Justin Verlander believes that the Oakland Athletics made their headline-grabbing trade to add Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel with a playoff series against the Detroit Tigers in the back of their mind. General manager Billy Beane insists that is not the case.
Discussing the aftermath of his mega-deal with the Chicago Cubs, one that sent out top shortstop prospect Addison Russell, Beane says that his focus is on building a team that can win the division (quotes courtesy of Steve Kroner of the San Francisco Chronicle):
“I think it would be a bit arrogant … to think that this is a postseason move,” Beane said. “We’ve got two teams behind us that are very, very good teams, that don’t look like they’re going to go away. … We’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for the talent that the Angels and the Mariners have. …
“Our priority is to try to win the division first and then worry about the postseason.”
It is hard to ignore the fact that the Tigers have bounced the A’s each of the last two years in the playoffs. Furthermore, the A’s fell specifically because of the devastating performances from aces Verlander and Max Scherzer. To think that Samardzija and Hammel would come close to matching those guys, however, seems a bit short-sighted and tends to oversimplify this deal.
For one thing, the A’s acquired an asset for next season as well with Samardzija, something that certainly factored into the decision. And as far as a potential match-up in the playoffs goes, the A’s would continue to rely on their depth to defeat the Tigers rather than a misguided notion that they now have the aces to go toe-to-toe with those on the Tigers.
This trade makes the A’s, the best team in the AL, an even more intriguing contender. But as Beane says, there is a long way to go before they can start thinking about the playoffs.