It's never too early to start thinking about midseason trades, if for no other reason than to kill some time. Baseball, more than any sport, has so much idle time built into it that analysis run rampant is part of the fabric.
In the case of the A's, though, it was time to start thinking trades as soon as Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin landed on the disabled list. It ain't about killing time. It's about making sure the team's chances of pulling off what would be one of the most stunning three-peats of division titles in history isn't killed months before the July 31 trade deadline.
Thanks to the insanely good Sonny Gray, the steady and borderline regal hand of Scott Kazmir and the fabulously Jesse Who-ness of Jesse Chavez, Oakland came out of April in awfully good shape. The A's swapped road sweeps with the Texas Rangers, expected by most to steamroll the AL West, and despite some alarmingly poor play at home, they earned a spot in the national conversation regarding World Series contenders.
Granted, if the conversation were filled by teams at two tables, the A's would definitely hanging out with the young second cousins rumored to each eat others' boogers. But they're there, and they're there because the front end of their rotation put three guys in the AL Pitcher of the Month discussion that ended with everyone man-crushing on Mr. Gray.
(Is it a man-crush if the guy looks 12 years old? Discuss.)
Can they stay in the conversation, in contention, with some combination of Tommy Milone, Drew Pomeranz and recently demoted Dan Straily at the back end of that rotation, rocking ERAs that belong on K-Mart sales tags? Thirty pounds of clay: $7.34! A year's supply of bad detergent: $5.77!
They can. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be looking to upgrade, but they'd be wise to resist any temptation to give up on the youngsters they have and make a short-sighted deal that stunts their development.
Milone is 27. Pomeranz and Straily are 25. They have about 140 career starts between them, and in many of them they've looked damn good. You think pitching coach-wizard Curt Young can't eventually turn that talent into consistent production?
If you don't, wake up and smell the Jesse Who-ness. Back ends rarely make or break a team with a solid front end and bullpen, anyway, and if the A's show a little patience as Milone, Pomeranz and Straily make adjustments to whatever adjustments have been made to them, maybe the midseason trades can be made to fix a more pressing problem.