A's open the season in Southern California April 6-9; I still need 8 more tickets sold to secure the April 7th group game. If you live in SoCal, grab a ticket with our group, and come out to the game! See link for details or email me at baseballgirl1976 at hotmail.
In last week’s "you play the manager" lineup thread, it became increasingly obvious that with the off-season addition of Jason Giambi (who is basically a duplicate Jack Cust), the A’s once again have an issue with the designated hitter role. Since the league won’t allow the A’s to DH for their pitcher and their shortstop, one of the DH’s is going to have to play the field.
The question really isn’t "Who would you rather have play the field; Jason Giambi or Jack Cust?" since at this stage in their career (not to mention every stage in Cust’s career), you don’t want either of them out there. Giambi is probably less of a mess in the field, but really, both are on the team for their bats. The question instead becomes, "Which young player with the indeterminable upside are you willing to sacrifice this year so Giambi/Cust can get the at-bats?" Assuming production and health for all four, the A’s are going to have to choose between Daric Barton at first base, and Travis Buck in the outfield.
The return of Jason Giambi to the green-and-gold fold creates a three-position logjam that contrasts the need to play high-upside youngsters against the defensive limitations of the team's most potent sluggers.
One of them will have to play the field, leaving the team to decide whether to bench first baseman Daric Barton or right fielder Travis Buck, both horrible last year, and neither forecast to produce at levels acceptable for such offense-first positions.
In case it wasn’t clear from my lineup picks; barring injury, I don’t see Barton as a projected part of the 2009 team. Even if the A’s want to keep him on the big-league team (BP recommends AAA), there might not be room for an extra position player. With the rookie brigade of starting pitchers in the rotation, it’s an almost certainty that the A’s will keep the maximum number of pitchers in the ‘pen, even if it means one less player on the bench.
Don’t get me wrong; I think the A’s will--and should--take the chance with Travis Buck as a starter, but the season doesn’t start tomorrow. And judging from recent history, no one can bet on Buck a) staying healthy and b) being good, and this is also assuming that Giambi and Cust do the same. Barton may win a spot yet by default, but I would have to think that he is the current odd man out.
There are worse problems to have, to be sure; like having to start both Barton and Buck no matter what, but the A’s do have to think about the future when making this decision. Is Daric Barton a part of their long-term plans? Do they want to give him the at-bats to see once and for all if he can succeed? Did the A’s pick up Giambi simply because of the availability, or did they take the position he plays into account? What do you think?