SAN DIEGO -- It’s difficult enough for front office decision-makers to weigh the merits of players available in an ever-changing trade market. It adds several degrees of difficulty if that front office doesn’t have a clear picture of its own team’s needs.
What, then, should A's executives Billy Beane and David Forst make of their ballclub as Friday's Trade Deadline draws ever closer?
Oakland lost, 7-4, to the Padres on Tuesday night at Petco Park to fall to 8-12 in July. So, yes, there are needs. But, as recent events have suggested, there might be more to do than appears on the surface.
“We’ve still got a good group of guys,” said second baseman Jed Lowrie, who had two of Oakland’s 11 hits. “Everybody in that clubhouse trusts each other. We’ve got to continue to grind during tough times.”
One of Oakland’s strengths has been starting pitching, but even that unit might be showing a crack or two in the foundation. Rookie James Kaprielian allowed a career-high six runs on Tuesday in 4 1/3 innings. That comes on the heels of Cole Irvin turning in his shortest Major League start (four innings) on Sunday in Seattle.
If the A’s make a major move before the Deadline passes at 1 p.m. PT on Friday, should it be to add a bat? Or follow the acquisition of left-hander Andrew Chafin with another arm or two in the bullpen? A deeper relief corps could pick up the slack if young starting pitchers pushing into uncharted innings territory falter any further or need their workload monitored closely during a postseason push.
Most MLB teams, of course, would love to have the A’s problems. The A’s still sit as the American League’s second Wild Card team, a game ahead of the Mariners. Lurking not too far behind them are the Yankees, certainly capable of making a Deadline splash.
On Tuesday, the A’s had a chance to add to their Wild Card cushion after building a 3-0 lead against Padres starter Chris Paddack with three runs in the third inning. But in the bottom half, Kaprielian hung a slider to National League home run leader Fernando Tatis Jr., who smacked it an estimated 440 feet to left field for his 31st homer of the year.
That sliced two runs off the lead. Kaprielian was chased in the fifth, when the Padres tallied five runs to take the lead, tacking six earned runs on Kaprielian's night.
“This stretch that we’re in,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, “we’re either not capitalizing by getting a big hit with runners on base … or not being able to add on runs as the game goes along.”
Kaprielian, 27, has thrown 77 innings this year between the A’s and Triple-A Las Vegas -- more than any of his previous pro seasons. The right-hander’s location was off against the Padres, as he threw a first-pitch ball to 14 of the 21 batters he faced.
The six earned runs charged to him were two more than his previous career high. After Tuesday's rough outing -- by far his toughest since claiming a rotation spot -- Kaprielian has now allowed more than three runs in only two of his 13 starts this season.
“[I'm] definitely going to make some changes,” Kaprielian said. “Not my best stuff. Didn’t get ahead in the count, and we lost. I take complete responsibility for this loss. I know I’m a rookie, but I had a chance to show leadership and give our team a chance to win, and I didn’t do that.”
While Kaprielian tinkers between starts, the front office will consider changes, too. When he next takes the mound, he might see a new face or two behind him.