Potential Implications of the Chris Young Trade

In the wake of the trade for Chris Young, the A's front office quickly made it clear that this offseason will be anything but quiet as in initially expected. This might be unsettling to some A's fans who were hoping that the 2013 A's remain largely in tact from this past season. I'd be kidding myself if I thought I could reasonably predict what moves will correspond to this trade. But despite the fact that this trade makes it seem likely that at least one of two clubhouse leaders will not return (Gomes or Coco), I don't think that it negates that possibility. In a strange way, it might actually make it more likely that we see both Coco and Gomes back in the Green and Gold for the 2013 season once the dust settles.

To me, and probably everyone else, this trade was about adding value. Chris Young is a 3-5 WAR player when healthy and considering what we gave up for him, I don't think that anyone would argue that, in a vacuum, this was a great trade. However, what I don't think many people are focusing on is that this trade creates greater flexibility to pursue future deals this offseason. This trade may or may not, signal that the A's feel confident about resigning Drew. But in the event they do not, it gives the A's more flexibility to use this newly created OF surplus to swing a deal for an upgrade at SS without sacrificing valuable prospects or weakening another position. It is not out of the question that Chris Young (and maybe a prospect) could net us anyone of JJ Hardy, A. Cabrera or Jimmy Rollins, to name a few. But assuming that the A's do obtain the service of Drew, the Young trade also provides them with additional ammo to pursue a major upgrade at one or multiple positions.

I don't think even Beane knows exactly where he will go from here, but if there is one thing that we all know he is excellant at doing, its putting the team in a position to capitalize on potential deals as players may, or may not, become available over the course of the offseason. For example, two players that, IMO, would represent perfect upgrades for the A's and that might be available at the right price this offseason are Edwin Encarnacion and Ben Zobrist. With the addition of Young the A's seem to have better positioned themselves to put together a strong package for one or both of these players should they become available. Here is what I think a fair package for both players might look like:

1. For Edwin Encarnacion- the A's could give up Chris Carter, Tommy Milone (or Straily/Griffin) and Seth Smith.

Why the A's would do it: Some might question whether Encarnacion is a one-year wonder, but it's hard to argue that he wasn't one of the best all-around hitters in the MLB last season. Adding Encarnacion would provide the A's with an established middle-of-the-order hitter to plug in the four-hole. I don't want to have this turn into an argument about whether it matters that our lineup, in its current iteration, is hurt by the fact that we have too many players who strikeout at a high-rate, but I do think it that it might prove beneficial to the balance of the lineup to have a couple players who can provide power, in addition to a strong average, and a low K rate (all things that Encarnacion can provide). If the Detroit series proved anything, it was that our lineup had trouble putting pressure on weaker defenses by putting more balls in play, and Encarnacion is someone who has the ability to do that (if he isn't simply hitting the ball out of the ballpark). Carter, Milone and Smith might be a steep price but reasonable given the kind of hitter we would be getting in return. Carter, while filled with potential that finally shined through last season, would be redundant with the addition of Encarnacion. Giving up Milone would also be a tough pill to swallow, but the easiest thing for the A's to do is to add FA pitchers who can replace his production and since his upside is limited, the front office might want to gamble that AJ Griffin and Dan Straily are more valuable pitchers to hold on to. Seth Smith is valuable, but as a relatively expensive reserve player, he is more valuable to another team that would utilize him as a potential starter.

Why Toronto would do it: I don't know if the Blue Jays front office has any intention of trading Encarnacion- but if that they do, there are multiple reasons to believe that this is a package that would entice them. First off, Carter has the upside to replace Encarnacion's power production at 1B (albeit with less average and more K's). Milone provides an instant upgrade to a weak pitching staff that largely held the Blue Jays back from accomplishing greater things last season. Again, while Straily or Griffin may offer more upside, they also provide more uncertainty--and with the Blue Jays bevy of top pitching prospects, their front office might place more value in acquiring a young pitcher who can be a consistent member of their starting rotation now. Finally, given the Blue Jays potential holes at the corner OF positions, Seth Smith should be an enticing option to fill one of those holes and DH.

Now for the second potential trade....

