Sunday, July 6, 2014

When Oakland Makes A Trade, It's All About Detroit, Says Detroit

Velocity Down, Hubris Up
One of the very best things about MLB in 2014 bas been watching my least favorite player, Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander, become ordinary and worse. He was bad for most of 2013, at least after I traded for him in fantasy, but righted the ship just in time to end my A's for the second straight year in the playoffs. It was as if he's spent the last two years on a personal mission to destroy my happiness in real and fake baseball.

So the A's, currently the best team in baseball by won-loss record, decided to bolster a starting rotation that's been buttressed by guys who are likely to regress in the second half, and filled with lots of guys with injury issues. So they took on two quality SPs from the Cubs in Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel. The cost were three low-cost prospects, including the team's best middle infield hopeful, and some quality arms. It's basically a classic current assets for future assets move, and one that's likely to help them in a playoff series.

Now, the team with the second-best record in the AL is the LA Angels. They also have the second best run differential, which is a pretty significant indicator of future performance. And the third best team in the AL by that metric is surprising Seattle; both of those clubs are basically a hot week or two away from unseating Oakland in the West and putting them in the lottery life that is the wild-card in a dual-team system.

But do you know who the A's really made this trade for? Detroit. At least, if you are Verlander, who really is all that kind of obnoxious, really. Here's the money quote:

"I found it very interesting," Verlander told reporters Saturday, according to MLB.com. "Really, when I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us. No doubt about it in my mind."

And then, after realizing just how awful that sounded, he backtracked.

"I think a lot of factors had to do with why they did it," he said. "Obviously, October's the main one, not necessarily us, but October in general."

In reality, of course, the A's haven't done anything while thinking of Detroit. Neither Hammel nor Samardzija are Miguel Cabrera stoppers, and honestly, as an A's fan, I worry about that guy a lot more than I do about a guy with a 4.7 ERA and 1.5 WHIP. Holding off the Angels and Mariners with a rotation that, even while bolstered, still has to wonder about the effect of higher innings on Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez. As good as the A's have been at the stick and in the field, it's still really easy to go into a tailspin if the rotation fails, and this is, clearly, the best division in the AL now. They were overwhelming favorites to go to the playoffs before, but with this move, I'm sleeping easier.

Oh, and one final thing. Run differential for Detroit? Just +28, tied for fourth in the AL with Toronto, just 13 better than the upstart Royals, 4 back in the Central as I write this. Of course, if they get to the playoffs, the Tigers are dangerous with a rotation that features Rick Porcello, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.

And if they need to go to a fourth starter? Drew Smyly has been surprising stable. All of these guys have dramatically better numbers than Verlander.

So if the A's are making deals in relation to Detroit?

Then they really should have done that in 2012 or 2013, when the Tigers were much bigger threats than now...

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