Buyers or sellers? A's homestand will reveal


Buyers or sellers? A's homestand will reveal

OAKLAND -- The addition of a second Wild Card berth gives fresh life to the A's, who are stuck in a small sand box with the MLB bullies from Texas and Anaheim.

But on the other side of the 2012 All-Star break, the A's are just 12 game out of the Wild Card play-in game, and playing great baseball. They're 9-1 over their last 10 games, but their hottest stretch of baseball since September of 2009 takes them into series against the two top teams in baseball.

Two games vs. the 54-35 Rangers followed by four against the 55-34 Yankees. Whether the A's will admit it or not, it's a big homestand.

And whether or not the A's, as they are currently constructed, can compete with the A.L.'s top teams in the coming weeks will determine if Billy Beane is making -- or fielding -- phone calls as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

As buyers:

Not the type of club to rent a player for a playoff push, any move made would likely have to benefit the team in future years.

The A's have a surplus of pitching and enough outfielders. They've shored up first base with Chris Carter and Brandon Moss, and the addition of Derek Norris has added pop as well.

But the left side of the infield is one area the A's could improve.

With Edwin Encarnacion signing a three-year extension with Toronto and the Brewers saying they don't have intentions to trade Aramis Ramirez, the market for third basemen is shallow.

Chase Headley:

The Padres' Chase Headley is expected to be the most attractive option at the hot corner. Reports indicate San Diego has already fielded calls from six teams about their 28-year-old third baseman, including requests from the division rival Mariners and Angels.

Headley has 10 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .266 average in 90 games this year.

He won't hit free agency until 2014, giving him at least two seasons with his new team should he be traded.

Jimmy Rollins:

As a 10-5 player, Rollins has full no-trade protection, but it would be interesting to see if the Oakland native would entertain a trade to the A's.

The 13-year Philly veteran is batting .262 this season with nine home runs and 14 stolen bases. Though he is getting up in age, the 33-year-old would still be a marked upgrade over Cliff Pennington, who owns an unimpressive .203.266.290 line this year.

The fourth most expensive MLB shortstop would come at a price as he signed a three-year, 33 million contract before the season.

Stephen Drew:

Shortstop Stephen Drew is only recently returned from the gruesome ankle injury that cost him 11 months.

Drew, 29, is batting .233 with three RBIs in the 13 games he's played since his return.

He's in the second season of a two-year, 13.75 million contract that has a mutual option for 2013 that would pay him 10 million if exercised and 1.35 million if it's bought out.

Yunel Escobar:

Yunel Escobar, 29, is batting .249 with six home runs and 34 RBIs. He is in the first of a two-year, 10 million contract with Toronto, who is reportedly not opposed to letting him go with prospect Adeiny Hechavarria waiting for his chance.

Escobar's contract has club options for 2014 and 2015 at 5 million.

Marco Scutaro:

Former Athletic Marco Scutaro is having a solid season for the Rockies, and would be a solid and flexible addition to the left side. He can play short and third, in addition to second base, and he's familiar with how things work in Oakland.

Scutaro is hitting .273 this year, with 42 runs and 25 RBIs. He is in the final season of a three-year 17.5 million contract.

As sellers:

If the A's fare poorly against the Rangers and A's, and Billy Beane decides to keep lining his ducks for future seasons, there are a few expendable Athletics who would be of value to competing clubs. But don't expect the squad to let any of its cornerstones get away.

Coco Crisp:

Coco Crisp's combination of speed and pop, and his knack for making things happen atop the lineup are rare in the bigs.

Crisp has missed time this year earlier with an inner ear infection and stomach virus, and he is currently day-to-day with a strained shoulder.

The 11-year veteran might not garner as much in return as he once would have; he's having one of his worst seasons at the plate so far. Crisp

The departure of Crisp, who is in the first year of a two-year, 14 million contract, would open things up in the A's outfield, and among other things, give manager Bob Melvin the chance to play Chris Carter and Brandon Moss together in the lineup.

Bartolo Colon:
Bartolo Colon signed a one-year, 2 million contract with the A's, and he's been well worth it, going 6-7 with a 3.80 ERA this year.

His season features two eight-inning shutout bids against A.L. West rivals -- the Rangers and Angels.

His heavy diet of dancing fastballs would be a solid addition to any playoff-bound staff.

Kurt Suzuki:
With the emergence of Derek Norris, Kurt Suzuki is suddenly -- though the team won't admit it -- dispensable.

Suzuki's offensive numbers have dropped off this year, but he is known league-wide for his adept ability to handle a staff, especially a young one.

