SEATTLE — When the A’s return from the four-day All-Star break, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long their roster will remain intact.
The July 31 trade deadline is just over three weeks away, and it’s a given that some veterans will be exiting Oakland. But the second-half storyline will revolve around the development of the many young players that will continue to command playing time.
“I like where we’re trending,” manager Bob Melvin said before a 4-0 loss to the Mariners closed out the first half. “I like the fact that a lot of the guys that we’ve been looking forward to getting at some point are here now, and are performing well. … I think there’s a certain energy to having these guys here.”
A couple of those young players factored into the storyline Sunday, as the A’s settled for a four-game split with Seattle. Right-hander Daniel Gossett was steamed at himself for lasting just 4 1/3 innings and leaving so much work for his bullpen. His challenge is keeping the ball in the ballpark, having given up eight homers over his first six starts. Nelson Cruz got to him for a two-run shot in the fourth.
“Just overall frustrating,” said Gossett, 24. “It’s the same thing — giving up the homer and throwing the pitch I can’t throw. I had one job with the curve ball, and it was not leaving it up.”
Fellow rookie Matt Chapman is having big-time difficulties at the plate, off to a 5-for-38 start (.132) with 20 strikeouts in 11 games. But the third baseman made one of the best plays by an A’s infielder this season, going into foul territory to backhand Cruz’s grounder and making a terrific off-balance throw across the diamond to easily retire him.
“It’s fun to watch, I’ll tell you that much,” second baseman Jed Lowrie said. “To make a throw like that, as strong as he made it running away from the base and putting it right on the money, it’s pretty impressive.”
Lowrie is one of those veterans who isn’t likely to wear green and gold much longer. He’d have value for a contending team as a switch hitter with defensive versatility, and the A’s need to open up second base for top prospect Franklin Barreto.
“It’s a part of the game,” Lowrie said. “I’m certainly aware of what’s being said. I just try to take advantage of the opportunity that I’m given here and see where that takes me.”
Four young players — none of them with more than a year-and-a-half of big league experience — are playing regularly for Oakland right now: Chapman, catcher Bruce Maxwell, designated hitter Ryon Healy and center fielder Jaycob Brugman. Barreto will join them soon, and utility man Chad Pinder is expected back from a hamstring injury in the next few weeks. Matt Olson, a first baseman/outfield at Triple-A, also factors into the mix.
It was interesting to hear Melvin say Pinder might be a consideration for center field duty in the second half. That suggests that perhaps Rajai Davis might not be long for the A’s either.
Veteran reliever Sean Doolittle, a potential trade chip as well, knows it’s the reality when a team is stuck in last place and has a history of being a seller.
“It’d be naive to say it’s not something guys are aware of, but you try not to think about it,” Doolittle said. “There’s a good group in here, man, and you try to enjoy coming to the field every day. Everybody that puts this uniform on knows what could potentially happen.”