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Allen Being Shopped, Gomes Being Bought

January 19, 2012

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.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Woody permalink
    January 20, 2012 2:30 pm

    Best baseball blog I have found on the internet yet. Keep up the good work!

    • January 20, 2012 3:08 pm

      Woody – Thank you very much for the kind words. I hope you check back frequently.

  2. Steven permalink
    January 20, 2012 2:47 pm

    outstanding! Sums up all of the incomprehesible moves being made by Billy and his boys lately.

    • January 20, 2012 3:09 pm

      I wish I could have a post on completely comprehensible moves with a clear motive towards fulfilling our long term goals but alas… I work with what I get. Thank you for commenting! Stop by again!

  3. Hungary4A'sNews permalink
    January 20, 2012 3:13 pm

    Every excellent analyst is using good objective techniques to understand this. But, come on! All (Cry)Wolfe and (Has)Beane want you to do is Embrace a NEW PARADIGM! This season the A’s are trying to Increase their Revenue Stream by…… wait for it….
    “Who the F@#% is # 62 ?…I dunno is on 3rd! ”

    oh what fun it is to think outside the box…..

  4. Hans permalink
    January 20, 2012 4:23 pm

    If we look at it a different way, we might be able to see some logic.
    1) Brandon Allen and Michael Taylor have not yet succeeded in the majors
    2) It is possible that they need “more seasoning”

    Just because we expect a prospect to get to the majors by a certain time, doesn’t mean they should. It seems to me that Beane is trying to buy time so that all of the pieces arrive at the same time, and you can control those productive assets for a minimal cost.

    Just because we think Taylor and Allen, etc., are ready, doesn’t mean that they should be up here, especially without other talent to give them the best chance to succeed. Trading Allen now for something in the future may make sense since it better coordinates the arrival of the best possible team.

    A possible parallel might be trading Carlos Pena to open a spot for Hatteburg. That deal makes no sense because you trade a future all-star, but it’s all about coordinating pieces so that you maximize your upward swings in potential.

    • January 20, 2012 4:37 pm

      Hans – Thanks for your comment. I understand your sentiment. However with these guys, especially Allen and Taylor how much more can they do at AAA? It sort is time for them to put up or be sent packing, yet with Allen we are sending him packing without even the benefit of seeing what he can do (and he is the “most” experienced of the lot at only 367 plate appearances). In terms of the waiting for them all to graduate at the same time so to speak, I see that as being a flaw in the way we go about this. On the podcast I am a co-host of we spoke with Sam Miller of the Orange County Register who said something to the effect that the A’s wait until everything is aligned perfectly. I think we let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If Allen develops a little ahead of schedule or behind schedule so be it. But right now we are basically setting up Taylor (Allen is out of options) to go to Sacramento, prove nothing more, and only move up if there is an injury. Not sure what that accomplishes for a long-term goal.

      I think the narrative (particularly in the movie, less so in the book) of Pena being moved to open room for Hatteberg misses the fact that in reality the A’s pulled off a trade that landed them a very good and cheap pitcher in Ted Lilly. Pena simply wasn’t producing at that point and Hatteberg was a decent option to put in there. Had Pena performed to the level that he did in subsequent years, Hatteberg would’ve still been riding the pine.

      I appreciate you stopping in and commenting and hope you drop by again! Love hearing from people especially with differing viewpoints, helps make things fun.

    • Slats permalink
      January 23, 2012 1:45 am

      I can’t imagine what value either of them has at this point. Allen looked to me for a short time like the guy the A’s have needed to handle that position. He has a decent glove, and he was hitting pretty well until everybody figured out the breaking ball down and in. If he can figure out that pitch, I think Allen’s very good.

      Taylor I didn’t get the same confidence for, but I like his size and speed and he can hit for power. Needs some refinement though for sure and he’s got very little MLB experience.

      The A’s have been busy with personnel moves all winter. Aside from the pitchers, Jai Miller suprised me. They just unloaded that guy for nothing. Baltimore bought out his contract for $45k and that is it. He’s in their mix to win a position, but his numbers don’t jive with what BB’s likes and he strikes out a ton.

      Just my $.02 but what value could Allen and Taylor even have at this point? If they ship Allen, do we get Barton back again? Ugh.

      • January 23, 2012 1:01 pm

        Thanks for commenting!

        I don’t think Allen or Taylor have any trade value at all. They do potentially have value to the team however. Both have SO little MLB experience but are getting to the point where they need time in MLB to prove they can stay or be dumped. Allen didn’t look impressive towards the end of his very short six week trial in Oakland, but again six weeks a career does not make and he proved athletic and smart on the basepaths which are nice bonuses if nothing else.

        Taylor, I think could be productive but again we have barely seen anything out of him and as with Allen what does another year in Sacramento really tell us?

        I am actually happy about the trade of Miller. To me getting $45K which buys you what – a couple thousand baseballs for Spring Training? – is icing. Miller would’ve struck out at prolific rates. His huge HR numbers in Sacramento were more in my mind the result of his being in Triple-A for the umpteenth year and the PCL being decidedly hitter friendly. Given that he was waived by both the Marlins and Royals in the past, it shouldn’t surprise his trade value was probably even less that of Allen or Taylor.

        I think Barton ought to have a chance to win back first base and think he will. He is a very good defender, he takes a lot of walks (though at times he waits on hittable pitches which is frustrating) and I think his shoulder injury which was present all season – even if he only went on the DL late in the year – is likely responsible for sapping him of all his power (and I say that as doubles/gap power not power power which he does not possess).

  5. Boris permalink
    January 20, 2012 10:56 pm

    Can you explain how the Colon signing ‘protects’ future players? Please forgive me if you’ve already blogged on this…first time reader.

    In my mind, the Colon signing is just as ridiculous as the Crisp or Smith moves.

    And don’t get me started on signing Manny or Gomes.

    • January 20, 2012 11:23 pm

      Welcome! Thank you for reading and hopefully you stop by again soon! I did explain it in this post but to quickly summarize: the A’s have a lot of young arms and you don’t want them to be forced to be in the rotation because you have no choice. Now Colon was signed prior to the trade of Moscoso and Outman and when he was signed he would’ve ensured the A’s had the option of keeping guys like Milone, Parker or Peacock in Sacramento. Now, it seems more likely at least two of those guys find themselves in the rotation but Colon’s existence at least spares one of them addition rotation time.

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