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Mark Trumbo, Oakland A’s starters discussed in Eno Sarris’ FanGraphs chat

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The folks at FanGraphs do excellent Q&A chat sessions, and on Thursday it was Eno Sarris taking a turn. This is especially fun for Oakland A’s fans, because Sarris lives locally and often has interesting things to say about our team even when most other national pundits aren’t talking about them.

The A’s are actually in the news right now due to some recent free agent rumors, so they got a lot of attention in Thursday’s chat. You can (and should) click here to read the whole thing, but here are some Oakland-centric highlights.

(If you’re tired of reading about Trumbo, there is other stuff below, just scroll down!)

Mark Trumbo

Wait, we have to begin this section with a comment from Sarris’ previous chat, back on Dec. 22:

Q: I really want Encarnacion on the A’s. #3 hitter, really thickens out the rest of the lineup.

Sarris: Dude they are going to have a February surprise. Trumbo! Who knows. Some slugger.

That’s right, he called this rumor two weeks in advance. OK, street cred confirmed, on to Thursday:

Q: Trumbo to the A’s isn’t so crazy. He broke out last season, but his awful defensive metrics in RF hid that fact. Stick him back at 1B where he’s a plus defender, and he’s basically a second Khrush you just signed for 3/33 or whatever.

Sarris: He wants more than that, but it’s not so crazy. I’m surprised people are missing that fact that Trumbo is actually a good 1B with the glove.

First, if you want the argument in favor of signing Trumbo, that fan’s question statement sums it up. I’ve made my opposite opinion clear, here and here.

However, Sarris does bring up a good point -- signing Trumbo doesn’t punt the defense if he’s at 1B. Granted, he might still be a downgrade from the other options, specifically Yonder Alonso and Matt Olson (depending on your thoughts about the validity of Alonso’s weirdly bad metrics), so in that way the defense might still get worse by adding him. But the point is that he would technically be a two-way player at 1B, not a one-dimensional clunker, and there’s no question he’d be an overall upgrade over Alonso at least.

Here’s a similar question:

Q: Steamer had Trumbo at 110 WRC+. Stick him at first and his previous defensive metrics has him around 2+ wins

Sarris: I saw launch angle improvements and am willing to give him a bit more than 110.

I still have a big sticking point here, though. I don’t want the A’s going out and spending big to add a 1B. In fact, I don’t want them adding a 1B at all. One absolutely central point of my plan for the A’s 2017 season is Matt Chapman coming up, taking over 3B, and moving Ryon Healy across to 1B. That means 1B has to be available. A brief stopgap like Alonso doesn’t prevent that, but if we’re talking about Trumbo as a 1B then a lavish multi-year outlay to him absolutely does block it.

Going after Trumbo only makes sense if he’s an outfielder, because the A’s could still use one more of those. The contract he gets this winter will only make sense if he’s at 1B, because that’s where he can provide enough value to be worth it. The match just isn’t there.

The moment you move him off 1B (two months into a three-year contract?) to make room for Chapman/Healy, whom I see as an essential part of the next good core and ultimately better than Trumbo, the whole plan falls to pieces and you’re back to paying top dollar for a 1-2 WAR corner OF who gives back too much of his offensive prowess with defensive ineptitude. As for DH, well, I hope we’ve learned our lesson about spending big on one of those.

Q: Remember when the A’s traded for Khris Davis, and they had a spraychart showing his HRs would still go out in Oakland? There is an identical chart for Trumbo’s 2016 homers.

Sarris: Yeah problem is that the cold robs balls of distance so those same balls wouldn’t have gone as far in Oakland. But some guys are no-doubters no matter where they hit.

As it turned out, Davis was one of those no-doubters. Trumbo probably is too. But Sarris makes a good point about the effect of the marine layer.

Q: Is the apparent complete collapse of the one-dimensional slugger market an accurate reflection of those players’ true value, or has the pendulum swung way too far the other way? Could we see a savvy low-budget franchise like the Rays or A’s sign a bunch of cheap one-dimensional sluggers and become a cost-effective playoff contender in a few years?

Sarris: I believe the A’s were in on Edwin, and yes it certainly looks that way. Brandon Moss is a decent player

This one is a bit bigger picture. Our own community members on AN have brought up that same point about sluggy sluggers becoming an undervalued commodity, and considering we see Chris Carter non-tendered annually and now stars like Encarnacion and Bautista struggling to get big offers, there might be something to it.

It will be interesting to see if any team does go all-in on cheap power, although I think it would take a pretty amazing pitching staff to be competitive. Sort of like the A’s old Moneyball teams with the Big 3, actually ... who, in case anyone forgot, never got anywhere in the playoffs. Self-burn. Ouch.

Starting rotation

Quick notes on three different starters.

Q: With Cotton, do the A’s have a potential #2 or is he back-end?

Sarris: I’m saying two, other people say I’m crazy.

I don’t think you’re crazy, Eno. Well, I might lean more toward Cotton being a No. 3, but the point is that I speak for most of Athletics Nation when I say that he is going to break out this year and be more than a back-end starter.

Q: Thoughts on Manaea? I think he could be a #3, on a championship fb rotation. Thanks

A: Yeah his slider is not as good as Cotton’s cutter, so that’s why I see his ceiling as lower. He’s been trying to improve the velo on that slider for years and only gotten a tick or so.

Now that’s interesting. Most of us love Cotton, but how many of us have him being better than Manaea? Or higher-ceiling, or anything of that sort? In this case the cause for concern is Manaea’s third pitch, which is a legitimate thing to ask about with a starter.

Q: What do see out of Triggs this year?

Sarris: Some decent starts, great bullpen work.

That’s all any of us are asking for, really.


A couple other odds and ends.

Q: Is this a big plus for Rajai? Is there any chance he puts up a .250 12/40 again?

Sarris: 8-10, 30+, all the time he wants probably, since the other options in CF are worse and also right-handed.

The stats being referred to there are presumably HR and SB. Reasonable prediction, though of course we should be more interested in the latter number (steals). Hopefully all 8-10 of those homers are walk-offs against the Angels and Giants, since apparently dramatic, unexpected, clutch dingers are Rajai’s thing now.

Q: If the A’s sign Santiago Casilla, can they introduce him as Jairo Garcia?

Sarris: Let’s make it happen.

Well obviously. But let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that.

Q: Remember when the A’s had Sogard (do they still?) and if he got a hit the scoreboard that went around the stadium in a ring would light up with “Nerd Power!!” I asked my friend if he was a nerd and she said she thought it was entirely because he wears glasses.

Sarris: I mean he *really* looks the part, even beyond just the glasses, but Jed Lowrie is the dude that has asked me the nerdiest questions.

Sniff. We’ll never forget you, Keebs. Maybe if we give Lowrie some glasses, he’ll be able to see ground balls better before they roll past him?

Living in the East Bay

Q: oaktown > sf 9/10 days

Sarris: There’s some guy that comes on any piece I write about Oakland talking about how bad Oakland is and I’m like, have you been recently?

Eno reppin’ the Town.

Q: considering a move for a job to the bay area and just casually glanced at housing options and OH GOD WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO

Sarris: Yeah you’ll probably have to live in the east bay! (It’s still fun out here I promise)

Damn right it is.

You can get more Eno Sarris at his website (The Anthropology of Sports), on Twitter (@enosarris), or through his archives on FanGraphs.