The A's Second Base Problem

Just a quick primer on why the A's are stuck between rocks and hard places, without much soil in between, when it comes to 2B.

We all hope Mark Ellis, the longest-tenured Athletic, an extraordinary fielder and consummately professional player and person, can find the hitting stroke that made him worthy of starting every day at 2B. If he simply can't, however, and continues to hit around .181 too much longer -- and perhaps more importantly, continues to look every bit like a .181 hitter -- then the A's will need to look at other options.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, Adrian Cardenas is no longer playing on the infield either at 3B or 2B. Perhaps he is no longer in the 2B mix simply because that position is blocked at AAA by Jemile Weeks. Perhaps he is no longer there because the A's just don't feel he can handle the position well enough to play there in the big leagues. Whatever the reason, the reality is that the A's could not call up Cardenas to play 2B because to do so would be to put him at a position he hasn't played lately, knowing that when he did play there he was not considered a sure bet to stick there. A pity, because Cardenas is tearing up AAA to the tune of a .361/.415/.496 line and it goes without saying (or would have) that the A's could use another good bat in the lineup.

So that leaves you with Jemile Weeks, who is also thriving at the plate in AAA (.330/.429/.491) and profiles as a better 2B than Cardenas does. Weeks has also been playing there all season. Now 24, Weeks is old enough, and has enough minor league experience by years, to be deemed "ready" or "not rushed" as a prospect, though on the flip side injuries have cost him so many games each previous season that he has actually appeared in only 202 minor league games, logging 796 total ABs. But still, it's enough that he could be considered ready and it wouldn't be a huge stretch.

 

Trouble is, what do you do with Mark Ellis? Ellis is limited because as good as he is at 2B he is not able to play SS or 3B and as a result is not an option to slide into a backup infielder role. If he's not your every day starting 2Bman, he's probably released altogether without much room in between.

And if you cut ties with Ellis, you are banking on Weeks not only being ready but also on Weeks staying healthy, and history suggests that is not necessarily a good risk. Perhaps he would only need to be healthy until Adam Rosales returns, but as Kendrys Morales, Rich Harden, and countless others will tell you, you might want to see full health before you depend on the timeline. Your recovery time and recovery level may vary.

What does all of this add up to? Perhaps that the A's will stick with Ellis, through thick and thin, at least until Rosales' return is imminent. Or maybe that the time Ellis has to turn things around is strongly correlated with a AAA coach's call to the A's saying, "Jemile's ready for a one-way ticket to Oakland."

Ellis' lack of versatility on the infield may actually be working to his advantage right now, because he can't lose his full-time job without losing his job entirely. Or it may be that the longest tenured Athletics' tenure is on the verge of ending -- something you feel each time you catch Ellis' eyes after he sees another infield pop up, weak bouncer to 2B, or swinging strike three.

All I know is that I cannot overstate how much I love watching him play 2B and I find myself appreciating each great play he makes as if it were his last -- because someday soon, and maybe very soon, I think it probably will be.

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