2. For Ben Zobrist- the A's could give up Chris Young and Jemile Weeks (and maybe another piece)

Why the A's would do it: Ben Zobrist is one of the best overall hitters in baseball, as well as a player who can play multiple positions defensively. Offensively, he provides value in a number of ways and would be an ideal number 2 hitter in any offense. Even though the A's stand a great chance, as is, to find a player among Weeks, Sizemore and Green who can provide above-average production at the position, Adding arguably the most valuable all-around 2B in baseball at one of the few unsettled positions on our roster is simply too good to pass up if the opportunity were to present itself. Chris Young (our shiny new-toy) is one of the most valuable CF's in the game when healthy, but with Crisp, Reddick, and Cespedes in the fold, he doesn't represent much of an upgrade, if any, and the value that Crisp has to this team, as a clubhouse leader, might be enough that Beane is most comfortable repackaging Young for a clear upgrade at another position. As for Weeks, I like him a lot and am confident that if he remains with the team, he will get back to a simple line-drive swing that caused most people to view him as an ideal lead-off hitter after his successful rookie campaign. However, like Carter in the hypothetical Encarnacion trade, he would be redundant as a player who only plays 2B and would have no position with the big-league club if Zobrist was brought on. So he is an ideal candidate to be traded in a potential Zobrist Deal.

Why the Rays would do it: Again, I don't know if the Rays have any intention of exploring Zobrist deals, but the A's do seem to have the pieces to make it work should they decide to. Zobrist has been extremely valuable to the Rays given his offensive production and positional flexibility. But in light of the impending BJ Upton departure, the Rays have multiple positions to fill and a Zobrist trade that could conceivably provide two relatively affordable players that provide 3-5 WAR production at CF and 2B next season is attractive. If a Young/Weeks package is not enough the A's do have other pieces to make this deal happen. Miles Head might be enticing to eventually fill the long-term hole at 1B and if you disregard the potential Encarnacion deal, Carter might also be in play. Grant Green or even Max Stassi might be other pieces that the A's could afford to part with, and additional pieces that might push this deal over the top. The point is that an equitable deal could be reached if both teams are interested in making it happen.

If the A's were to pull off these deals, they would conceivably accomplish the goal of acquiring major upgrades at 2B and 1B/DH without significantly tampering with the clubhouse chemistry dynamics, adding significantly to their payroll or significantly weakening their farm system. As well, they would bolster the middle of their order offensively, without weakening the team defensively.

With these additions, the batting order may look like this:

1. Crisp CF
2. Zobrist 2B
3. Cespedes LF
4. Encarnacion DH
5. Moss 1B
6. Donaldson 3B
7. Reddick RF
8. Norris C
9. Drew SS

As well, the departure of S. Smith (who every A's fan liked, but never fell in love with) and C. Young, could re-open the door to bring back J. Gomes.

Lastly, the A's would be in a comfortable position to resign Brandon McCarthy and add another veteran pitcher to the mix. Personally, I'd like to see the A's try to sign Jorge De La Rosa or Scott Baker because both offer upside when healthy, but the A's have good built-in pitching depth to absorb the loss should they break down (as both these pitchers have a history of doing).

Regardless of whether this off-season unfolds in any way close to the manner which I described above (it won't), the take away point is that the A's are in a much better position to swing potential deals, like the ones articulated above, after the addition of C. Young. Even if the A's carry this OF surplus into the 2013 season, I can still see the value in this trade. For the most part, J. Reddick was great, but his prolonged struggles to make an offensive impact at the end of this past season might have caused concern within the front-office that he is due for a major regression next season. In the event that happens having someone like C. Young in place to slide into the outfield quickly mitigates that problem. If Reddick comes back and continues to establish himself as an impact bat, the A's can always trade Young or Crisp during next season.

But whatever ends Billy Beane ends up doing from here, this trade should be viewed as an objectively great deal for the A's and provide reassurance that the A's front office wants to do everything it can to field another playoff contender for next season (not three years from now). And that should excite any A's fan, because when Billy Beane has this type of short-term focus and passion for building a winner the next season, good things usually happen.

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