Depending on where you fall on the spectrum of belief in Brett Wallace’s ability to stick at third base, wide ranging opinions- from “I love this trade!” to “WTF Who is going to be our future 3B’man now?- are both acceptable and to be expected.
I was in the camp that believed Brett Wallace would be able to play passable- slightly below-average- defense for a 2-3 year stretch before having to move to 1B/DH. Still, I found great value in the prospect of Wallace being able to stick at 3B, theoretically, for that stretch because it would A) provide enough time to see if Daric Barton can reach his potential, and B) provide enough time to see if Carter can play in the outfield/anywhere but DH.
Despite my relatively pro Wallace can play third base stance, I am very excited about this Michael Taylor trade for multiple reasons:
1) By acquiring Michael Taylor, the Oakland Athletics now boast the best combo of power hitting prospects in the MLB.
2) This trade alleviates the potential problem of the A’s having to choose between Cardenas and Weeks- Weeks is now (again, theoretically) our future at 2B, and Cardenas is now our number 1 internal option to play 3B.
3) Defensively, any way you cut it, not having Brett Wallace at 3B is a huge potential bonus and will give our young pitchers a much better chance to succeed. (I think this reason heavily influenced Beane’s decision to end the Wallace 3B experiment- but I have no basis for that contention so I am open to hearing differing opinions).
4) This trade means that we will not see a Jake Fox 3B experiment. This is somewhat in concert with reasons 2 (Cardenas, not fox, 3B of the future) and 3 (Beane won’t accept mediocre defense at 3B). Some of you may feel that this increases the chances that we will see Jake Fox at 3B, at some point- but like I said, if Beane wanted to sacrifice defense for a potential power bat at third, Wallace is their guy.
Going back to reason 1, this is what excites me most about this trade- the pairing of Carter and Taylor. It is very reasonable to debate who is the better overall offensive duo (Carter/Wallace or Carter/Taylor). However, from a power standpoint, Carter/Taylor is a better offensive threat and, IMO, the best prospect combo in any organization- and is it even close? (in terms of power potential)
1) Carter/Taylor- both have massive frames and 30+ HR potential (Carter possibly 40 HR potential).
2) Mike Stanton/Logan Morrison- Stanton has 40 HR potential, but Morrison- despite being a top overall prospect- may not even become a perennial 20+ HR’s per year player.
3) Travis Snider/ Brett Wallace- With Kyle Blanks losing his prospect status last season, Decker/Blanks will be able to give the new tag-team duo of Snider/Wallace are the new uuuuuuundisputed husky-weightttttt cccccchampionssss of the worldddddd!!!!! (channeling Michael Buffer)…. As far as power potential, I think Carter/Taylor hold the advantage.
4) Jason Heyward/Freddie Freeman- Heyward has as much raw power as anyone else on this list; Freeman has the frame and is a very young developing prospect- but he has yet to show that he has 30 or, even, 25+ HR potential.
5) Matt Laporta/ Nick Weglarz- I may actually be underrating this duo, based on power potential.
I could make a case for Carter/Taylor being the best offensive prospect combination, overall- though it’s certainly debatable. However, I think it is not much of a debate when the strict criterion is power potential.
In order to understand, in abstract terms, the potential benefits from this trade; I think it is helpful to Juxtapose a potential, say, 2011-2012 batting lineup with Taylor and one with Wallace.
1. Jemile Weeks 2B 1. Weeks/ Cardenas- 2B
2. Adrian Cardenas 3B 2. Ryan Sweeney- CF
3. Michael Taylor 3. Brett Wallace- 3B
4. Chris Carter RF 4. Chris Carter- RF
5. Jake Fox- DH 5. Jake Fox- DH
6. Daric Barton- 1B 6. Daric Barton- 1B
7. Ryan Sweeney- CF 7. Sean Doolittle- LF
8. Kurt Suzuki- C 8. Kurt Suzuki- C
9. Grant Green- SS 9. Grant Green- SS
Now, I want to stress POTENTIAL LINEUP to avoid anyone getting too fixated on whether they feel Grant Desme will overtake Ryan Sweeney; whether Jake Fox will develop enough power/offense to be our DH of the future; whether Carter can play the outfield; etc.
With that out of the way, let’s try to look at what these lineups give us- and what they don’t. Certainly, in both lineups, you see a collection of potentially strong hitters across the board from slots 1 through 9. However, the lineup with Brett Wallace does two things that cause me to say, theoretically, this might be an inferior future lineup, offensively.
