2013 Offseason Mailbag #4: Kevin Youkilis and Other Infielders

Yeah, no - USA TODAY Sports

We have two questions about Kevin Youkilis, and another about shortstop and first base upgrades

Here are the questions about Youkilis, from two different people!

The prized Greek God of Walks, Kevin Youkilis, is now a free agent.  Do the A's try to sign him to a 1-year deal?  He's a veteran right handed batter, something the A's could use according to Jane Lee's recent article "The A's have options." Could Youkilis be that guy?

I've read several reports that state the A's need real protection for Cespedes.  Thinking back to the Moneyball days, Billy Bean coveted Kevin Youkilis, would he be a good fit if he could be signed on a 1 year/prove your healthy contract?  As a DH, it could lead to a healthier year for him.

A quick glance at Fangraphs tells that Youkilis hasn't really been a useful player since 2011.  He had 118 PAs for the Yankees last year, and posted a career high strikeout rate and career low walk rate.  Even in 2012, with 509 PAs, he was only worth 1.1 WAR (albeit with a wRC+ of 103).  If you believe in the concept of lineup protection, that doesn't exactly fit the bill.  In addition, it's not clear his health woes are behind him, and turning 35 during Spring Training certainly does not help in that respect.

What's more, Youkilis does not seem to fit the A's current philosophy of interchangeable players.  He can play first and third, and that's really it.  He is not a terrible defender, even with his nagging injuries, but those positions are already well spoken for on the current roster.  Indeed, with the acquisition of Nick Punto, this makes acquiring a guy like Youkilis even less likely.  Donaldson will of course be the primary starter at third, and even if the A's move Callaspo, both Sogard and Punto are capable backups there.  At first, Moss, Freiman, and Barton all appear to be worth starting over Youkilis.  Even if you discount his defense and only look at his hitting, it's quite likely that a Moss/Jaso /Freiman three-headed rotation at 1B and DH will hit better than Youkilis, and that's not even including Seth Smith, who makes a reasonable case for a bounceback candidate after a sub-par 2013.

I think it is safe to say that Kevin Youkilis will not be coming to Oakland in 2014.

We all know Addison Russell is the Oakland Athletics future All Star / someday HOF shortstop, but most agree that he is unlikely to be ready for the 2014 season.  Jed Lowrie was fantastic with the bat last year (esp for a ss), but his defense is meh, to say the least, and is less of a liability at second base.  What are the A's options for upgrading at ss defense while maintaining at least league average offensive production there?  I have heard Peralta is a FA, but I would think he'd be out of the A's price range and wouldn't necessarily be a defensive upgrade.  Any other decent-hitting / good fielding shortstops the A's may target for the short-term - FA or via trade?

Also - Do people expect Freiman to start in the bigs next year?  Any right-hand 1B's out there that would be a better (i.e., better defense & more power) platoon partner for Moss?  Any chance Brandon Mosssome gets a shot at playing everyday?

Thanks for satisfying the baseball-talk gene in these trying times.

With the Nick Punto signing, I believe this is the A's play for upgrading the middle infield defense.  It is fun to ding Punto for his dirty uniform from sliding into first base, but the truth is that he is an excellent defender.  If he is used in a platoon playing against left-handers, one can envision this set up:

LHP:

Donaldson 3B

Punto SS

Lowrie 2B

Freiman 1B

RHP:

Donaldson 3B

Lowrie SS

Sogard 2B

Moss 1B

Against RHP, Punto could also spell Donaldson or Lowrie to keep them fresh(er).  Punto does not exactly qualify as a league average bat these days - nor did he ever - but he has stuck around as a good defender who is somewhat above embarrassing at the plate.  Given the state of the A's payroll, I don't expect to see someone like Infante or Peralta coming to Oakland.  Both players stand to cash in on their free agency, and likely end up with deals at an AAV of greater than $10M.  J.J. Hardy would cost a lot in prospects, and the Orioles have also said they are not shopping him.  After that, I can't see any other worthwhile upgrades barring a Beane rabbit-out-of-a-hat surprise.

Freiman may stick around, although it may depend on the status of Alberto Callaspo.  After the Punto signing, it seems like Callaspo is obviated from the roster.  I can see the Dodgers or Yankees wanting a one-year third base solution, and Callaspo may be just the guy for them.  If he does leave, then I can certainly see a spot for Freiman as the right-handed half of the first base platoon again.  After all, he hit for a wRC+ of 125 against left-handers, and that's more than respectable.  An upgrade over him would likely be out the A's price range, but would also need to be a serious upgrade.  Someone like Mike Napoli would fit the bill, but that also changes the number of plate appearances Moss gets.  In other words, an upgrade would have to be not just over Freiman, but over maybe 60-70% of Moss, as well.  I just don't see a guy who is available who could do that, unless the Giants get desperate for pitching and want to trade Brandon Belt for Dan Straily.

As far as Moss starting every day, with the glut of infielders comes a surprising lack of depth in the outfield.  Michael Choice is likely penciled in as the fifth outfielder going into camp, but it is quite possible he struggles and spends more time in AAA, which would leave Moss as the fifth outfielder.  Factor in some obligatory injuries to Cespedes and Crisp, and this only adds to Moss' playing time, which was already at 145 games and 505 PA last year.  He's basically an everyday player as it is, but he sits against tough left-handers.  I could see 550+ PAs next year, though again, it depends on Callaspo's status.  The A's may also want to try to work Jaso in at 1B some of the time, or maybe even try Lowrie down there if they really want to get creative.

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