Wednesday, December 17, 2003

A lot of IFs

Well the A’s decided not to pick up Scott Spiezio and traded for some light-hitting catcher from Montreal. Adam Melhuse is looking better all the time. Michael Barrett reminds me of Mark Johnson. Johnson Was acquired by the A’s last year in the Keith Foulke deal. He was supposed to be the guy who gave Ramon some time off and could provide some pop off the bench. He spent most of the year at triple A after getting beat out by Melhuse. Barrett’s numbers from last year are unimpressive (.208/10/30/) and he doesn’t even have the high OBP (.280), or patience (21BB vs. 37K) that the A’s usually look for.

But I’m not here to talk about catchers, I’m here to talk about infielders. First off, didn’t the A’s offer 97M over like 8 years to Giambi? But they couldn’t find 70M for Tejada, a younger player with no injury history, who plays everyday, and has been in the system since he was 16? That’s bull-shit. I was resigned to losing Tejada until I realized that the market is down and no one is getting A-Rod/ Manny numbers anymore. Tejada is just as good as Giambi at the plate, and better in the field. The A’s should have at least tried to keep him. I guess they figured that a fan base, desensitized after the departures of Giambi, Izzy, Damon, etc. would just accept the “small market” argument again. Fact is, the A’s should have been able to keep one of their top FAs. Instead the fans get jobbed again. I’m pissed. These moves had better be a precursor to some thing else (i.e. keeping Chavy, or the Big Three). For me it all goes back to MLB denying the sale of the franchise to the Dolich group. Dolich and George Zimmer wanted to turn the franchise around, stop crying about money and lobby hard for a new stadium, “I guarantee it.”

But, I digress. The point is, the A’s still need middle infield help. They cannot go into the season with untested Bobby Crosby as the starter, and Rookie Esteban German as the primary backup, and Frank Menechino who has shown he can’t handle the job on a full time basis. They need a veteran who can eat up some ABs, pinch hit, play some D in the late innings and tutor the kids. I took the liberty of looking at the available FA IFs who might be able to help. Below are their offensive stats (BA/HR/RBI/OBP/OPS/AB), followed by their fielding percentage, last year’s salary and my comments. Almost all these guys are likely to make less this year than they did in 2003.

Jay Bell: .181/00/03/.319/.504/(116AB) [.968] {550K}
--Bell is old. His offensive numbers blow, but the fact that his OBP and OPS are much higher than his average is encouraging. Also, he’s still decent in the field where a lot of younger players struggle. Not a bad, cheap, late inning defensive replacement, give a guy a day off, occasional pinch hitter type. Did I mention he’s really cheap?

Royce Clayton: .228/11/39/.301/.634/(483AB) [.977] {1.50M}
--This is one of the few guys who could really help out. First off he’s a SS, the position where the A’s are thinnest (Ellis, Menechino, and German are 2Bs). His offensive and defensive numbers are decent, if not spectacular.

Pokey Reese: .215/01/12/.271/.533/(107AB) [.969] {1.75M}
--I advocated for the A’s to pick this guy up two years ago when he was a hot young player for the Reds. He’s dropped off severely since then. Reese can play both middle infield positions and he was a decent lead-off hitter in Cincy. If the A’s feel like they can rehab his swing, and his D he might be worth a shot. Ron Washington is a pretty good IF coach, if the price is right Pokey could be a Jim Plunkett type reclamation project.

Eric Young: .251/15/34/.336/.727/(475AB) [.976] {2.00M}
--Ah EY. Once the pride of LA, young has fallen on hard times. It’s hard being traded to Milwaukee. Still EY had the best offensive numbers out of this group (aside from Aurilia) and is better than most of these guys defensively too. He’s an A’s type guy with a good OPS and a OBP much higher then his batting average.

Mark McLemore: .233/02/37/.318/.632/(309AB) [.974] {3.15M}
--Can you believe this guy is 39? Though his offensive numbers were down last year McLemore is another Tony Phillips type guy. He can play both middle IF positions as well some OF. Another guy worth a shot if the price is right.

Rich Aurilia: .277/13/58/.325/.735/(505AB) [.974] {4.25M}
--The attraction here would be getting guy who doesn’t have to move. Aurilia is a super long shot to go to Oakland. He’s too good, and will command too much money (though 5M for him is still less than 12M for Tejada). I would look for Rich to end up either A) where ever Nomar doesn’t get traded (Anaheim?), or in St Louis. Detroit is also looking for a SS to go with newly signed Fernando Vina. Aurilia would be a good fit for Oakland, but he’ll get a better deal elsewhere.

Tony Womack: .226/02/22/.251/.558/(349AB) [.988] {4.50M}
--What happened to this guy? He was a darling in Arizona, and now he’s bounced around a bit. Womack is another one who could play both middle IF positions and some outfield if needed. He can lead off, though his OBP was awful last year. On the plus side he has a good FP. Wouldn’t be my first choice, but not bad.

Fernando Tatis: .194/02/15/.280/.543/(175AB) [.968] {5.25M}
--Remember when this guy hit two grand slams in one inning? Me either. Guess Chan Ho really is that bad. Tatis has slid drastically. He had some very good years in St. Louis and looked like a rising star (hence the contract). Tatis would be a major reclamation, far more so than Reese. His offensive stats from last year are reprehensible, and his D wasn’t that much better. Still, if the price is right...

So how do these guys compare to our current back ups?

Frank Menechino: .193/02/09/.364/.630/(83AB) [.667]
--Worst year ever. Frankie, fan favorite, had a terrible year and limited opportunities to turn it around. The guy hasn’t been the same since Mark Ellis blew by him on the depth chart.

Esteban German: .205/00/01/.295/.500/(39AB) [.982]
--These are German’s career numbers over two cups of coffee in ‘02 and ‘03. Apparently he can play some D. But he hasn’t had to do over a full season. The A’s used to have the luxury of bringing new players along slowly (see Tejada 1997-1999) but now the weight of expectation is upon them. Us fans want the playoffs! We want a championship before the Big Three head to NY, LA, and Boston.

So, who gets Sir Rantalot’s endorsement? Excluding Aurilia as the longest of long shots I vote for either Eric Young or Royce Clayton. Both guys have decent offensive numbers. Offensively Young edges Clayton with a better AVG and a better OBP. Clayton edges Young defensively because he plays a premium defensive position where the A’s are starting a rookie and could use a veteran presence. The second tier consists of Reese (because I refuse to give up on him), Womack, McLemore (good D), Tatis and Bell, in that order. That said, I would be surprised if the A’s sign any of these guys. If they miss the playoffs due to poor play from their young middle infielders I’ll point back to this article and say, “I told you so.” If they win the series (or any playoff series) well, then that’s why Billy Beane has his job, and I’m unemployed.
10:09 pm est

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