Bee staff writer Matt Kawahara looks at five questions facing the A’s in the second half of the season:
1. The Reddick situation
Will he stay or go? The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that the A’s have not engaged in contract talks since the spring with Josh Reddick, who’s slated to hit free agency after this season. If the A’s do not reach a multiyear agreement with Reddick, it would make sense to trade him and get something in return. Reddick missed time with a broken thumb and is batting .295 with just five home runs. But he is a former Gold Glove defender who last season had 20 homers and 77 RBIs for a last-place team. The Royals are said to be interested, along with several other playoff contenders.
2. Who gets moved?
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Reddick is not the only A’s player generating interest from other teams. Left-hander Rich Hill is 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA and could help a playoff contender in the second half. Ryan Madson blew his last two save opportunities before the break but has pitched well and last year helped the Royals win the World Series. Third baseman Danny Valencia, batting .304 with 12 homers, has been mentioned as a trade candidate. If the A’s hold another July sell-off, these and other players could be dealt to help the A’s build toward the future.
3. A Sonny turnaround?
Right-hander Sonny Gray, who finished third in American League Cy Young voting last season, has not been the same pitcher in 2016. Gray is 3-8 with a 5.16 ERA and missed two weeks with a strained upper-back muscle. Gray’s strikeout rate is a career-low 7.15 per nine innings, his walk rate is a career-high 3.38 per nine innings, and he has given up 12 home runs – five fewer than his career high – in 90 2/3 innings. A’s manager Bob Melvin has said Gray, 26, is simply having a down year. Assuming Gray remains with the A’s, he can start building toward a better 2017.
4. Semien’s improvement
After leading the majors last season with 35 errors, shortstop Marcus Semien has nine this season and overall has been a much better defender. Semien also has 19 homers – second among major-league shortstops – while playing every game in the first half. Melvin raves about Semien’s work ethic and energy, even likening him to Cal Ripken Jr. in that regard. It’s a lofty comparison, but Semien has shown he is willing to work to get better, and his numbers indicate the work is paying off.
5. Coco’s contract
At times last season, it seemed uncertain whether Coco Crisp, given his ailing neck, could be an everyday player again. But the left fielder has played in 73 of the A’s 89 games, albeit hitting just .244. Crisp’s contract includes an option for 2017 that vests automatically if he plays in 130 games or has 550 plate appearances this season. He’s already at 304 plate appearances, meaning he must average 3.4 over the final 73 games for the option to kick in – a very manageable number. Something to keep an eye on.