’s acquired Samardzija and Hammel from the Cubs, Tommy Milone was demoted to Triple-A. Also, recovered from a broken hand, Drew Pomeranz was activated from the disabled list Sunday and then promptly sent down as well. There simply is not room in the rotation.

With wins in his last six decisions and a 3.55 ERA that was on the decline before being sent down, Milone would not be in the minor leagues for many other ballclubs. Pomeranz sports a 2.91 ERA over 55.2 innings pitched this season. He, too, deserves to be in the big leagues. Furthermore, A.J. Griffin (3.60 career ERA in two seasons with Oakland) and Jarrod Parker (a former ninth overall pick and the owner of a 3.73 ERA in two years with the A’s) will both return from Tommy John surgery next year.

Thus, thanks to the Samardzija-Hammel acquisition, the A’s now have a surplus of young, talented starting pitching. With four pitchers (Milone, Pomeranz, Griffin and Parker) all without jobs, or five pitchers (now including Jesse Chavez, who was formerly a relief pitcher) vying for one spot in the starting rotation, the A’s are clearly an attractive target to many teams.

Yet while the A’s may have the pieces to make another deal at the trade deadline, it is obvious that they do not have many glaring issues.

The three-headed monster of Dan Otero, Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle has erased any semblance of a concern in the bullpen. Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp are everyday staples at their respective positions. And the first base and catcher positions have turned into the three-way platoon of Derek Norris (.294 BA), Stephen Vogt (.358 BA) and John Jaso (.274 BA). Do not ask how it is working, but it clearly is.

Middle infield for the A’s, however, has been a different story.

Granted, Jew Lowrie has done an admirable job at shortstop. In 90 games (82 starts), he has posted a .234 batting average and driven in 34 runs.

Second base is where the bulk of the worry lies, and it has only escalated since utility man Alberto Callaspo was placed on the disabled list after straining his right hamstring, as John Hickey of the San Jose Mercury News reports. 

Switch-hitting Nick Punto (160 at-bats) and left-handed-hitting Eric Sogard (156 at-bats) currently share time at second base and have struggled immensely. The two have combined for a total of one home run, a .202 batting average, a .259 slugging percentage and 16 RBI while manning second base—all position lows for the A’s. Their .273 on-base percentage and meager 25 walks (also both position lows) presumably make for an irate Billy Beane.

The A’s continue to be heavily dependent on Lowrie to carry the weight of the middle infield. An injury to the seven-year shortstop would be catastrophic, as a Punto-Sogard middle infield would be about as offensively inept as they come.

There are a number of potential solutions for the A’s and their middle infield concerns.

Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy are both subject to being shipped elsewhere in the coming weeks. The two are the best-hitting second basemen on the market, but the chances the A’s acquire either is slim, given the fact that Utley does not want to leave Philadelphia in the first place (as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports), and the Mets are asking for a hefty amount of minor league offensive talent in return for Murphy.

Luis Valbuena of the Chicago Cubs has also drawn interest from the A’s, but the Cubs are reluctant to deal him, as Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal states. However, with prospect Arismendy Alcantara making a case for himself as their everyday second baseman (9-for-23 with a home run, five RBI and a stolen base in his first five big league games), Valbuena may be on his way out.

Perhaps the best fit and most realistic acquisition for the A’s is Tampa Bay Rays do-everything-man Ben Zobrist. Slashing .266/.401/.754 with a .352 on-base percentage and five multihit games in his last nine contests, Zobrist would provide a noticeable and immediate boost offensively. His ability to play second base, shortstop and either corner outfield position makes him an even more intriguing option for the A’s.

Karl Buscheck, the A’s Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, views Zobrist being traded to the A’s as an ideal situation for both teams, as the Rays are likely to be looking for young pitching at the deadline. Tommy Milone, Drew Pomeranz, Jarrod Parker or A.J. Griffin would all be at their disposal.

Combine this perfect match that addresses the needs of both teams with the parting words of general manager Beane in an interview with Jim Bowden of ESPN (h/t MLB Trade Rumors) and it is clear the A’s will not be complacent with their league-leading 59-36 record:

Well, you know, there’s a lot of time left, Jim. Whether you have needs or not, you have to take advantage of the environment. This is a time that everybody comes to the table. And whether you’re actively pursuing something specific, you want to be a part of the conversation. I don’t want to say we’re done. The short answer is: I hope we’re active still.


