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A’s Acquire Chris Young from DBacks

October 20, 2012

The A’s pulled off a surprising trade today as they sent longtime shortstop Cliff Pennington and shortstop prospect Yordy Cabrera to Arizona in exchange for outfielder Chris Young and $500K cold hard cash.

Pennington, one of the longer tenured A’s, has been with the club since he was drafted out of Texas A&M in the 1st Round (21st overall pick) of the 2005 draft. Pennington in his A’s career played in 525 games, amassing a .249/.313/.356 slash line with 24 home runs in 525 games across 1,954 plate appearances. During his time in the green and gold he was worth 7.3 wins above replacement with a .299 wOBA and 86 wRC+. In 2012 he had well noted struggles, having a career worst year though he rebounded at the end to make it a far better campaign than it had been looking like it would be ending with a .215/.278/.311 slash line for a .263 wOBA and 65 wRC+ in 462 plate appearances. The opening day shortstop was displaced by Stephen Drew, but later took over in a platoon at second base helping the A’s down the stretch to clinch their division title. Penny was a bright spot in the playoffs, hitting .286/.412/.286 (4-for-14)  against Detroit in the ALDS as the starting second baseman. I wish Pennington the best of luck as I always have felt he plays the game the way it should be and he ought to be an asset in Arizona.

The other piece the A’s dealt was Cabrera, who ultimately was then forwarded on by the Diamondbacks to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Heath Bell – which seems a very light price for Arizona to pay for such a frontline closer but that is best left for a DBacks or Marlins blog to dissect. Cabrera, a shortstop was ranked by Baseball America as the A’s 15th best prospect in their 2012 Prospect Handbook, where they cited his “above-average power potential”. He spent the year in Stockton of the Cal League playing in 60 games, hitting a disappointing .232/.293/.332 slashline with just three home runs in 239 plate appearances. During that stretch he had a middling 6.7% BB%, with a very high 28.5% K%. In his entire MiLB career he has hit .230/.297/.351 with nine home runs in 660 plate appearances striking out a shocking 27.7% trips to the plate. He missed significant time this season with a right hip strain.

The player the A’s acquired was arguably the best player in the deal (even if you count the extended deal with Miami as part of this trade) in Young. Young, who has two years remaining on his contract ($8.5M for 2013 and an $11M option for 2014, with a $1.5m buyout) has been a .239/.318/.437 hitter since making his MLB debut in 2006. During that time he has been worth 16.3 WAR and had a wOBA of .329 with a wRC+ of 95. In 3,588 plate appearances he has 132 home runs, has walked 10.0% of the time and K’d in 22.7% of his trips to the plate. A lot of his value is wrapped up in his defense which has routinely been superb by both the eye test and advanced defensive metrics. In 2012, he was worth 2.8 WAR for Arizona, hitting .231/.311/.434 with 14 home runs in 363 plate appearances as he missed time with injuries.

The move creates an outfield surplus for Oakland. It seriously leaves in question whether or not the A’s will re-sign Jonny Gomes and I think it especially leaves in jeopardy Coco Crisp staying with the club. The outfield now seems like it could be comprised of Yoenis Cespedes in left, Young in center and Josh Reddick in right. Likewise this move alters the infield picture. It seems likely the A’s pick up their side of the mutual option with Drew (one has to wonder if he has given the team an indication of which way he is leaning given they just cut their shortstop depth by dealing Pennington) and if Jemile Weeks has totally fallen out of favor with the A’s front office Scott Sizemore also is an option at second base, his natural position.

So do I like the move? For the offensively challenged A’s, even this year they still struggled with strikeouts (an affliction that Young has), and they struggled with a low batting average (an affliction that Young has) and so on… Young is yet another great defense/mediocre bat outfielder. Granted that was what many, including myself expected out of Reddick who surpassed expectations. I do like that the move clears the way for the A’s to deal Crisp, and what could come of him is unclear but I think that is an addition by subtraction situation for Oakland. The move is not a huge financial burden and while I will truly miss Pennington, his bat did not profile as well as Drew’s (though it came at a relative pittance in price) and Young does look to be an exciting player to watch. With how the A’s cobbled together this team with chewing gum and popsicle sticks to win a division title (yes, let’s repeat that again, a division title) I cannot question the motives of Billy Beane at all and if I have any confusion over this move, must realize there is a greater plan at play that I fail to understand. Overall I like it, little risk, lot of upside, can’t go wrong getting a player entering his prime who has shown a lot of spark.

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