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Why Piazza Makes Sense...And Why He Doesn't

Mike Piazza appears to be likely to become the A's new designated hitter if all the rumors are to be believed.

There are several reasons why I believe it would be a good move...and a few why I don't like it.

  • Piazza is a good hitter, but he's not Frank Thomas. He's an adequate replacement for Thomas and he should be more affordable. He slugged .500 last season overall and .564 away from the cavernous Petco Park. He's not the home run threat that Thomas is, but he's also not the injury risk that the Big Hurt was. Piazza's .500 slugging percentage for the season would've been second on the A's overall behind Frank Thomas. He also has a .379 career OBP even though it was only .342 last year.
  • Piazza can spell Kendall on occasion. Granted, you don't want Piazza behind the plate too often these days because of his third grader's arm, but putting him back there against teams like the Red Sox and Blue Jays who rarely try and steal bases isn't a bad thing. He can also fill in at first base on occasion if Dan Johnson winds up being unable to make the proper adjustments to become a regularly productive major league hitter.
  • Piazza isn't known to be a distraction in the clubhouse. I'm not saying that he is a good clubhouse guy because frankly, I never spent any time in a clubhouse with him. But by all accounts, he's been a good team guy. Perhaps when considering all the Bonds baggage, the A's front office has ultimately decided that it was better financially to have a good clubhouse guy who also happened to be a good hitter.
As for why I'd be concerned:
  • Piazza would be in a league that he's never been in before. He'd see a lot of new pitchers that he hasn't faced before. Unlike Frank Thomas, there would likely be an adjustment period for Piazza which could lead to Piazza starting out the season just as slowly as Thomas did last year. The difference was that Thomas was able to adjust pretty quickly probably because he had a lot of experience with ballparks. I know free agency makes this point a little less relevant, but I do think it had a significant impact on Jason Kendall when he first came to the A's.
  • I still think that the A's would likely need to take one more risk with a hitter like a Cliff Floyd because you can never have too many good hitters or depth. And frankly, if Piazza struggles, you're going to need someone to pick up the slack. You can't count on Chavez, Crosby, Ellis and Dan Johnson all having rebound seasons. Although chances are that you're going to see a couple of them rebound. I still think the A's need to cover themselves. Granted, Daric Barton could possibly be ready, but the A's need to have options in case they don't want to rush him. I just don't think that Piazza is still capable of carrying a team the way that Thomas did down the stretch last season. He's an excellent hitter and can be a good cleanup hitter, but he's not going to be a guy who will single-handedly kill the opponents like Thomas did. Piazza's OBP also hasn't been above .350 in two seasons and he's only averaged around 20 home runs the past three seasons.
Do I think the A's will stretch beyond Alan Embree and Piazza? It doesn't look like it right now. And that can be both good and a little frightening.