It was a miserable start to the season for the A’s, who, after losing 50 of their first 62 games, were on pace to challenge for the worst record in Major League history. Since then, however, the club has enjoyed a more promising stretch by playing nearly .500 baseball over its last 30 games.
With the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline only a month away, playoff-contending teams will indeed check in on players such as Paul Blackburn and Brent Rooker. Any move by these rebuilding A’s would be aimed toward building for the future. The second half has also already seen the arrival of a couple of promising prospects who excelled in the Minors.
With the first half in the books, here is a midseason report on the 2023 A’s:
What we learned in the first half: Relying on young pitching is a high risk
When you enter the All-Star break holding the worst record in the Majors, several factors usually lead to those struggles. For these rebuilding A’s, the gamble of entering the regular season with a starting rotation that featured three rookie pitchers and another two who had yet to go through a full Major League season, did not pay off. The return of Blackburn does seem to have stabilized things a bit. After losing 50 of their first 62 games, the A’s have gone 13-17 since June 6.
Likely Trade Deadline strategy: Sell
The selling of players who once contributed to playoff runs in Oakland continued this offseason when Sean Murphy was traded to the Braves as part of a three-team deal. Veteran-type players who could help a contender include right-hander Trevor May and infielders Aledmys Díaz, Jace Peterson and Tony Kemp. Blackburn and Rooker might be the two players who are most attractive to clubs around the league. However, there might not be much motivation for the A’s to trade either. Blackburn still has one more year left of arbitration and Rooker has four years of control left.
Key player: Brent Rooker
The 2023 All-Star performed as arguably MLB’s top hitter through the month of April, hitting nine homers and leading the Majors in OPS (1.375), on-base percentage (.506) and wRC+ (267) from April 8-30. Still hitting .295 with a 1.012 OPS through May 17, Rooker’s production has cooled off considerably since. He entered the break hitting .199 over his last 40 games. Rooker carried the offense early in the season while A’s pitchers struggled to hold down opposing offenses. Now that the pitching has improved, a return to form by Rooker could lead to more frequent wins in the second half if he isn’t traded at the Deadline.
Prospects to watch: C/1B Tyler Soderstrom and INF Zack Gelof