I haven’t loved this off-season so far because I don’t like Matt Joyce as a RFer, and I don’t think Rajai Davis or Trevor Plouffe offer much against RHPs, but I have understood the moves in the context of finding "place holders for the exciting young guys who aren’t quite ready yet".
Additionally, Joyce offers a fair amount of upside at the plate, R. Davis isn’t blocking anyone because the A’s don’t have a CF prospect in the upper minors, and Plouffe isn’t really blocking anyone right now because Matt Chapman isn’t ready yet for prime time. Plus, Plouffe’s signing moves Ryon Healy to his natural and long-term position at 1B. So I may not love these moves, but I get them.
Then comes word from Bob Melvin that if healthy Jed Lowrie will be the team’s starting 2Bman. And that just doesn’t make sense. It’s not as if the A’s are looking for a place holder at 2B for, say, Franklin Barreto because first off Barreto has yet to be moved to 2B, and furthermore if the A’s are looking for a 2Bman between now and Barreto they have not one but two players who are big league ready and whose audition in 2017 could give the A’s useful information about their place on the team thereafter.
Those two players are, of course, Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder. Both are in their mid-20s (Wendle turns 27 in April, Pinder turns 25 in March), with a little big league experience and nothing left to prove in the minors. The only question is, "How good can they be in the big leagues," and 2017 offers a chance to find out.
Particularly perplexing is the A’s disinterest in naming Wendle as the front runner on a team whose defense still looks shaky — in LF, CF, 3B, SS, 1B, and C the A’s can hope for average defense, while in RF and 2B they look below average. Wendle at 2B would give the A’s one player whose defense is his calling card.
And yet the A’s seem to be going "old school" by valuing veterans over the less proven, even in a rebuilding/waiting year that lends itself to auditioning talent. It’s not as if Lowrie’s bat is so good that it makes up for the defensive gap between him and Wendle; in order to provide any value Lowrie would have to have a bounce back season following three subpar years at the plate. At best he will be a decent hitter with a bad glove and at worst he will be a bad hitter with a bad glove.
Sure it makes sense if the A’s are about to deal Wendle and/or Pinder, and certainly Melvin’s public statements now may or may match the direction Oakland goes in April. But it sure sends the wrong message to bypass two legitimate prospects in order to make your poor defense worse.
If the A’s can’t unload Lowrie, it makes sense for him to be the backup utility infielder, since he can play 3B, SS, and 2B and has decent career numbers as a RH batter. It does not, however, make any sense to hand him 2B just because he shows up to spring training in "the best shape of his life".
I don’t get why the A’s are thinking and talking this way around 2B when more appropriate choices are right under their nose. Their other moves have at least been consistent with an attempt to build around their young players but only when they are ready. And now you have two who are ready, but are supposed to yield to a bad fielder who might be able to hit?
It’s like they’re trying to field a team in 2017 that even a duck won’t want to watch.