Analyzing the Oakland A’s Outfield Conundrum
Monday November 5th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto: The A’s now find themselves in a sticky situation with four outfielders who are all capable of being full-time starters. Oakland acquired Chris Young from the Diamondbacks on October 21st in exchange for Cliff Pennington as part of a 3-way trade with the Marlins. While it’s safe to say that Billy Beane won the trade from a talent standpoint, it did not solve any problems because the A’s already had Yoenis Céspedes, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick locked in the outfield to commence the 2013 season. Young just creates unnecessary havoc that easily could have been avoided. In Beane’s defense, who wouldn’t have traded an inconsistent shortstop for a more proven outfielder?
In 2012, Young dealt with an injured shoulder. Rarely did he play in back to back games towards the end of the year, and his numbers took a beating because of that. He triple slashed for a .231/.311/.434 line, hitting 14 home runs with an OPS of .745. Obviously 2012 wasn’t one of his memorable years, but you would have to think that his injured shoulder played a role in his depleted stats. For Young, it is just a matter of staying healthy and proving that his once wobbly shoulder caused his downfall, not a decreasing bat.
The A’s are now “stuck” with four everyday outfielders. The good news? They do not have to trade anyone in the newly formed quartet to solve this glaring problem.
Here’s why this trade could benefit the A’s:
Let’s not forget that Céspedes is an expendable commodity. He can assume the designated hitter’s role, play left field, and play centerfield. Although, the latter two options are out of the question (if the A’s want to keep both Young and Crisp, as Josh Reddick is not going anywhere).
However, keeping Céspedes off the field could benefit the entire team because he was far from reliable on the defensive side of the ball last year. Per Fangraphs, his UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) checked in a -9.6. That number includes his games in centerfield and left field. Without much explanation, his UZR is greatly below average. While his strong arm makes up for his pedestrian range slightly, he cannot be trusted, even in a role where he splits his playing time between DHing and playing left field (2012).
So, the A’s could shift Céspedes over to the DH full-time, which would allow Crisp to takeover left field and give Young the keys to centerfield. Simple, right? Not only would the A’s improve defensively, but they would improve offensively as well, assuming that Céspedes and Young stay healthy. That’s far from a given, though.
Why It Won’t Work:
The only flaw to this basic plan is the odd man out—Seth Smith. The A’s have poked at the idea of utilizing him as the full-time DH beginning next year, but that won’t happen, unless they deem him a better option than Céspedes. Hard to believe that would happen.
At 29 years-old, Smith still is an intriguing asset. He has found some success in his brief six-year career. In 2009, he complied an .889 OPS, and in 2011 he finished with an OPS of .830. Both seasons were with the Rockies though, which means he produced those stats in a very hitters friendly Coors Field. While nothing can be assumed, anytime a player has a good year at infamous Coors, the suspicion generally amounts, especially for someone like Smith who has been inconsistent with his production over the past few years.
If Beane and Bob Melvin decide to lend Smith a chance to hit his stride, then all plans to keep the four outfielders are instantly thrown out the window. There simply is not enough room at the inn.
Crisp is almost guaranteed to go, if the A’s choose Smith. Crisp has one more year left on his contract with a club option for 2014. At 32 years-old, the A’s should easily find that there would be a market for the veteran. His contract isn’t obnoxious, and he still has a hop to his step as he proved in the playoffs.
The A’s also have to consider that Céspedes may not take too kindly to moving over full-time to the DH spot. It could be a temporary move for one, if the A’s keep Crisp until 2014. But for a young man who takes a great deal of pride in his defense (he consider himself a center fielder), the move to DH could be a bitter pill to swallow. The last thing that the A’s want to do is alienate their biggest budding superstar. At the end of the day, we know that Billy Beane is not afraid to make moves and the A’s roster as it stands today will likely be much different come April. But if the A’s worst problem is having too many healthy and talented outfielders on their roster…well then, that is a good problem to have. Injuries and performance on the field tend to resolve most of these conflicts. This situation will resolve itself, one way or another. As of today though, we are all left scratching our heads trying to figure out what will the A’s do next.
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
Jake Dal Porto is a Baseball Writer with MLB reports and a student from the Bay Area. Jake’s favorite sports moment was when the Giants won the World Series back in 2010. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work. He thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs, and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @TheJakeMan24
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Posted on November 5, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged a's, athletics, baseball, billy beane, Bob Melvin, chris young, coco crisp, josh reddick, mlb, oakland, playoffs, seth smith, world series, yoenis cespedes. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.