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A’s: Lester addition forces Tigers to play catchup

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Deny them what you will, the Oakland A’s aren’t boring.

They could have settled for just having made the Independence Day trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but in the final six hours before the trade deadline they went out and completely rebuilt their roster.

At that point, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander said Oakland made the trade because of the A’s had to come through Detroit in the post-season.

But after the A’s moved Yoenis Cespedes from left field and shipped him to Boston in exchange for All-Star starter Jon Lester and platoon left fielder Jonny Gomes, it seemed like the Tigers were playing catch up with the A’s when Detroit made a three-team deal for the other big name starting pitcher out there, David Price.

With it being obvious there was no room at the inn for Tommy Milone in the A’s rotation near term, they traded the minor league starter to the Twins for center fielder Sam Fuld.

The moves spoke about the A’s on several levels.

One. They didn’t believe they could re-sign Cespedes to a long-term contract when his four-year deal ran out after next year.

Two. They didn’t see Jason Hammel or Jesse Chavez as giving them their best chance to win in a post-season start.

Three. Center field is a problem. Coco Crisp has trouble staying in the lineup ever since running into a pole holding up the Coliseum outfield fence and suffered whiplash. And Craig Gentry has a broken right hand that will keep him out two more weeks at a minimum.

Four. There is no time like the present. The A’s are playing to go to the World Series this season. Next season will have to take care of itself.

Things could change, but Lester seems to be a two-month purchase. He gives the A’s something that, with all their pitching, they didn’t have – experience pitching in the World Series. He was 2-0 in the series last year with a 0.59 and 4-1 in the three rounds of the playoffs overall and his career ERA in the playoffs is 2.11.

The A’s have the best record in baseball four months into the season, but that gets you nothing, particularly when the team with the second-best record in the majors is in your division. Because of that, general manager Billy Beane keeps pushing forward.

Since Jan. 1, Beane has added a left-handed reliever who has been one of the best in the game, Eric O’Flaherty; added a right-handed hitting first baseman in Kyle Blanks, claimed lefty pitcher Jeff Francis from the Reds, traded for left-handed starter Brad Mills, traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, then traded for Lester and Gomes and reacquired Fuld.

That nine additions this year already, and even with Blanks injured and Francis no longer around, as A’s co-owner Lew Wolff told me Thursday, “there’s time yet.’’

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A’s: Looking at options 48 hours out from trade deadline

It’s closing in on 48 hours before the trade deadline hits (1 p.m. PDT Thursday), and just where do the A’s stand?

For one thing, they’re in a position where they don’t need to make a trade, although they continue to explore second base options. And while they don’t need an outfielder long term, they could use one until they know that Craig Gentry (disabled list, broken right hand) and Coco Crisp (neck) are healthy.

With the July 4 trade for starters Jeff Samardzija (pitching tonight in Houston) and Jason Hammel (pitching the series finale Wednesday), the A’s addressed their most pressing need going forward. On the other hand, you can never have too much pitching, so there’s that.

But the trade deadline is not to be trifled with, so let’s have a look as A’s possibilities:

 

–Second base: Probably the best option for the A’s is the Rays’ Ben Zobrist (.269, 8 homers, 29 RBIs). He was an All-Star last year, and at 33 is something like perfect for the we’re-all-about-versatility A’s because he can play second, third and the outfield, although he hasn’t been in center field since last year. He’s under club control through 2015, which would fit nicely into the Oakland narrative, too.

The Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera (.249, 9 homers, 40 RBIs) has been strictly a shortstop since 2010, but he came up as a second baseman/shortstop and if the A’s were convinced he could give them the defense they need, he could be a nice bit of 28-year-old adrenalin for the A’s lineup.

Then there’s Aaron Hill. The Diamondbacks’ second baseman is, at 32, having the worst year of his career (.255, 8 homers, 49 RBIs), but it was just last year that he hit .291 and two years back he hit .302 with 26 homers, and a change of scene could do the right-handed hitter well. He’s owed a lot of money, though, $24 million over the next two seasons and the A’s wouldn’t take that on without getting a bucket of money back from Arizona.

Talk about adding Nick Franklin from the Mariners has happened, but it’s tough seeing Franklin a fix for this year. He’s never played a full season in the big leagues and has spent most of this year in the minors after the addition of Robinson Cano. His defense is unproven, but he’s been a consistent .300 hitter the last two years at Triple-A Tacoma, even if he’s hit just .128 in 17 games for Seattle this year.

 

–Center field: Marcell Ozuna (.272, 16 homers, 57 RBIs) is someone who probably shouldn’t be mentioned, because why would the Marlins trade a 24-year-old who might be an impact player? Well, the Marlins have approached the A’s about starting pitcher Tommy Milone, and if the A’s are going to entertain thoughts of trading Milone, who was 6-0 over an 11-game stretch before getting bumped to the minor leagues by the arrival of Hammel, Oakland may as well ask for someone they could really use over the long term knowing that the Marlins seem to have available center field options in their minor league system.

