It's easy not to be high on Eric Patterson, the 2Bman-or-something acquired as part of the Rich Harden deal.
The first reason to hate Patterson is that he could be considered a possible heir-apparent to Mark Ellis, and let's face it - you don't need a rational reason to despise anyone who might replace Sir Unicorn himself, Mark Ellis. The second reason to hate him is that by all accounts he is not a very good defensive 2Bman, and if any team's fans can appreciate the value of a good defensive 2Bman it's the Oakland A's. The third reason to hate him is the idea that he might be moved to the outfield, where he would risk being a so-so defensive player who would add to the seemingly endless list of young outfielders that are high up on the A's depth chart.
Now let's remember three reasons to like Eric Patterson, the last of which is really the main point of this post. The first reason is that by all accounts, he can hit and the A's, like, need someone like that, like really a lot. The second reason is that if can help the A's offensively, he doesn't need a position in order to be extremely valuable.
I have seen comparisons between Patterson and Chone Figgins, who has plugged in for injured or underperforming players at 2B, 3B, LF, and CF and provided an offensive spark. I think a better comparison, and one that uses Oakland A's history, is Tony Phillips. Phillips was not a "nice journeyman utility player on a team that needed filler," he was a valuable "jack of all trades" asset for a highly competitive team.
"Utility players" are guys who aren't good enough to hit or play any position every day, but are good enough to strengthen the bench. Phillips, Figgins, and potentially Patterson, are not inadequate so much as they are versatile. How sweet would it have been had injuries to Gonzalez in May, Chavez in June, and Ryan Sweeney in July, had a Patterson ready to step in and keep the offense going?
If he can hit enough, run well, and play multiple positions adequately, Patterson could be a tremendous asset to the depth of a team that does not rely on him to be the every day solution at any given position. You may not like Patterson as a potential starter for the A's, but I love him as a potential "10th man" in the lineup. I have little doubt about this: Billy Beane highly values depth right now, as well he should, and Patterson has the potential to give the A's a lot more of it.