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Athletics trade rumors: Deven Marrero from the Red Sox at shortstop?

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How could Deven Marrero fit into the middle infield plans for the Oakland Athletics?

Deven Marrero at Red Sox spring training in 2014.
Deven Marrero at Red Sox spring training in 2014.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo was spitballing a possible trade for Jeff Samardzija to the Boston Red Sox this morning in his Sunday notes column ("Alex Rodriguez's future more uncertain than ever" (Nov. 9, 2014)), talking up Boston shortstop prospect Deven Marrero, who ended the year at Triple-A, and a mystery pitching prospect in exchange for Jeff Samardzija.

Marrero is Boston's first round selection of the 2012 Draft (24th overall) out of Arizona State and was Boston's 2014 Minor League Defensive Player of the Year. Here's why:

Baseball America ranked Marrero #9 in their 2015 Boston prospect list, and Marc Normandin at Over the Monster added:

Marrero was awful offensively at Triple-A Pawtucket, but you knew that was going to happen: he didn't figure out Double-A until his first full season at the level, and his glove has been pushing him through the system before his bat is ready for promotion for some time now.

Marrero's bat is certainly cause for concern (statistics courtesy Baseball Reference):

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 21 -0.1 Lowell NYPL A- BOS 64 284 246 45 66 14 3 2 24 24 6 34 48 .268 .358 .374 .732
2013 22 -0.8 Salem CARL A+ BOS 85 376 332 50 85 20 0 2 21 21 2 42 60 .256 .341 .334 .676
2013 22 -2.4 Portland EL AA BOS 19 85 72 7 17 0 0 0 5 6 0 10 16 .236 .321 .236 .558
2014 23 -1.7 Portland EL AA BOS 68 307 268 42 78 19 2 5 39 12 7 34 57 .291 .371 .433 .804
2014 23 -3.9 Pawtucket IL AAA BOS 50 202 186 23 39 11 0 1 20 4 1 12 37 .210 .260 .285 .545

We won't see too many home runs from Marrero, but offensive hiccups upon a player's first experience at a higher level are not uncommon.

Why go after Marrero?

In a period where the shortstop free agent options are limited and expensive, a competition in 2015 spring training amongst minimum salary shortstops Marrero, Andy Parrino, and Tyler Ladendorf might be just what the A's need to extend the competition window as arbitration-eligible players continue to pressure the Oakland payroll. To briefly sketch out the primary alternatives, which will be covered thoroughly later, and the arguments against:

  • a short term incentive-laden deal with Stephen Drew offers all the risk of a prospect without the benefit of long term cost control,
  • a medium-term deal for Asdrubal Cabrera (at an estimated 3 yrs/$27M according to mlbtraderumors.com) provides a shortstop that is not great defensively and no salary relief,
  • a long-term deal for Hanley Ramirez (at an estimated 6 yrs/$132M according to mlbtraderumors.com) is really not something the A's can afford to do,
  • and a trade for a veteran like Erick Aybar (at 2 yrs/$17M) provides no salary relief, the A's are giving up someone valuable to get him, and the team will soon have another middle infield crisis once that deal expires.

Instead, why not move Jeff Samardzija and his estimated $9.5 million arbitration salary (per mlbtraderumors.com) to take a risk on an inexpensive shortstop with high upside, pick up another prospect, and take a chance on a 2014-15 free agent market flooded with starting pitchers? The A's will have effectively traded a very high upside shortstop perhaps ready for 2016 (Addison Russell) for four months of Jeff Samardzija that got the A's to the 2014 postseason plus a high upside shortstop perhaps ready for 2015 (Marrero).

What about blocking A's shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson? Well there are questions about whether Robertson has the defensive tools to be able to stick at shortstop, with a future move to second base is a possibility. Marrero could allow the A's to move Robertson and his bat over to second base in the future, optimistically in mid-2016 during his age-22 season.

As for second base now? Wouldn't it be nice to take that Jeff Samardzija money and turn it into signing Asdrubal Cabrera for three years at second base while Robertson matriculates through Midland and Nashville?

The counter-argument is that Marrero (or Ladendorf or Parrino) are big risks in the lineup if the A's do intend to contend in 2015. Plus, giving up Samardzija means giving up the compensation draft pick associated with the qualifying offer even the A's would surely offer him. Oh, and don't forget that the Shark is still an excellent pitcher, and that's valuable for getting to the postseason too.

Postscript (10:15am)

Just to be clear, any deal involving Jeff Samardzija is probably going to involve a number of players beyond Marrero, including perhaps a Top 100 prospect or two. Today I just wanted to concentrate on considering the shortstop issue. Can Marrero be the risky answer for shortstop at 2015, with the hope he becomes the shortstop for 2015-2020? Or would you rather take a risk on someone like Stephen Drew, or spend money on someone like Asdrubal Cabrera at the expense of spending money elsewhere?

Plenty to ponder, but figuring out exactly what Jeff Samardzija is worth in terms of prospects I will leave as an exercise for the comments.