With the acquisition of Stephen Drew last night, this leaves the A's with an interesting roster decision to make later on today. In playing SS, Drew is going to displace one of Cliff Pennington or Adam Rosales, the only other infielders on the roster where it makes any sense at all to move. In some ways, there aren't just two ways to go here, but two philosophies on how team benches/bullpens should be constructed. The names I've given them are arbitrary inasmuch as the people I have seen arguing for one or the other seem to fall into certain camps. Follow me after the jump to go through the ideas:
The stat-friendly philosophy: While Stephen Drew was acquired for his bat more than his defensive prowess, Cliff Pennington is a shortshop and has always played there. That's where his value lies: in being a shortstop. Adam Rosales can also play shortshop, and can also play several other positions, giving the manager flexibility to make in-game decisions with less regard for positions than he otherwise might have to. That said, there are few players who can honestly play all those other positions very well. While Rosales may be an upgrade offensively as a backup (debatable), it is likely a defensive wash at best. It makes way more sense to keep a defensive-first true shortstop for late-game replacements in Cliff Pennington.
In addition, while a 3-man bench allows for an 8-man bullpen, this might be leaving a valuable offensive player in AAA. In the A's case, is Evan Scribner really more valuable than having Collin Cowgill up? Or, for that matter, given the A's outfield flexibility, is it even worth optioning Pennington or Rosales when Scribner can be sent down? After all, Travis Blackley is available as a long-man (albeit not tonight and maybe not tomorrow). The A's should go with a 4-man bench and option a pitcher, likely Scribner.
The individual game theory: Adam Rosales can play multiple positions and Bob Melvin should take advantage of that flexibility. Cliff Pennington is, fortunately or unfortunately, a known quantity with the bat. Rosales, while being inferior defensively, has some pop in his bat for a late-game pinch-hitting opportunity. What's more, with both Reddick and Cespedes being able to play CF, and Gomes and Cespedes being able to play LF, this obviates the need for a true 4th outfielder (sorry, Collin Cowgill).
8-man bullpens just give the manager more matchup flexibility. If a tough righty comes up in the late-innings, Pat Neshek can come in for one batter and still be fresh for tomorrow. Repeat the same process for Jerry Blevins, who can be used a little more conservatively so he can be fresher for the stretch run. So what if the pitcher has to bat in an extra inning game because the DH had to be put in the field? That's really unlikely to happen anyway. The A's should demote Pennington, and keep Rosales and the bullpen intact.
It's an interesting question, given that there's a month-plus left of baseball to play. How do you want the A's construct themselves, in general? Rest assured, we will a) find out later today how the A's are doing it - for what it's worth, I expect Rosales to be optioned - and b) not have to worry about this when rosters expand on the 1st.
Join me tonight for the gamethread at 7:05. Some bearded guy from Oklahoma will make his 2012 debut for the A's. Some Twins soft-tosser will oppose him. Hitters have a chance to be baffled.