FanPost

What is this team's last greatest need? What player do you think the A's FO should have their eye on?

Editor's Note: "Interesting conversation" alert! Thoughtful Fanposts deserve "cover" attention -- enjoy and chime in... -Nico

Billy Beane has said he is done. So, no more trades. No more free agents.

From Chronicle Staff Writer Susan Slusser: "he said that the A’s 25-man roster is now complete, although he always is looking for minor-league depth."

If taken at his word, the players we currently have now will be the same ones competing for spots on the 25-man roster. But what if he wasn't done? What if just one more player could make a difference in 2013 by squeezing out a few more wins? I see no reason he would not upgrade, if the right deal came across his desk today.

To help find this ideal "last guy", I looked at the type of players the A's have traded for this season. I was looking for some clue's. What type trade would look similar to the type of trade Billy has done THIS off-season, with THIS off-seasons front office philosophy's and win now mentality.

I noticed in this off-seasons trades, that the A's FO (front office) has targeted these particular stereotypes:

Journeyman break out

In their "prime" age 27-30

Injury history.

Capable of 4 WAR with a full season, but might have never had a full season.

Ideally versatile. Either plays multiple positions, or is good enough to DH occasionally if not on the field.

Cheap is king but the budget has also gone up.

At least 2 more years of team control, preferably more.

Has some platoon advantage.

Recognize anyone? These are trade clue's.

Jeff Moore wrote an excellent article on what the A's player acquisition strategy has been. here:

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/as-continue-to-add-perfectly-flawed-pieces/

(can't get it to link for some reason, the link box is jumping around like a drunk mosquito) It's worth the read.

Now that we have a trade stereotype, lets next look at the A's roster. Try to see what their needs still are, or if any upgrades can be had. There still seem to be more than a few "weak" spots for a playoff team, with some weaker than others. The ones I noted are 1B-backup, 5th OF, DH, C-backup, #5 starter, #4 reliever.

Needed

1B-Back-up- a better hitter than Daric Barton (77 wRC+ in 2011&12). More experience than Jed Lowrie (11 total games in his career).

5th-OF- a better overall hitter than Seth Smith, more versatile than Smith.

DH-a better hitter than Smith/Crisp/Young. Some power would be nice.

C- Back-up- A better player than Derek Norris all around.

SP-a 5th starter. better than un-juiced Bartolo Colon.

RP- I think we could use a better #4 reliever. What do I mean?

There is a gap. On one side of the gap are the top 3 relievers- Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle. All are trusted for 8th-9th inning work. Their K rates are all at 25% or better*. They seemed overworked at times last year, especially at the end. *Doolittle was the highest K% on team at 31%.

On the other side of that gap, the rest of the relievers #4-8. Or #4-11, if you want to include every last AAA guy who pitched well for the A's last year and the new additions expected to play. Travis Blackley, Jerry Blevins, Pedro Figueroa, Pat Neshek, Jordan Noberto, Chris Resop, Evan Scribner, Fernando Rodriguez.

The #4-11 reliever K rates sit at 15-20%, at least every #4-11 reliever but two*. Now k% is certainly one over simplistic way to describe a pitcher, but I like to use the stat as one way to hone in on talent. The players on this side of the gap are interchangeable talent but not good enough or trusted enough for 8th-9th inning work in crunch time.

It would be nice to trade for a power guy who will compete with that top (3) group from day one this year. Someone who, with a year under his A's belt, will compete for A's closer in 2014 if Balfour is not retained. Someone else to be trusted with late work to keep those three fresh.

*F-Rod's K rate is 25%. This is the FO attempt at another power reliever, but he will need a few years of coaching to get his walk% down to a level where he can compete for late innings. Noberto was the outliner of these groups at 21.7%.

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The main need or weakness seems to be a back-up 1B, a bit of a black-hole after losing Chris Carter. The A's need a back-up who hits Lefty's well, to use in a platoon and keep Moss concentrating on what he does best vr. Righty's. If Moss falters, being able to hit R would be nice for the back-up as well. Jed Lowrie will probably have his gloves full with 3b-2b-SS, and Lowrie has said he prefers to play up the middle. Barton has questionable value beyond good D in late games.

Our 5th OF/DH position also looks like an upgrade could be had. Seth Smith only has one useful tool better than what others on this team provide, which is hitting right handed pitching 20% better than average. Yes, his OF defense is o.k., but on THIS team that puts him no better than the 4th best OF.

You know who else would like some DH time vr R? John Jaso, who hit 63% better than average at a wRC+ of 163 vr R in 2012, and probably won't catch more than 100 games. The team is also missing it's best bat vr. L last year in Jonny Gomes (wRC+ 171).

For starting pitching, Dan Straily seems to have Bartolo Colon covered, and Travis Blackley if not. But once we get to the #8 starter the A's are in trouble. (they used 10 starters last year). Still, #8 starter seems like a luxury need at best. But an argument could be made a better #4-5 starter now pushes everyone down a notch to a role more suited for depth and success later in the year for the team.

We are so deep in relievers, getting yet another "power" arm also seems like a luxury upgrade at best.

At catcher Derek Norris will be given every opportunity to prove himself and improve his game. At least for the first few months. Unless a long sustained slump happens on both sides of the ball, Back-up catcher is set for now.

I'm not going to get into 2b-SS-3B weakness as I feel it has been covered enough of late. Except that I chose Sizemore for one of my (4) left-side/2B infielders because he could either start or back-up at 3B and 2B, giving the team maximum flexibility. Sizemore also had a fat split vr L. If either Weeks or Green earns the starting/back-up job, I'm good with it.

