Allen Being Shopped, Gomes Being Bought
Today we learn from Jerry Crasnick of ESPN that the A’s are looking to shop first baseman Brandon Allen whom the club acquired a mere five and a half months ago in the trade that sent Brad Ziegler to the deserts of Arizona. He tweets,
“The Athletics are shopping 1B Brandon Allen, says a BB source. No room for him with all the other young bats they’ve added.”
This comes just a few days after the acquisition of Seth Smith and a few weeks following the recent reacquisition of Coco Crisp – two moves I strongly objected to. The Smith move obviously added to a logjam of semi-useful parts that looked to block potential pieces of future contenders, Allen who is athletic enough to play left field but who has been a first baseman is the obvious victim of this. With the outfield clogged, first base and designated hitter became his only avenues for playing time and he would’ve faced winning one of two spots with Daric Barton, Chris Carter and Kila Ka’aihue. As with the recent Smith trade my anger isn’t so much from the participants of any move it is with understanding the purpose of the move at all. I was confused why we’d deal Allen despite his not showing us that much in his roughly six week tryout, because he is someone who can help us out potentially going forward. But now he is being shipped and to add insult to injury we get a report from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle this afternoon that,
“Petaluma’s favorite son, Jonny Gomes, is so close to signing a contract with the A’s ‘he could be in green and gold by Monday,’ and a second source confirmed that a deal is likely.”
So let’s recap. This month the A’s had seemingly one starting outfielder: Josh Reddick, yet they had a whole host of young guys who could potentially be outfielders. Guys like Collin Cowgill and Michael Taylor. On top of that they had some guys who just should perhaps get a look at the MLB level before giving up on them altogether, guys like Adrian Cardenas and Jermaine Mitchell. Then we had a whole slew of AAAA types like Cedric Hunter, Brandon Moss and Jason Pridie. Those guys a World Championship do not make, but they fill the spot – they let us get a look at young talent at the MLB level while being able to cycle them out of there if they find themselves overwhelmed. After all the 2012 edition of the Oakland Athletics was not expecting to compete for much of anything if anything at all. So the club had the dual bonus of watching these guys and seeing if they are pieces for future contention or determining they weren’t all the while being able to have a season poor enough to secure a top five draft pick. That idea is sort of shattered and replaced with something that I don’t know what to make of.
Last year in split time between Cincinnati and Washington, Gomes had a 1.5 WAR season despite a strange slash line (.209/.325/.389) in 372 plate appearances largely impacted by a low .259 BABIP. He had his first ever season yielding a positive result fielding, but his .319 wOBA and 98 wRC+ did not help him raise his WAR by much. Gomes looks like someone who could platoon with Smith, as the right-handed Gomes hits lefties far better than righties with his career split being .281/.375/.501 against southpaws to just .224/.306/.427 against right-handed pitchers. That split was much more dramatic in 2011 when he hit lefties at a .311/.407/.456 clip but struggled to a .167/.292/.362 mark against right-handed hurlers. So yes, it appears that one can safely assume that despite yesterday’s very good post on Athletics Nation and despite what Billy Beane has said, that the A’s will be doing a platoon in left-field. In other words, the A’s are using two players to do what most teams can do with just one – man left field.
By platooning two relative veterans in left field, having a veteran in center and young starter in right field, the A’s have assured themselves of leaving not enough plate appearances to give much of a look to Michael Taylor or Collin Cowgill. Now while Baseball America discussed Cowgill as possibly destined to being a fourth outfielder in their 2011 Prospects Handbook I’d have felt more comfortable letting him fall into that role rather than just starting him there. Before the A’s signed Crisp and were rumored to be looking at Cody Ross I wrote this about the lack of plate appearances to go around,
“Last year, the A’s outfield shared 2,082 plate appearances. Of them the three starters (Josh Willingham in left, Coco Crisp in center and David DeJesus in right) took up 1,474 of them or 70.8%. If you add Hideki Matsui into the mix as he was a starter who basically swapped off with Josh Willingham that number jumps to 1,592 or 76.5% of the total. I assume Ross by signing a one-year deal as a 31 year old would want to play as much as possible and not be relegated to riding the pine as he watches Collin Cowgill out there, so let’s say he gets about 535 plate appearances (which his average over the past four seasons). That’s over a quarter of all outfield plate appearances, so yes in theory plenty to go around, but Josh Reddick takes up another quarter, and then who gets another quarter? Conceivably it could be a Brandon Allen pushed out of first by a Daric Barton or out of the designated hitter spot by a Chris Carter? Less playing time to see what we can expect out of Mitchell or Michael Taylor now isn’t it?”
That was with just one guy being thrown into the mix, in that case the hypothetical Ross, who ended up really being Crisp who signed days later. Since I wrote that in addition to Crisp Smith was added and now apparently Gomes too meaning the playing time and opportunities have been severely curtailed. One can argue that Gomes is trade bait but don’t expect Gomes to yield much if he is a deadline deal either. Last year when shipped from Cincinnati across the Alleghenies to Washington he yielded two prospects who John Sickels of Minor League Ball described as having
“average stuff, throwing an 86-89 MPH fastball along with an average slider and curve,” (Christopher Manno)
and as possessing tools that are,
“mediocre.” (Bill Rhinehart)
What is Beane thinking with these moves? There was an interesting piece the other day by Grant Brisbee at Baseball Nation and in it he compared the Houston Astros’ rebuild approach to Oakland’s (this coming after the Smith trade),
“The Astros are rebuilding, as are the A’s, but the two organizations are going about it in very different ways. The A’s aren’t burning the team to the foundations and playing any guy with a scintilla of promise, hoping to win the surprise-breakout lottery. They’re putting together an interesting team. The Astros are looking for raffle tickets until they can rebuild the farm. Both are viable strategies. The A’s will be more watchable, but they won’t automatically have the quickest path to contention. Whatever they’re doing over there, it’s sort of fascinating.”
This sums up well how I feel in a way. In describing what the Astros are doing he describes what I wish the A’s were doing. Seth Smith does not help us do what I want. Jonny Gomes certainly does not help us do what I want. Trading Brandon Allen without fully assessing what we have – just 367 career plate appearances of 0.0 WAR, .210/.297/.383 slash line baseball – does not help us do what I want. The Bartolo Colon signing does because it protects the players we want to have being our future. These moves on offense just relegate our potential future hitters to Sacramento. The game plan seemed to make sense when we were making our December trades unloading our team to reload. Now the moves on offense in January just make us look like a befuddled team that doesn’t know what they want to do. I like Brisbee’s descriptions but disagree with his assessment, because this isn’t a viable strategy, this is Oakland botching a rebuild.