2021 MLB Trade Deadline Preview: Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics

Every year, rumors swirl about the Oakland Athletics finally emerging as big-time buyers. And every year, the deadline passes with the A’s making a flurry of non-blockbuster moves.

The Athletics’ uneagerness to make a big move (sorry, Mike Minor; I mean big move) at the deadline has correlated to plenty of postseason failures over the past decade. Under Bob Melvin‘s nine full years as manager, Oakland has made the playoffs six times. In all six of those trips to the postseason, the A’s never won a series. One could argue that a greater willigness to swing a blockbuster deal at the deadline would have resulted in more success in those Octobers, which instead concluded with dreary postseason exits.

Let’s see where Oakland stands right now and which players they might target ahead of the trade deadline.

Make sure to check out all of our other Trade Deadline Previews.

Current Position

Record: 49-38
Rank: Second in AL West (4.5 GB), fifth in AL
Status: Buyers

Being in a Wild Card spot in July guarantees that a team will not be selling. With that said, the Athletics are notoriously gentle when it comes to spending big, so don’t expect them to be super aggressive ahead of the upcoming deadline. On the other hand, they clearly have areas that need improvement, and they won’t be able to catch up with the Houston Astros if they don’t strike a few deals. In fact, in a league where every team is constantly improving, a lack of action ahead of the deadline could even drop Oakland out of a playoff spot.

Trade Candidates

Jon Gray, Starting Pitcher, Colorado Rockies

The Athletics have an interesting starting rotation. Jesus Luzardo was recently demoted, but players like Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt have impressed. Still, Oakland would benefit from adding another rotation arm, especially in a division that features the Astros and their explosive bats. Gray has posted a 4.36 FIP, 7.9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, and 1.09 HR/9 this season. While not an elite arm and certainly not the best pitcher who could be dealt this month, he represents a good target for the A’s given his affordability and veteran presence. The 29-year-old is earning $6 million this year and will hit free agency during the upcoming offseason. Colorado is sure to unload him, and Oakland would make a great landing spot.

Trevor Story, Shortstop, Colorado Rockies

The idea of Oakland swinging a mammoth blockbuster is rare considering they don’t like to open their wallets. However, Story is making $17.5 million this year, and Oakland would only have to pay a portion of that if they strike a deal for him in the middle of the season. While Elvis Andrus has had a positive impact both offensively and defensively and Story is having a quiet season at the plate, the latter still possesses a better impact bat in the middle of the lineup. The 28-year-old is slashing .256/.327/.455 with a nine percent walk rate and 21.7 percent strikeout clip. He’s also launched 11 homers and swiped 15 bags through 72 games. The biggest wrinkle here would be the possibility of an extension. The Rockies will presumably send Story to a team that can guarantee a big extension, and Oakland’s financial boundaries could hinder that. Still, a blockbuster deal might be just what the doctor ordered for the A’s as they close in on another postseason berth.

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Nelson Cruz, Designated Hitter, Minnesota Twins

Another option for an impact bat in the middle of the order comes in the form of Cruz. He’s quite different than Story as he’s 41 years old and does not play in the field. However, he’s also affordable, raking in $13 million in 2021. The 17-year MLB veteran has put together a .307/.381/.571 slash line with 18 homers and 45 RBI through 71 contests this season. He has also struck out in just 18.8 percent of at-bats, which is the second-lowest rate of his career and lowest over the last decade. All in all, Cruz makes loud power, and his big bat would play nicely in the core of Oakland’s linep. 

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