The Oakland A’s had eyes bigger than their stomachs this off-season. They had needs to fill for sure, seeing as all three of their 2011 starting outfielders hit free agency. But in refilling those spots they overextended themselves. Along with re-signing Coco Crisp, they also signed Jonny Gomes and traded for Josh Reddick, Collin Cowgill, and Seth Smith. Then came the big move this week, when they signed Yoenis Cespedes. That leaves them with something of an outfield logjam.
AL teams have an advantage here, since they can slide extra players into the DH spot. Yet with the A’s it’s not that simple. In addition to their five MLB-ready outfielders (plus Jermaine Mitchell and Michael Taylor on the 40-man, neither of whom is exactly young), they have four — four! — first basemen: Brandon Allen, Daric Barton, Chris Carter, and Kila Ka’aihue. While Barton and Carter appear to have options remaining, they both seem to be past the point where AAA does them any good. The A’s probably have to make a move here.
Granted, there isn’t much quality there on the A’s roster. That is usually a problem, seeing as they are the Oakland A’s. But with the Yankees currently choosing from a not so impressive list of free agent DH types, perhaps they can find something more to their liking on the A’s roster.
Just after the Michael Pineda trade, I had planned to write about Smith as a possible trade target. The Rockies had him on the block most of the winter, and he fit in many ways. Of course, just as I opened a document he got traded to the A’s. It seemed odd at the time, since the A’s already had a pretty full outfield. But they got Smith pretty cheaply; Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso aren’t guys on whom championship teams are built.
While Smith has produced above-average numbers in two of the last three seasons, his primary virtue is production against right-handed pitching. Indeed, he holds one of the most stark platoon splits in baseball, producing a 125 wRC+ against righties and just 47 against lefties. That seems to fit in well with the Yankees’ current setup. That he can play the outfield helps a bit more.
The only issue with Smith is that the Yanks would still need someone to DH on days when Andruw Jones plays left field. Smith clearly cannot fill that role, so they’d have to do something like play Eduardo Nunez at 3B and use A-Rod as the DH. Since they pretty clearly want to use Nunez more, and want to get Alex more half-days at DH, that could actually prove a worthy solution.
I wrote about Brandon Allen’s case last month, so not much has changed. According to MLBTR’s latest list, however, Allen is indeed out of options. That both helps and hurts his trade case. It helps, because Oakland has to either play him or waive him. It hurts, because the same goes for any team to which they’d trade him. If Allen comes to camp and doesn’t impress, there’s not much the Yanks can do other than cut him. It’d be a shame to trade someone for him, then.
There’s definitely potential there, but Allen’s window of opportunity seems to be closing. Trading a living body for him doesn’t seem to be a wise idea right now. While he might get dished before then, if the Yanks are interested they’d be better off just waiting until the end of camp to see how the A’s manager their roster.
Less enticing and likely players
Sure, the A’s could turn around and trade Josh Reddick, whom they recently acquired from the Red Sox. But Reddick is the youngest of their current outfield crop, and has a bit of upside. It’s tough to see any motivation to trade him unless they get some overwhelming offers. Other teams might like Smith more, too, because he’s more of a proven talent.
Kila Ka’aihue has been hyped, at least by Royals bloggers, for a while. Problem is, he’s done nothing at the major league level. He also has just one position, first base, meaning he’d only occupy the DH spot for the Yankees. If he had shown some semblance of an ability to hit at the major league level then he’d be an intriguing option. But now he can likely be had for cheap after the A’s inevitably DFA him.
Daric Barton is another possibility. Trading him would help the A’s, because it would open up first base for Chris Carter, who has a bit more potential (at least in terms of power). He impressed in 2010, producing a 126 wRC+, mostly based on his .393 OBP. But he stumbled considerably in 2011, and didn’t even produce once sent down to AAA. He’s a reclamation project at best, and one who hasn’t produced much power — even in the PCL.
The A’s will make several roster moves between now and Opening Day, thanks to a logjam in the outfield and at 1B and DH. Problem is, they’re perpetually short of useful players. That makes it less likely that they’ll trade the player most enticing to the Yankees, Seth Smith. While the A’s have a number of players at the same position, Smith is the most proven of them. It’s nice to think about, since Smith does fit what the Yankees need, and will likely outproduce the current DH options they’re mulling. It’d be nice to raid the A’s roster, but the chances just don’t seem that strong.