Let me throw my general manager’s cap on for just a second, and let’s debate.
If I’m Billy Beane, the first thing I do once the trading season gets rolling is call the following teams: 1) The Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2) The Kansas City Royals 3) The Pittsburgh Pirates 4) The Cincinnati Reds 5) The Houston Astros. All of those clubs have suffered through miserable seasons, and any club in their position is going to seek pitching.
Therefore, I call them up, in that order, and I ask what they’d be willing to give up for Joe Blanton, another position player and a minor-leaguer. Blanton would be my top trade chip, and I think he could net quite a bit, especially from the Rays, Pirates or Royals, because those teams could potentially make a sizable leap by adding one more solid starting pitcher to their rotation. Who’s to say the Rays and Royals wouldn’t leap out of their shoes to add Blanton to a rotation that includes James Shields, Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnanstine (Tampa Bay’s) or one that already has Brian Bannister and Gil Meche (Kansas City’s)? Pittsburgh’s rotation of Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Matt Morris would be aided greatly with the additon of a guy like Blanton, especially when the goal is 82 wins and the end of 15 straight years of losing.
Here’s what I’m seeking: Somebody athletic, somebody who can bring a spark. I ask Tampa Bay for Carl Crawford, and when they’re done laughing, then I see if perhaps they’d part with B.J. Upton (and no, I wouldn’t take a flyer on the oft-injured Rocco Baldelli). I see if the Royals might part with David DeJesus.
Now, when I threw this out to a couple of folks I play softball with, they completely disagreed with me. Their concern is that the A’s are going to woefully short of starting pitching next season, and that could be an issue. I’m not ready to cast my lot behind Chad Gaudin and Lenny DiNardo in next year’s rotation, and if I’m the GM, I certainly am not counting on Rich Harden.
That said, you can’t add talent without giving it up, and who’s going to draw more interest, Blanton or Harden? I say Blanton, because there’s little doubt he’s going to pitch 200 innings. I suppose you could try to pawn off Harden as a closer, but my gut feeling is that the real Billy Beane isn’t ready to cast him off without receiving a boatload in return, and I’m just not convinced other GM’s are going to ante up that much for a guy who has barely seen the mound the past two seasons.
The point is, there is no quick fix for the A’s. It would not shock me to see them head into a couple of seriously down seasons. The rebuilding process needs to start sooner rather than later, and who knows, maybe it would be worth seeing what you could field for Dan Haren. But for know, I’d make Joe Blanton may major chip, and see what I could get. If he nets you a decent hitter or two, the A’s might be able to stay afloat for another season or two.