If there was any doubt whether the Oakland Athletics would be buyers at the trade deadline, Billy Beane and David Forst answered that question Wednesday with a resounding yes.
The A's pulled off an absolute stunner, sending top pitching prospect Jesús Luzardo to the Miami Marlins for talented outfielder Starling Marte, a former All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner.
Beane and Forst weren't done, acquiring catcher Yan Gomes and utility player Josh Harrison from the Washington Nationals on Friday in exchange for minor leaguers Drew Millas, Seth Shuman and Richard Guasch.
Oakland also added a relief pitcher earlier in the week, snagging left-hander Andrew Chafin from the Chicago Cubs for prospects Greg Deichmann and Daniel Palencia.
Perhaps just as notable as the trades themselves is the fact that three of the four additions will be free agents at the end of the season, with Chafin having a mutual $5.25 million option. Essentially, the A's were willing to give up six prospects, including perhaps their very best one, for four rentals.
Fans should absolutely appreciate the willingness to go all in on this season, but it's a dangerous approach to take. This year's Athletics squad is objectively not as good as teams from years past, particularly with regard to the lineup and bullpen.
Oakland made improvements in those areas with these three trades, but is it enough to put them over the top? As of Saturday afternoon, the A's trailed the Houston Astros by 5 1/2 games in the AL West, and their lead for the second wild card spot was down to two games, with the Mariners, Yankees and Blue Jays all charging hard.
Let's start with the Marte trade — the 32-year-old has an impressive .299/.401/.439 slash line this season and immediately becomes the A's second-best hitter behind Matt Olson. Marte also improves Oakland defensively, where he is an elite center fielder and allows Ramón Laureano to fill the team's void in right field.
That being said, giving up Luzardo for a two-month rental is a bit of a head-scratcher. Sure, Luzardo has endured his struggles this year, but at the young age of 23, the left-hander owns a high-90s fastball along with a devastating slider and is still considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.
Perhaps the A's saw something in Luzardo that caused them to quickly lose optimism in his future. Either way, it's stunning to see a young talent go from Game 1 playoff starter to getting unloaded for a rental, all in the span of 10 months. It certainly puts a lot of pressure on Oakland to go on a deep postseason run.
Harrison and Gomes should also help the A's lineup, with Harrison slashing .294/.366/.434 and Gomes at .271/.323/.454. Harrison, a two-time All-Star, can play all over the field and will likely move around to give other starters days off. Gomes figures to split time with Sean Murphy behind the plate and potentially DH when necessary.
Chafin is a nice addition to the bullpen, but considering the A's all in approach, it's a bit surprising they didn't do more to address that unit. Chafin, 31, boasts a 1.98 ERA in 41 innings this year and gives manager Bob Melvin another solid late-inning option in addition to closer Lou Trivino. But those are the only two pitchers on the roster with an ERA under three.
Left-hander Jake Diekman has fallen back to earth after a phenomenal season last year and J.B. Wendelken and Sergio Romo have been inconsistent, though Romo has pitched very well recently. Yusmeiro Petit has been his usual valuable self, but we've seen his low-velocity repertoire get hammered in postseasons past.
The A's also probably could have used another starting pitcher, especially with Saturday's news that rookie right-hander James Kaprielian was placed on the 10-day injured list with a shoulder ailment.
Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea have put together strong seasons, but neither one is a true ace. Cole Irvin has been a pleasant surprise, but it's hard to imagine Oakland counting on him in the playoffs, and Frankie Montas has been wildly inconsistent.
All things considered, the A's dramatically improved their roster in the past week, but it's still highly unlikely they'll catch Houston for the division title. It's also far from certain that they'll hang on to the second wild card spot, with the Yankees, in particular, a real concern.
Based on the prospects Oakland gave up, anything short of a World Series run, or at the very least a trip to the ALCS, has to be considered a disappointment. And at this point, those goals still feel like a long shot.
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