OaklandClubhouse Mailbag: Deadline Inactivity

The OaklandClubhouse mailbag is back and Todd Morgan fields your questions about the just-expired trade deadline, Daric Barton's timetable for return and who the biggest surprises have been in the Oakland A's system this season.

I can't decide if I'm happy or sad that the A's didn't make a move at the deadline. Was there a move out there worth making?
-Jeff, San Leandro, CA

From the discussions I had with A's officials, there really weren't any deals out there that seemed like they'd net an acceptable return. There is a lot of talk about teams overvaluing their own assets (both veterans and prospects), and from what I heard, Jim Bowden asked Oakland for Joe Blanton, Daric Barton and Travis Buck in exchange for Alfonso Soriano. When talks start there, it's easy to understand why they didn't get anywhere. and why Soriano is still a Nat.

It doesn't seem like Bowden entered the discussion with an understanding of what the A's would need to ensure a Soriano deal would help them this season. No deal can happen when one team refuses to acknowledge the other team's needs. Apparently the A's weren't the only team out there that "didn't have the bullets" to acquire Soriano.

Personally, I think that there is finally a general understanding throughout baseball that young players with little service time are vital to long-term success regardless of relative revenues. I cringe every time I hear someone speculate that an A's move is made to exploit a new market inefficiency, but this is a very good example of the league catching up to what Billy Beane did early in the decade, and what John Hart started with his mid-90s Cleveland teams. That shift, combined with a playoff system that keeps many teams in the hunt past the trade deadline, makes it tough to put together an impact trade in the middle of the season.

I'd be more concerned had the Angels gotten a bat. But with Eric Chavez heating up and Milton Bradley finally showing what he can do with the bat, the A's have a good shot at taking the division.

How much did all of the injuries to the A's prospects this season affect the A's deadline inactivity? When was the last time the A's went this long into a season without an in-season trade?
-Chris, Pinole, CA

I think it probably limited what they could do, but the pieces were there if they really wanted to make a deal. Ultimately I think it came down to there just not being anything out there that was attractive enough for them to pull the trigger.

Still, I do wonder what would have happened if Javier Herrera was healthy and either already in Midland or clearly on his way there. He would have made a nice centerpiece for Soriano, or maybe even a starting pitcher to replace a New York-bound Barry Zito.

As for trades this season, the A's did trade for RHP Kazuhito Tadano back on April 4th, but I think I know what you're getting at. The last time the A's failed to make a significant trade between Opening Day and the trading deadline was 1996.

I thought Daric Barton was supposed to be back around now. Any word on his progress from the injury?
-Philip, Scottsdale, AZ

I was told today that Barton isn't quite ready yet, but is "close." The A's apparently stayed on top of him this time to ensure that he stuck with his physical therapy and rehab program. Figure he'll be back mid-August; maybe even earlier with a little luck. The organization will be happy if he comes back and simply shows he's healthy. He'll enter next season with an outside shot at a big league job when camp breaks.

Which minor league player in the A's system has been the biggest surprise this season?
-Jennifer, Moraga, CA

If we're talking about positive surprises (as opposed to the negative surprises like Cliff Pennington's freefall and Daric Barton's elbow injury), Matt Sulentic is the first guy that comes to mind. Playing against college draftees as an 18 year-old, the A's 3rd-rounder is hitting .350/.406/.479 for Vancouver in the Northwest League. That is very impressive. He has struggled a bit in the last few weeks and his strikeout and walk rates aren't great, but he's got plenty of time to work on that.

Beyond Sulentic, I've been impressed with Jared Lansford's progress this season, though not surprised. Watch his K-rate closely next season though. If it doesn't start increasing it will be a sign that he isn't developing the way the A's hoped he would.

And you know what? I'd have to say that Jason Windsor's performance in AAA really shocked me. I still don't think he's anything more than a middle reliever in the big leagues (though he could be a good one), but I didn't think he'd perform the way he has against PCL competition. To date he is 9-0 with a 4.04 ERA for Sacramento, but the most impressive stat is his 10.35 strikeouts-per-nine-innings (82 in 71 1/3 IP).

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