Follow Jacob Garcia on Twitter @Jake_M_Garcia or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Oakland A’s 2014 Futures Game Prospect: Scouting Report for Renato Nunez

Four days ago, the Oakland A’s threw all their chips into a 2014 World Series title run when they acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs. The A’s paid a hefty price to reel in two of the most prized free-agent arms. Shortstop Addison Russell—the A’s top prospect and the No. 12 overall prospect in the MLB—and outfielder Billy McKinney—the A’s No. 2 prospect—were sent to the Cubs farm system, which is now overflowing with talent.

In the wake of this latest move by the A’s, it seems a bit anticlimactic to utter the word “future” when talking about this ballclub. After all, giving up prized minor-league talent for quick-fixes shows that 2014 is the team’s focus. With the best record in the majors at 56-33, who could blame them?

But with the onset of the 16th annual SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and Stockton Ports (the A’s Single-A affiliate) third baseman Renato Nunez earning a second consecutive selection, it is important to understand that all is not lost for the A’s minor league system.

The 20-year-old Nunez was scorching hot right before he was selected to the World All-Star team and then proceeded to justify his selection by continuing to obliterate Single-A pitching.

Over the past three weeks (a span of 20 games), Nunez has launched 11 home runs and gapped five doubles, culminating in an absurd .408/.489/.908 triple slash line. Nearly every Rotoworld update on him simply states that he had another multi-homerun game or another pedestrian four-hit game. Just past the midway point in his second full season, Nunez has 20 home runs, 57 RBI and a .287 batting average.

Nunez was signed out of Venezuela in 2010 and is currently in the Class A-Advanced California League. With the departure of Russell, Nunez has jumped to the No. 4 prospect in the A’s organization, and if he continues to swing a white-hot bat, he will likely be promoted to the Double-A Texas League in the near future.  

The A’s project Nunez to reach the big leagues by 2016, according to their official scouting report. Though his arm is above average (rated a 55 on a scale of 80), Nunez will likely be converted into a first baseman, since his footwork and hands will eventually become a liability at the hot corner.

Judge for yourself after watching this video.

The A’s organization once worried about Nunez’s patience at the plate, as the 6’1″, 185-pound right-handed hitter has a track record of striking out because of an overly aggressive approach. However, in the span of a year, Nunez has decreased his strikeout rate from 25.0 percent in 2013 to 19.8 percent in 2014 and has increased his walk rate from 5.1 percent in 2013 to 7.4 percent in 2014.

Players from all full-season minor leagues were eligible for an All-Star selection. Nunez was the lone member from the A’s organization who was chosen.

But to reiterate a point, Nunez is the A’s No. 4 prospect.

This means that the organization rates three players better and more advanced than a two-time minor league All-Star, who ranks second in the California League in home runs, ninth in RBI and ninth in slugging percentage.

So when second-guessing the A’s decision to part with their two top prospects in Russell and McKinney in order to maximize their chances at a title run this year, just remember that Renato Nunez and company are blazing a hot trail to Coliseum.

Here is a video of Nunez hitting some bombs in last year’s minor league home run derby to help with that.


Follow Jacob Garcia on Twitter @Jake_M_Garcia or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Disappointments of 2014

Like all fantasy sports, the key to success in fantasy baseball is understanding value. Failure to understand value can lead an owner to mislabel a player as a disappointment, while understanding value can give an owner a late-round steal.

To determine value, you must consider what you gave up when you selected a certain player in the draft. Did you grab an elite catcher early because of the scarcity of that position? Or did you simply draft the best players, regardless of position? 

Jose Abreu, whose ESPN average draft position was 134th (only five spots ahead of Alfonso Soriano), has obviously exceeded the expectations of a 13th-round pick. Yet Yadier Molina and Dustin Pedroia, players considered to be the class of their positions, have vastly underwhelmed. The price paid to grab these players early in drafts has been far higher than their actual production.

For the sake of clarity, the following list of disappointments is composed only of position players. A player can only be considered a “disappointment” if his current ESPN Player Rater ranking is at least 100 spots worse than his average draft position. Also, all players must currently be owned in 100 percent of standard ESPN fantasy baseball leagues. Players who have missed time due to injury, such as Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce and Bryce Harper, are excluded.  

Here are the top five fantasy disappointments as we approach the halfway point of the 2014 season.


Statistics are accurate through June 19 and are obtained from,, and

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