The first, and most apparent, is Brett Wallace in the third slot versus Michael Taylor in the 3rd slot. Brett Wallace, as we know, is a prospect who is potentially capable of hitting 25+ home runs. However, a worry of mine has been that he will not develop that kind of power (playing in the coliseum) and, subsequently, fall into the category of a Barton/Sweeney type- who we hope will develop enough pure hitting skills to make up for a lack of power. While this type of hitter still has significant value- Ideally, I think you want that type of offensive production sitting in the 6-9 slots, instead of the 3-5 slots.
With Taylor, He seems to stand a much better chance at reaching his power potential (30+ HR) while offering a similarly well-rounded offensive game that would allow him to develop into a middle-of-the-order bat. There is no individual offensive category in which you could say, definitively, that Wallace has the edge over Taylor. Conversely, you can say, definitively, that Taylor has better power potential and speed. In essence, I give Taylor a better shot at becoming a true 3-5 hitter than Wallace.
The second, less discernable, advantage to the potential lineup, with Taylor, is the prospect of Weeks and Cardenas batting 1 and 2. I think this duo at the top of the order could potentially be just as important as the Carter/Taylor duo- as ideal table-setters. Weeks (hopefully injuries don’t erode his SB potential) profiles as an ideal leadoff hitter who is capable of hitting for average, drawing tons of walks, avoiding strikeouts, stealing 25-30 bases (maybe more), and hitting for decent power. When healthy, he has proven to be a well-rounded hitter and someone who will help to maximize the opportunities Carter/Taylor will have to drive in runs.
IMO, Cardenas could be potentially lethal as an ideal number 2 hitter- with the speed threat of Weeks in front of him and the power threats of Carter/Taylor behind him. The one plus trait that Cardenas has displayed throughout his minor league career is his hit tool. In the event that Weeks got on in front of him- and the potential for a SB was in effect; that combined with the pitcher’s desire not to face Carter/Taylor with one man in scoring position and/or two men on would significantly increase the likelihood that Cardenas would see a heavy dose of fastball’s/pitches in the strikezone. Now, you can argue that tons of players would be able to prosper in said situation. But I feel that Cardenas- as someone who many feel projects as a perennial .300+ average hitter- is ideally suited for this situation. This is because he is more likely to capitalize on hittable pitches than a player who gets on base, overall, at the same clip- but does it through drawing a heavier dose of walks. In this situation, a single is more valuable than a walk due to the fact that a single creates a 1st and 3rd opportunity for Carter/Taylor- as opposed to the runners on 1st and 2nd opportunity, created by a walk.
Sweeney- known to AN as Swingles- could also potentially fill in nicely in that role. However, his propensity to sometimes consistently hit weak grounders to the right side of the infield creates more double play opportunities- which, subsequently, makes him a less ideal two-hole hitter than Cardenas.
As well, defensively, the lineup across the board seems to be superior as Cardenas should be a much more passable defender at third, than Wallace and Taylor versus Doolittle in LF is, at the very least, a wash and probably an advantage for Taylor (depending on how much his frame 6’6 250 limits his range as he gets older).
Lastly, I understand that having a right-handed trio of Taylor/Carter/Fox hitting in succession is not ideal. However, I think that Beane would find away to add a middle-of-the-order lefty bat via free agency or through trades and the potential trade chips of Desme/Doolittle/Stassi/Brown/Donaldson would give him more than enough ammunition to find a DH/Corner Outfielder/1B/3B who could fill that role.
In conclusion, I feel this trade minimizes risk- that if Wallace can’t play third, we have a glut of 1B/DH types; allows for a better potential lineup, defensively; and, most importantly, it creates more power potential at the heart of the order.
I would posit that this trade creates much more clarity about how things could potentially fall into place in the not-so-distant-future. The reality is prospects fail and things tend not to shake out how we foresee them (hence, my emphasis on preceding multiple statements with “potentially” or “theoretically”). With that said, I am sure Beane will have to make one or two future pickups in order to solidify the lineup across the board. However, with Weeks/Cardenas and Carter/Taylor and a slew of other solid young players/prospects in place; the foundation for a powerful and diversified offense should come to fruition.
So, AN, what should Beane focus on doing next to ensure that the A’s BECOME the offensive and Pitching force they project to be?
Is the next step, for Beane, to refocus on drafting high ceiling college pitching early in the draft?
Should the A’s now make a strong push at getting Aroldis Chapman?- now that we are hearing that his contract will likely be in the 20 million range instead of the initial 40 million we were hearing….
Should Beane determine which prospects/ young players will likely be spare parts and try to acquire a top-of-the-rotation ace or another 30+ HR threat?
Or would Beane be wise to resist his inner “itch” to wheel and deal and just focus on making small/low-risk acquisitions and trades?... Trading Hairston?