By Matt Furtado / KHTK Sports 1140
The MLB Trade Deadline is less than a week away and the Oakland Athletics still have room for improvement. Billy Beane made a big splash just before the All-Star Break to bolster the starting rotation by acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, but there is one more position the A’s could look to upgrade before July 31.
Second base for the Green and Gold has been a thorn in the side of the team all season. “Nerd Power” Eric Sogard may be a favorite among the fans, but his numbers in the batter’s box have been less than stellar, hitting for a low .198 average. Nick Punto, who was picked up as a free-agent by the Athletics in the off-season, plays great defense, but he is close to falling under the dreaded “Mendoza Line” as well. As for Alberto Callaspo, who has been on the Disabled List since July 12, his hot start to the season has fizzled out and the numbers have dropped dramatically.
The A’s are not having trouble scoring any runs; they lead all of baseball in runs scored, but there is always room to upgrade. The three main second basemen for the A’s — Sogard, Punto, Callaspo — are hitting just .213 combined which is by far the lowest by position on the team.
So, which second basemen can the Athletics look into? Well, there are a few players who would fit in with the A’s perfectly.
First, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets. The 2014 All-Star is batting .284 on the season with 7 home runs and 48 runs batted in. Murphy has also played first base and the outfield during his career, so his versatility could make him a perfect fit with how much Manager Bob Melvin loves to move players around.
The Mets are 8.5 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals and could be looking to dump some salary. Murphy is owed $5.7 million in 2014 and is arbitration eligible in 2015.
Second, the Tampa Bay Rays ultra-utility man Ben Zobrist. The Rays’ two-time All-Star has played almost every position on the field and is a switch-hitter at the plate providing Melvin with options, options, and more options (Melvin loves options). Since Zobrist became a starter in 2009, he has averaged a .270 batting average, 18 HRs and 80 RBI per season. Although his career numbers are good, he is having a down year for the Rays which could make the asking price a bit cheaper than it would have been in previous years.
The Rays are 7.5 games back of the first-place Baltimore Orioles but they are scorching hot with a seven game winning streak. Whether they are going to buyers or sellers at the deadline is still unknown. Zobrist is set to make $7 million in 2014 with a $7.5 million team option in 2015.
Because Murphy and Zobrist are both All-Star players, Beane is going to have to ship out more young talent from the farm system to get one of these players. He already sent two of the team’s top prospects to Chicago, so Beane will have to decide if upgrading at second base is worth giving up more of the future.
If Beane and the Athletics truly believe this could be their year to win it all, which all indications have shown they do, look for the Athletics to make an improvement at second base. Whether it’s Murphy, Zobrist, or a completely different second baseman nobody saw Beane trading for, the upgrade at second base is one that is very much needed.