Powell to be Non-Roster Invitee to Spring Training
Breaking up is hard to do – for some at least. The A’s continue to have trouble cutting ties with their light-hitting, only-available-for-a-backup-role-as-he-is-unable-to-start catcher Landon Powell. A few days after outrightng him to Sacramento a move which gave Powell the option of opting for free-agency Jane Lee of MLB.com tweets that he,
“has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A. He’ll be a non-roster invite to big league camp.”
Well zippa-dee-doo-dah, zippa-dee-ay. I have long advocated for the A’s to not have Powell be their backup catcher and time and time again he has proven why that thinking has been sound. He has had a straight trajectory downwards in his career, going from 0.7 WAR in 2009 to 0.1 in 2010 to -0.2 last year. I have been over these numbers before. I have refuted the claim that Powell suddenly brings a huge boost to the pitching staff as one of those beloved “pitcher’s catchers”. Why are we holding onto this guy? Especially at a $620K MLB salary – which while not high, seems needlessly high for a guy to play in Sacramento. And why are we holding on to this guy given we are carrying four catchers on the 40-man roster already?
The flip-side produces an equal amount of questions. Powell and his agent have to be concerned that the A’s won’t want to have Triple-A’s best compensated backstop and will release him prior to the start of the 2012 season thereby forgoing that $620K in a non-guaranteed contract that he has earned himself. Why not test the market to go somewhere we you have a better opportunity to play at the MLB level without four guys ahead of you on the depth chart? (While I think Powell would clearly be ahead of Derek Norris on the depth chart, his not being on the 40-man roster and Norris’ not being taken off of it, do provide an obstacle to Powell).
As I said last year, I’d like to see Josh Donaldson get the backup role. This winter he is playing with the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Republic (along with Graham Godfrey) and in time split between catcher and third base (much needed versatility for the A’s – though I believe Scott Sizemore will really capture that position and be a key piece of this team) owns a .286/.318/.413 slash line in 63 at bats. While his strikeout rate is very high (there is no information regarding plate appearances so a K% would be higher than it should be, and not enough data to figure out the plate appearances either – he has struck out 21 times) and walk rate low (he has walked just three times) the versatility alone and the fact that he isn’t served by another year at Sacramento where he put up an OK .348 wOBA and 95 wRC+ campaign that featured a .261/.344/.439 slash line with a 10.1% BB% and 19.9% K% in 503 plate appearances in 2011.
Why the A’s feel willing to keep Powell around at this inflated cost – and let’s put it into perspective: it does not take much to “earn” $620K in MLB baseball yet FanGraphs has his salary value being a combined negative $500,000 the past two seasons, with his $400K value in 2010 offset by a -$900,000 last year – is beyond me given that they do have other options who seem to be of equal quality. Powell will be a non-roster invitee to spring training.