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So after looking at the type of player the A's have already targeted this off-season, and the team's remaining needs, one player stood out to me as fitting the A's biggest need. He matched the criteria, and simultaneously filled multiple needs. He also seems to be the classic flawed player Beane would try and land.

Without further bluster, I give you MY choice:

Allen Craig a.k.a "The Wrench"

1B/OF.........ST.LOUIS CARDINALS

.307/.354/.522

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=3433&position=1B/OF

Again, gave up on the Fangraphs link to Craig's stats.

He’s shown good power (22HR), moderate plate discipline, and excellent contact rates with strong on-base skills. Which of the team needs and trade clue criteria does he match up with? All of them.

1. Journeyman who broke out. He is a 29 yr old career minor leaguer, in his prime.

2. Injury History. 4 trips to the DL in the last two years.

3. 2.6 WAR/75 games 2011. 3.1 WAR/119 games in 2012. Capable of 4 WAR if healthy.

3. Versatal where needed. 500 innings at LF/RF with average UZR in 2011-12. Better D than Brandon Moss at 1st in 750 innings. Would allow for a Moss OF, Craig 1B scenario.

3. Perfect platoon mirror to Moss. Moss (172) wRC+ vr R, Craig (175) wRC+ vr L.

4. If Moss falters, he's able to hit R well with a wRC+ of 125.

5. He makes Seth Smith completely redundant, able to take all Smith's OF AB's, and all Smith's DH AB's vr R. At the same time, he is able to get out of Jaso's way at DH by playing elsewhere.

6. He's really cheap. And will be a few more years, not hitting arb1 till next year.

7. It's a win now move. But he is under team control for 4 more years (2016). One more year than Moss (2015), and two more years than Smith, Coco and Young (2014). So it's a win later move as well.

8. He hit better from either side in 2012, and also in his (brief) career, than both Coco Crisp and Chris Young from any side. He is thus able to spell both those players better in any platoon/DH scenario. Also spell them in case of injury or sucktitude from either or both.

9. He replaces the things Chris Carter could do, for almost as long as Carter was going to do them (2017), with better D and more versatility.

10. He replaces Jonny Gomes as the best vr. L hitter on the team. He does a lot of this by not striking out (17%). This should be a more easily repeated good year, than the good years of Gomes, Moss and Carter. Those three were all over 30% on their strikeout rate last year.

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Your "starting 12".

4-SS/3/2. Hiro Nakajima, Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson, Scott Sizemore.

4-OF/DH. Yonis Cespedes, Coco, Young, Reddick.

2-1B/OF/DH. Moss, Craig.

2-C. John Jaso, Derek Norris.

12 total positional players is all that's really needed by adding Allen Craig. You really don't want a 13th with this roster. That leaves 13 pitcher's to start the year, saving the important arms for important tasks. There will be a few underutilized arms to start the year. So be it. Fresher arms to end it.

6200 total AB's/12 players = 520 PA each, on average.

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Name.................Left split................Name.............. Right split Craig........................175.................Moss...........................172 Sizemore.................134.................Jaso.............................163

Cespedes................ 131.................Cespedes.............138

Young..................... 115..................Craig........................... 125

Moss........................115...................Lowrie.........................124

Reddick....................103...................Crisp............................115

Donaldson................ 94....................Reddick....................... 111


Crisp..........................89....................Sizemore...................... 97

Lowrie..........------------75---------------Donaldson-----.........88

Average of top 9......115........................................................126

Norris..........................71...................Young............................86

Nakajima...................???...................Norris.............................74

Jaso.............................24..................Hiro...............................???

Numbers are wRC+ for last year played. 100 is average. 125 means that player was 25% better at hitting than the average player in baseball. League and park adjusted.

No clue how to guess for Hiro, so I didn't. Lowrie's career splits are the opposite. Craig really fits this nicely. Sizemore looking good. Reddick was about average even with 30 HR.

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What would St.L want? Well that's the hard part. That is one well run franchise. They are perennial playoff contenders who probably don't want to trade Craig as much as we wouldn't want to trade Moss. Any trade they make, we will have to overpay. That's assuming we have anything they want us to overpay with. Their farm is stocked full right now.

We have ONE guy (Russell of course) graded B+ or better. They have FIVE guys rated that high, with FOUR of them rated at A/A-. They do however have a 1st base prospect who had some success last year before injury in Matt Adams. Bill James projection has Adams looking very strong for 2013.

Matt Adams may be their future, and they can sell high on Craig before he breaks down. Realistically, a third team would need to be involved to flip them a veteran 1st baseman to hold down the fort for St. Louis until they know Adams is ready. It would have been much easyer to work this out if it was a non-playoff team that didn't seem to steal our car at every trade.

That's as far as my rosterbation goes on that. Just to start a conversation, it will cost us some 3-4 player combination of:

a #3-5 range prospect,

Seth Smith,

a #9-10 prospect,

a #3 reliever

a #20-30 prospect

With the best prospect going to a team C, team C sending ST.L their main need, and the rest getting divided around.

I will give the A's FO the benefit of the right choices and otherwise ignore the acquiring cost of Craig and choose not to dwell on it any further. I want to focus on the addition, not the subtraction if you will. But you can rosterbate as you will.

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So how about it? What's the A's last greatest need, and what player do you think the A's FO should have their eye on?

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