- Dave Cameron, FanGraphs
With the trade deadline now just a couple of weeks away, the obvious buyers are still waiting for several of the sellers to decide to actually sell. Maybe they just need the right kind of motivation, so we'll provide it for them here. Here are five deals that AL teams should make in order to bolster their rosters for the stretch run, or maximize value as they continue to build.
Trade No. 1: Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and catcher Carlos Ruiz to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Michael Choice, second baseman Jemile Weeks and starting pitcher Michael Ynoa
Utley is an absolutely perfect fit for the A's. He does all the things that Oakland values, and despite his health issues over the past few years, he remains an elite player when he's on the field. His 126 wRC+ this year equals what Dustin Pedroia is doing for the Red Sox, and no one thinks he's over the hill. If he stays healthy, Utley could easily add two wins to the A's total over their rotation of second basemen, and he would provide another left-handed bat to a lineup that could use some thump from that side.
Ruiz, meanwhile, would provide the team with another catching option and a guy who could form a formidable platoon with John Jaso. While Derek Norris hasn't been bad, and Ruiz has been pretty lousy since coming off the disabled list, Ruiz has continued to pound left-handed pitching, which is Jaso's primary flaw. He's also good at gunning down would-be base stealers, and could serve as a defensive upgrade when the A's want to put their best run-prevention lineup on the field.
To get the Phillies to sell, the A's have to give them enough of a return to forfeit the right to make Utley a qualifying offer. Michael Choice may be the bait that would make Ruben Amaro bite. Choice ranked as the A's third-best prospect on Keith Law's preseason top 10, and while he hasn't yet taken a big leap forward, he's held his own in Triple-A and isn't that far from the big leagues. Given the Phillies' reliance on Delmon Young this season, they could certainly use some talent in the outfield. Choice could be able to contribute as soon as next season.
Weeks and Ynoa are lottery tickets whose early promise has mostly fizzled, but both could still develop into big leaguers at some point. Weeks is showing good on-base skills in Triple-A, though he might end up as a utility infielder. Ynoa, fresh from giving up a home run in the Futures Game, still throws hard but might profile best as a reliever. These guys provide some upside, but Choice is the guy who makes this deal work for Philadelphia. The A's would likely prefer to keep him in their organization, but facing an opportunity to make a substantial upgrade in a dogfight of a division race, they should take the plunge. You can replace a prospect like Michael Choice, but flags fly forever.
5hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
6hAnthony Witrado, Special to ESPN.com
1dAnthony Witrado, Special to ESPN.com