The 28-year-old catcher is in the second of a four-year contract worth 16.25 million.

Grant Balfour:
Relief pitchers are always in demand come the trade deadline, and veteran Grant Balfour, who has filled multiple roles in the 'pen for the A's, is no different.

He is in the second year of a two-year, 8.1 million contract with the A's.

A 10-5 player is one who has 10 years of MLB service, the last five of which came with the same team. In 1970, players of such status were granted the right to veto any trade that involves them.

Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


TORONTO -- A most unlikely pitching performance helped put a most unexpected team into the World Series.

Rookie Ryan Merritt coolly delivered a lead to the Andrew Miller-led bullpen and the Cleveland Indians won their first pennant since 1997, blanking Toronto 3-0 Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Indians will try to boost what's already been a magical year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first sports championship since 1964. The Indians' title drought dates to 1948.

The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn't play either team this season.

With all of 11 major league innings under his belt, Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The 24-year-old lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed only two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.

Then it was up to Cleveland's tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead.

Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, pitching 2 2/3 innings, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for the save. Winner Bryan Shaw worked an inning before Miller came in.

Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.

Donaldson homers, Blue Jays beat Indians to stay alive in ALCS


Donaldson homers, Blue Jays beat Indians to stay alive in ALCS


TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson homered to give Toronto a long-awaited lead, and the Blue Jays finally broke through with the bats, beating the Cleveland Indians 5-1 on Tuesday to avert a sweep in the AL Championship Series.

The Indians still lead the matchup 3-1, but Donaldson and a poised Aaron Sanchez handed them their first loss of this postseason.

Edwin Encarnacion later hit a two-run single, a welcome sight for a raucous Rogers Centre crowd that had fallen silent watching its team reach the brink of elimination because of a slumbering offense.

Donaldson's solo shot to left-center field off Corey Kluber in the third put the Blue Jays ahead for the first time all series. Two innings after that, the star third baseman made an outstanding diving stop to preserve a one-run edge.

Sanchez, the American League ERA champion, allowed a run and two hits in six innings, and the bullpen finished with three perfect innings.

Cleveland will try again Wednesday to win to earn its first World Series trip since 1997, but the big concern for the Indians coming into the series - an injury-riddled rotation - still lingers.

Kluber was starting on three days' rest for the first time in his career, and in Game 5 Cleveland will send lightly used rookieRyan Merritt to the mound against Marco Estrada.

Kluber hadn't allowed a run in either of his first two starts this postseason. Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP and sporting a still freshly shaved face, opened the scoring with his first home run of these playoffs.

The wild-card Blue Jays made it 2-0 in the fourth when Ezequiel Carrera's blooper fell between three Cleveland fielders in left-center for an RBI single.

Roberto Perez hit an RBI double in the fifth off Sanchez. Carlos Santana's two-out grounder to the left side might have had a chance to score him, but Donaldson made the play.

The Indians didn't have another baserunner after that. Brett CecilJason Grilli and Roberto Osuna pitched an inning each in relief for Toronto.

Taking no chances, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons brought in Osuna, his closer, in a non-save situation to finish off Cleveland.

The Indians were trying to become the third team to sweep a Division Series and Championship Series in the same postseason. The 2007 Colorado Rockies and 2014 Kansas City Royals both did it.

Cleveland had won nine in a row, including three straight over Boston in the ALDS.

The Indians had a chance to take the lead in the third when Tyler Naquin hit a leadoff double and went to third on a sacrifice. Sanchez retired Santana on a soft grounder with the infield in, and then Jason Kipnis also grounded out.

Kluber was pulled after 89 pitches. He allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.

The Blue Jays added two more runs in the seventh after a throwing error by reliever Bryan Shaw. Encarnacion came up with the bases loaded and the crowd chanting "Eddie" - and his hard grounder skipped off the mound and into center field to make it 4-1.

Trevor Bauer's finger injury put more pressure on Kluber to come back for Game 4 and a possible Game 7 on short rest. Bauer cut his right pinkie on a drone and had to be pulled in the first inning Monday after he started bleeding.

"I had to witness everything he had to go through to try and go out there and pitch last night," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before Tuesday's game. "Not too many people would have done that. He's been wonderful. He's obviously grown over the years because he wanted to."

Indians: The 24-year-old Merritt has pitched 11 innings as a big leaguer. His only start came Sept. 30, when the left-hander held Kansas City to a run and three hits in five innings.

Blue Jays: Estrada allowed two runs in eight innings in Game 1 against Cleveland.