What Just Happened Here?
“it was not even a year ago that when with the Rangers, the signing of Adrian Beltre booted Moscoso off the Rangers’ 40-man roster which prefaced the eventual trade to Oakland a few days later. The A’s have an opportunity to truly maximize this deal by taking the one-year of solid (albeit superficially solid – but ultimately that is what counts) pitching and then turning that around into a player who can exceed Moscoso’s ability going forward – which ought not be too difficult.”
As recently as yesterday I wrote the following talking about our lack of starting rotation depth,
“While the line of thinking on the internet is that the A’s have a lot of starting pitching depth they really did not. Not when you actually looked at it. Before this signing, it seemed like Brandon McCarthy who was last year’s “won the 5th starter job in Spring Training” guy would be the top of the rotation pitcher for the A’s. For all my disbelief that what we saw from Guillermo Moscoso last year can be replicated he appeared to be the number two as Dallas Braden another pitcher you could put in either of those slots likely won’t be ready by Opening Day but hopefully is sometime in April. So for the sake of this argument we could’ve argued to stick him in as one of the top three and go to starter number four, is it Josh Outman? Graham Godfrey?”
“The A’s interest to me is a bit puzzling, while yes given that the A’s were only at five outfielders on the 40-man roster at the time of that quote [referring to the A's interest in Smith a few days prior], and now are down to just four, the A’s could certainly use the services of an outfielder, it seems silly during a rebuild to trade for one who doesn’t seem to be a part of long-term plans.”
Well, the A’s front-office sort of agrees with me but then goes in the complete opposite direction with how I would sort things out. Today, Billy Beane traded Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman to Colorado in exchange for Seth Smith. [insert skipping record noise here].
There was a time when dealing Moscoso high seemed to make good sense. That time was in October when it seemed like Cahill by virtue of his long-term deal would stay and Gio would be the pitcher we built our new contender around (sort of like what the M’s are doing hanging onto Felix Hernandez through their rebuild). Then it made sense to deal Moscoso, but today when he is our number three starter and a guy we can throw out there every five days without great concern about whether or not he will thrive or nosedive that move doesn’t seem so smart. Then there was Outman. I’ve never been much of a fan of his, but he is a plucky left-hander who looked to be a piece of the 2012 A’s rotation back-end or a long man in relief. Now neither are A’s. Instead of getting good young pieces that can be a part of the A’s core in 2015, the A’s acquired Smith.
Now I have no problem with Smith the ballplayer, but I do have a problem with this decision (long-time readers will love how I now yearn to keep Moscoso won’t they?). As I wrote in December and is quoted above summed up – is Smith really a part of long-term plans for this ballclub? Yesterday, Smith avoided arbitration with the Rox signing a one-year $2.415M deal which now goes onto Oakland’s ledger. He is eligible to become a free-agent after the 2014 season, or right about when the A’s are to be contending again – which means now all of our potential future players seem quickly and efficiently blocked now by an outfield of Smith, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick. Smith, a left-handed hitter, is likely more of a platoon option, he hit righties to the tune of a .300/.366/.527 with a .378 wOBA and 130 wRC+ whereas he hit fellow southpaws to an ugly tune of .217/.272/.304 with an anemic .256 wOBA and microscopic 46 wRC+. I assume the left-field platoon now consists of the right-handed Collin Cowgill or Michael Taylor in versus left-handers. But then really does this help any of them become future starting outfielders? Or is that the point, that they don’t have a future as starters with this team?
Further down the line what does this deal say about the future of first base/designated hitter. There will now assuredly be two odd-men out, as left-field no longer seems an option for Brandon Allen. Daric Barton, Chris Carter and Kila Ka’aihue, along with Allen, all have to fight it out for just two spots and maybe a third as a defensively challenged bench option. If we were to stockpile outfielders, I would not have such a big problem with it were they to be outfielders for the future fighting it out to see who will rise to the top and win that job and be the A’s outfielder who leads us back to contention in a few years – but now it seems we have at least two-and-a-half outfielders by acquiring the destined-for-a-platoon role Smith.
And just lamenting the acquisition of Smith only accounts for half of the trade. Look at what we gave up to acquire someone so ill-suited to play a good number of games based upon the handedness of an opposing starter. In Guillermo Moscoso, we gave up a valuable piece, not necessarily because he is a great pitcher, but because he was someone we could count on to go out and pitch regardless of results, and important thing on a rebuilding club. Moscoso had numbers that made one wonder how he gets it all together and makes it work with an ERA at 3.38 and FIP at 4.23 and and xFIP at 5.02. I’ll leave it to a Colorado Rockies blog to figure out why at Coors Field they’d want a pitcher who allowed the most fly balls of any pitcher in based with at least Moscoso’s 128 innings – 55.5%! – that was 6.5% higher than the next most flyball friendly pitcher in the Rangers’ Colby Lewis. But that was Moscoso, he gave up very few home runs for the amount of flyballs he allowed (6.2% HR/FB) and his artificially low BABIP (.221) all but assured that there’d be more hits and his fly ball tendency all but assured there’d be more home runs, so I expected a 2012 from Moscoso that was more 5.02 than 3.38. But I was OK with that – because Oakland wasn’t contending. Now, with Moscoso gone it seems more likely that one of our newly acquired pitchers ends up in the rotation – I am fine with it being Tommy Milone, less alright if it is starting the service clock on one of the others – and that is even without the fact that one person contending for the rotation in Outman was also included.
How could Moscoso by himself not be enough to land the likes of Smith, someone Colorado shopped all winter? But no, they required the services of Josh Outman too. Outman’s achilles heel has always been his poor control, but looking at the numbers that seems to be more a figment of my imagination than reality as his career walk rate in parts of three seasons with the A’s is a respectable 3.3 BB/9. In his 151 1/3 innings which came across 33 games, 25 of them starts, Outman had a decent 3.75 ERA with a 4.01 FIP that seems more inline with his ability. He hasn’t overpowered guys with just 6.4 K/9 but a decent 0.8 HR/9 offset that and allowed him to post decent numbers despite a basically where you’d expect them .289 BABIP and 72.6% strand rate. Now, there was a bit of a hiccup to Outman as recovering from injury last year he did have his K/9 slump to 5.4 with his BB/9 rise to 3.6 but still it worked out to a decent 3.70 ERA and 3.90 FIP. As a left-handed pitcher, under team control, one could make the fair argument that he straight up for Smith too would not have been necessarily outside the realm of possibility.
All said and done this move is two-fold bothersome. Firstly, the A’s did not need another outfielder, especially if said outfielder is one who merely fills a gap for the three presumed non-contending seasons of 2012 through 2014, which is exactly what they got in Smith. Secondly, looking at the trade just on the face of it and who the participants were it seems the A’s also managed to overpay for this unneeded resource. I am sort of mystified at this deal and wonder if it serves as a precursor for another one? The A’s now do not have a 40-man roster jam as the signing of Bartolo Colon yesterday and removal of two players in Moscoso and Outman, with return of Smith keeps them at an even forty – but that is the only “fringe benefit” I can currently see in this strange trade. Just how high is this supposed salary floor?