The A’s couldn’t hold on to left-handed hitting center fielder Sam Fuld because there was no room on the roster after early April, but Fuld, now with the Twins, would seem to be just what the A’s need – a defensive whiz with the ability to play off the bench. He’s done a decent job (.272, 1 homer, 17 RBIs in 51 games) for Minnesota, but he’s probably available.

 

–Pitching: As we said above, the A’s don’t really need another starting pitcher, but they’ve called the Red Sox in the last few days with left-hander Jon Lester (10-7, 2.42) available from last-place Boston.

And the Marlins have contacted the A’s about possibility of the left-handed Milone, currently pitching at Triple-A Sacramento, heading to Miami.

Sean McAdam of CSNNE first reported the A’s interest in Lester, although Oakland is far from being at the top of the heap. Toronto, St. Louis, Seattle, Baltimore and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the A’s join the Brewers and the Braves in being interested enough to see if there is room at the table.

The Red Sox are willing to move Lester, and Lester is willing to be moved, but any decision is likely to come down to the final hours leading up to the deadline. At a minimum, the A’s would have to send Milone to the Red Sox, but it’s not clear the A’s have enough in the minor leagues system to complete a deal for the veteran, who would be just a two-month addition.

Lester isn’t the only starter the A’s have asked about. They tried to get David Price from the Rays a month ago, but they moved to Samardzija and Hammel when the Rays said they weren’t ready to make a move. Since then, it seems that Price will stay put with the Rays playing better, but you never know.

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A’s: Second base upgrades in short supply

Before Friday’s game with the Rangers, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he didn’t see Oakland in a position where it had to trade for a second baseman for the stretch run.

Having acquired starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4, Melvin said, was good enough and the club could make do with at second. Eric Sogard has picked this week to up his game a little, and Alberto Callaspo is due off DL Sunday.

And that may be just as well, because the pool of available candidates seems to be evaporating. Six weeks ago, it seemed a sure bet the Rays would trade Ben Zobrist. Then Tampa went on a surge.

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Jaso reflects on his role in Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit

John Jaso was behind the plate for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit back in 2011.

John Jaso was behind the plate for Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit back in 2011.

The folks who runs the electronics at Yankee Stadium were at no loss of stuff to put on the scoreboard during the one-hour plus Tuesday’s game between the A’s and the Yankees was delayed by rain.

They ran video clips and interviews about past Yankee glories, of which there are many to choose. One they kept coming back to was Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit.

It was back on July 9, 2011 in Yankee Stadium with the Yankees matched up against the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price. The big left-hander tried to throw a 3-2 curve to Jeter in the third inning, but the veteran shortstop wasn’t fooled and deposited into the left field cheap seats.

That moment has a special meaning for A’s catcher John Jaso. If you watch the video, you can see it was Jaso who was Price’s catcher that day.

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Michael Taylor should get a good look with A’s; Kurt Suzuki back in lineup

The lineups for the A’s-Rays series opener at Tropicana Field:

A’s – Weeks 2B, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Gomes DH, Inge 3B, Suzuki C, Ka’aihue 1B, Taylor LF; Ross RHP.

TB – Jennings LF, Upton CF, Pena 1B, Joyce RF, Scott DH, Zobrist 2B, Rhymes 3B, Molina C, Rodriguez SS; Price LHP.

After that plunking Kurt Suzuki took on his left hand, I’m surprised to see him in the lineup tonight. But manager Bob Melvin said Suzuki wanted in there. “When I first saw it, I thought potentially it was something bad,” Melvin said. “His hand is swollen but not too bad. And he wanted to play. He’s a very tough kid. He plays with any number of injuries over the course of the season.”

It looks like Michael Taylor will get his first real shot at extended big league playing time. “At the big league level, you earn playing time,” Melvin said. “But with those lefties coming up (that the A’s face), we’re going to get a good look at him. It looks like this is his best opportunity. I don’t know if there’s going to be a better one at this point.”

It was just last week that Taylor flew to Baltimore to join the A’s just in case Coco Crisp couldn’t play with his inner ear infection. Taylor stayed just one day and was never activated. Crisp’s condition hasn’t gotten better, so he’s back in the Bay Area and will be examined by Dr. Allan Pont, the A’s physician. Taylor was in a Sacramento movie theatre when he got the call he was being promoted. He was watching “Think Like A Man,” but immediately left to go home and pack. “I saw about seven minutes of it,” Taylor said. “We got our money back.”

Playing the outfield at Tropicana Field can be tricky with the roof, the low lights and the rings of catwalks all making it tough to track the ball, but Taylor played some minor league games here while in the Phillies’ system. He attended high school in Apopka, Fla., — near Orlando – so he’s got about 10 people in attendance tonight, including his parents.

The Rays are rolling right now with a major league-best 18-8 record, and David Price has won his past three starts. Needless to say, it’s a pretty stiff test for the A’s this weekend, but they have to be feeling pretty good too after taking two of three from the Red Sox.

That’s all for now …