By John Shea @real_johnshea on June 21, 2014
The major league-leading Oakland Athletics are the most well-rounded team in baseball, but need to shore up their bullpen and add starting pitching depth to their 25-man roster in order to solidify themselves as the best squad in the league. The A's must also address their lack of outfield depth, given Josh Reddick's extreme lack of production. They aren't in dire need to make a mid-summer splash, but they need to weigh their options nonetheless.
Oakland's bullpen ranks as one of the most efficient units in the league, allowing opponents to register a .220 batting average against. The A's bullpen ranks sixth in baseball with a collective 2.86 ERA, but have had some issues closing out games. Offseason trade acquisition Jim Johnson has been a bust. The A's can increase the viability of their pen by striking a deal for Dale Thayer, who owns a 2.01 ERA and 1.181 WHIP in 31.1 innings of work.
The Philadelphia Phillies are just 3.5 games behind the Braves for the division lead in the mediocre NL East, but don't figure to contend down the stretch. The A's don't have an extreme shortage of left-handed relievers in their bullpen, but Antonio Bastardo would be a solid addition. The veteran southpaw has been stingy in 32 relief appearances with the Phillies in 2014, allowing just 17 hits in 34.2 innings of work to compile a solid 2.86 ERA.
The Tampa Bay Rays were projected to compete for the AL East crown in 2014, but are now destined to become sellers at the trade deadline. Tampa Bay owns the worst record in baseball, recording a -50 run differential. A's GM Billy Beane would be wise to inquire about Matt Joyce as the deadline nears. The seven-year veteran owns a respectable .265 batting average with 18 extra-base hits and 26 RBIs in 204 at-bats so far this season.
The Chicago Cubs are expected to sell high on a pair of highly-coveted starting pitchers in July, one of which is Jason Hammel, who owns a 6-4 record with a 3.02 ERA in 14 starts. The A's aren't typically keen on trading top organizational prospects for rental players, but they must add depth to their crop of starters at the big-league level. Injuries have thinned their starting pitching depth, which could prompt them to strike a deal for Hammel.
The A's aren't desperate for a proven closer, given the recent success of Sean Doolittle in that role, but it makes sense for them to examine the trade market for a ninth-inning arm. Oakland has a legitimate chance to win their first World Series title since 1989 this season. Adding a closer like Huston Street, a former A's farmhand, could help them accomplish that goal. Street wouldn't come cheap, but owns 0.96 ERA while recording 20 saves.
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