The Oakland Athletics, as I'm sure you've noticed, have somehow become a big part of the postseason picture, wedging themselves squarely amongst the American League's Wild Card leaders.
They've done this because a lot of things have gone well.
One thing hasn't gone well at all: Shortstop.
Cliff Pennington, the regular, has a bad elbow. There's reportedly no structural damage, but Pennington's not healthy and even when he's played this season, he's been a complete mess at the plate, with a .197 batting average.
But .197 actually looks pretty good next to Pennington's potential replacements; utility infielders Erik Sogard and Brandon Hicks are batting .154 and .158, respectively. No, batting averages don't always tell the whole story. In this case, they do.
So what's to be done about it? Here's Susan Slusser (via SFGate.com):
So yes, the A’s need a shortstop. And they are linked today to Miami’s Hanley Ramirez, who can play both third and shortstop and who has a batting title and a Rookie of the Year award to his credit. I have spoken to several major-league sources who believe that Oakland is prepared to make a strong bid for Ramirez, even though he has about $35 million left on a deal that goes through 2014. The A’s have the lowest payroll in baseball, and they can certainly afford the $5 million or so left on his deal this year, then reassess after the season if need be. He’s 28, the A’s have little at shortstop in the upper reaches of the minors, and while Pennington is a strong defensive shortstop, he has contributed little offensively this year.
Well, that's all well and good and I'm not saying the A's don't have any interest in Ramirez.
But I see a couple of big reasons to think their interest might be lukewarm, at best.
For one thing, the A's like defense. They've liked defense for a while now, ever since the bright young gentlemen in the front office concluded that defense might be a market inefficiency. Hanley Ramirez ranked as one of the game's worst defensive shortstops before he got hurt and moved to third base; how bad would he be now?
Second, it's fine to suggest the A's can "reässess after the season if need be" ... but what does that mean, exactly? Ramirez is going to earn $31.5 million over the next two seasons. The A's do have money to spend, but do they want to spend that much on a player who's been a league-average hitter since Opening Day 2011?
That's the sticking point, I suspect. Sure, $5 million for two months of Hanley Ramirez isn't a big gamble. And if he somehow becomes a future Hall of Famer again, that $31.5 million wouldn't seem ridiculously extravagant. But "reässess" essentially means keep him for $31.5 million or trade him ... and considering the $31.5 million, that second choice is really no choice at all.
Trading for Hanley Ramirez makes sense for the A's only if a) they don't have to give up much to get him, and b) the Marlins send, along with Ramirez, a fat check -- say, in the amount of $15 million? -- to Oakland.
Otherwise the numbers just don't add up.
Again, I don't doubt the A's interest, so much as I doubt they're willingness to take on Ramirez unless the Marlins pay a big chunk of the freight.