The major league-leading Oakland Athletics are the most well-rounded team in baseball, but can enhance their chances of winning just their second playoff series in 22 years by increasing offensive production at shortstop before the non-waiver trade deadline. Josh Rutledge of the Colorado Rockies hasn’t been directly linked to the A’s in recent weeks, but the 25-year-old shortstop would be a sizable upgrade over Jed Lowrie.
Rutledge recently took over the shortstop position for All-Star Troy Tulowitzki, who remains sidelined on the disabled list with a hip flexor strain and has excelled. The 25 year old owns a solid .319 batting average with 24 runs scores and 16 extra-base hits in 147 plate appearances this season. His .874 OPS is 197 points better than the figure belonging to Lowrie (.677), although the A’s shortstop has tallied 414 plate appearances.
Oakland doesn’t exactly need to trade for another infielder, given their current rate of offensive production. Entering Sunday, the A’s rank first in runs scored (515), sixth in on-base percentage (.329) and seventh in slugging percentage (.405). If any team is in position to stand pat at the deadline, it’s the A’s.
The Rockies haven’t openly demonstrated a willingness to trade Rutledge, partially because of new found rumors surrounding Tulowitzki. The Rockies’ franchise player is owed roughly $104 million over the remaining five years of his contract and could potentially be moved, perhaps to the New York Yankees, who will need someone to fill in the position that future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter has occupied for 20 years.
That reality could prevent the A’s from acquiring the likes of Rutledge, but the fact remains that Oakland needs a future shortstop, especially after dealing highly-touted prospect Addison Russell to the Chicago Cubs earlier this month.
Lowrie is not a long-term answer for the A’s at shortstop. His numbers have significantly diminished in his seventh season at the big league level. After Lowrie posted career-highs in batting average (.290), extra-base hits (62) and RBI (75) in 2013, the A’s had seemingly found a reliable everyday option for the foreseeable future. Although Lowrie’s numbers haven’t been completely terrible in 2014 (.243/.320/.356), Oakland stands a chance to both improve their depth at the position, and also solidify their future by adding the Rockies’ infielder.
Rutledge will remain under club control until the conclusion of the 2018 season and won’t become arbitration eligible until 2016, which means the net cost of acquiring the Rockies’ infielder wouldn’t impinge upon Oakland’s limited payroll budget. Rutledge is also an ascending player who flaunts serious upside. He’s versatile, as he is capable of playing third base and both middle infield spots, which would grant manager Bob Melvin supreme flexibility.
As the A’s continue to push toward October with baseball’s best record, they somehow still stand a chance to get even better.