Originally written on MLB Buzz  |  Last updated 7/16/12
The Oakland Athletics are a surprising wild-card contender despite being last in the American League in OPS from shortstop, last at catcher and next-to-last at third base. They have tried to upgrade at third, where Brandon Inge is now in an 8-for-58 slump that includes 21 strikeouts and one walk. They probably won’t upgrade at catcher, given that Kurt Suzuki is signed for $6.45 million next season and Derek Norris is his eventual successor. But general manager Billy Beane would "love" to get a shortstop who could improve upon Cliff Pennington’s .203 batting average and .556 OPS, according to a major league source. The A's, who on Tuesday begin a six-game homestand that features the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, are not yet in serious trade discussions, sources say. But their potential targets include the Toronto Blue Jays’ Yunel Escobar and Diamondbacks’ Stephen Drew. Escobar, at first glance, would not appear to be much of an upgrade: His OPS has declined from .782 last season to .635 this year. He also comes with makeup questions, though Beane historically is undaunted by such issues. The Jays are willing to move Escobar, sources say, in part because of their belief that Triple A shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is ready to play in the majors. Hechavarria, 23, is batting .314 with an .805 OPS in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Escobar, 29, is under contract for $5 million this season and $5 million next season, and his deal includes $5 million club options for both 2014 and ’15. Drew, who played for Athletics manager Bob Melvin during Melvin’s tenure with the Diamondbacks, likely would be a rental. He is earning $7.75 million this season, and his deal includes a $10 mutual option for 2013. The bigger question with Drew, 29, is his physical condition. He missed nearly 11 months after he broke his right ankle and is only 8 for 39 (.205) with two walks since returning. — Ken Rosenthal
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