By Jason Wojciechowski on July 31, 2015 at 7:08 PM
The non-waiver trade deadline is past, and the A's don't have the kind of players who might make the waiver-trading period interesting (think Alex Rios a couple of years ago or maybe Matt Kemp this season) so what you see is basically what we've got for the next two months, A's-wise. And what is that, exactly?
That's a starting rotation missing its second- (Scott Kazmir, traded to Houston for players who are a couple of years away from the majors) and third- (Jesse Hahn, on the disabled list with a strained forearm and not even throwing until mid-August, much less pitching in the major leagues) best starters. It isn't clear who replaces them. Sonny Gray is still here and still battling for a Cy Young Award; Jesse Chavez is still here and still battling to prove he can finish a full season in the rotation; Kendall Graveman is still doing whatever it is Kendall Graveman does.
Beyond that, there's Chris Bassitt, who may or may not have the command to compete in a major-league rotation, there's Felix Doubront, who the A's picked up after the pitching-poor Blue Jays designated him for assignment, there's Aaron Brooks, who I have decided is the new Brett Laxton and there's no convincing me otherwise, and then if you want to get past them or if someone gets hurt, there's Sean Nolin and Cody Martin hanging around Triple-A.
Out of every name I've just written, exactly two will compel me to watch their games in a lost season: Gray and Nolin. I will still watch, because I do, but you'll forgive me if I zone out and nap while Brooks and Doubront pitch.
Another thing the A's are now is a bullpen without its only good pitcher, as Tyler Clippard was exiled to Metsdom in return for Casey Meisner, who is both tall and 20 years old. What remains in the bullpen is ... well, why belabor it. Edward Mujica will get any save situations the A's stumble into, and R.J. Alvarez is back up from Triple-A to try to reclaim some of the shine he's lost in a rough 2015, but the rest of the crew is the same cast of characters that has helped turn this season from a pretty good one (431 runs scored, 397 allowed) to a terrible one (10-24 in one-run games).
Ryan Cook won't be back to "contribute" either, as Boston decided to take a flier on him, sending the A's a player to be named later in compensation. Cook seems broken, and apparently the A's decided they weren't going to fix him, so Boston's staff will take the next shot at it. If they can turn him around, his stuff is absolutely worthy of the late innings.
It's also worth noting that the actual best pitcher in the bullpen, Sean Doolittle, is throwing bullpens and such now. Without setbacks, I'd assume he'll be back before the end of the year; here's hoping he's his old flamethrowing, fire-breathing self, not the diminished version we saw briefly in his rehab games and in the majors before he headed back to the shelf. (Why do injured players go to "the shelf"? What else is on the shelf? Are there knicknacks?)
Pat Venditte is also out on a rehab assignment. I'd guess he'll bump Dan Otero back to Nashville.
Among the hitters, the only thing to get used to will be Ben Zobrist's absence. He was one of the team's three best hitters on the season, right there with Josh Reddick and Stephen Vogt, with a little less over-the-fence power than both made up for in doubles, and of course Bob Melvin will surely miss his plug-and-play versatility, diminished though it was from years past: He never played shortstop for Oakland. The offense will suffer by virtue of "Eric Sogard, full-time player" and the defense will miss his presence in left field given the extra time Mark Canha will see, though that may be mitigated by the return of Coco Crisp, who went out on a rehab assignment four days ago. With Billy Burns locking down center field and Canha looking like a big-leaguer, I'd be surprised if Sam Fuld survives Crisp's return. (Though even with his 66 OPS+, Fuld's defensive skills and baserunning acumen might make him a waiver-claim target for someone with an available 25th-man spot.)
We'll talk about 2016 later.