The Oakland A’s are on the “list of teams pursuing” free agent infielder Trevor Plouffe, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Rosenthal also notes the Red Sox as another suitor, which was also reported by Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald in late December with a suggestion of a price tag around one year and $2-3 million.
This rumor isn’t a big surprise. General manager David Forst is reportedly looking for another right-handed bat (via Joe Stiglich, CSN), and he’s also gone after Edwin Encarnacion and at least kicked the tires on Mark Trumbo. Plouffe has nowhere near the talent level, prestige, or cost of those two sluggers, but he is a right-handed batter.
Plouffe struggled to a replacement-level season in 2016 due to multiple injuries, but he averaged 3 WAR in 2014-15. His career batting line is the epitome of average, and he’s never strayed far from those numbers in any season (career range: 90-111 wRC+):
Plouffe, 2,909 PAs: .247/.308/.420, 99 OPS+, 98 wRC+, 7.5% BB, 20.0% Ks
He’s twice eclipsed 20 HR, with a high of 24. He’s a negative on the bases. On defense, he rates poorly for his career at 3B but improved over time; he rated positively in his two peak seasons of 2014-15. He can also play 1B. He’ll turn 31 years old next season.
The A’s currently have Ryon Healy at 3B, with top prospect Matt Chapman coming up quickly behind him. At 1B, they have Yonder Alonso and then a host of top prospects, bounce-back candidates, and other fringe options, though Healy is a candidate to move there if/when Chapman arrives.
End report. Begin hot takes.
No no no no no no no no no what no no
Signing Rajai Davis, I get. The A's signing another infielder? Not so much.— Melissa Lockard (@oakclubhouse) January 6, 2017
That, all day.
What are the A’s doing right now? Has anyone told them they have a minor league system to draw from, and that it’s pretty good right now?
There is nothing interesting about Plouffe. He doesn’t make the offense better. He doesn’t make the defense better. He doesn’t add OBP, or speed, or noteworthy power. He doesn’t play a position they need. He’s pure, uncut Representative Product, and not even in a useful form. He can currently be described as a castoff from the 103-loss Twins. I can’t even. It honestly worries me that they’re even thinking about this at all.
I understand Encarnacion. He’s great, and he brings a big OBP to the table. I kind of get at least thinking about Trumbo, because his power is game-changing. But Plouffe? Why? My offer is a minor league contract with an invite to spring training, and even then, I don’t think there’s room in Triple-A Nashville. The best-case scenario is that he recaptures his 2015 form, hits a few dingers, plays a decent 3B, puts up 2 WAR on an also-ran team, aaaaand displaces Healy and blocks a Top 100 prospect from graduating.
And why the rush for a right-handed bat specifically? A breakdown:
Righty: Khrush, Semien, Healy, Rajai, Phegley, Nunez, Pinder, Smolinski, Eibner, (Chapman?)
Lefty: Vogt, Joyce, Alonso, Maxwell, Wendle, Olson
I don’t understand how you can look at that and conclude that you need to add a righty. The three best hitters are already righties, as is the big top prospect we hope will graduate soon. The left side is Vogt and Joyce, a few prospects, and the weak stopgaps who (hopefully?) aren’t supposed to be permanent.
If the A’s are targeting either side of the plate right now, then it should be the left side. Adding Joyce was a good start! But another would be nice. Oh, and whereas Encarnacion and Trumbo are both all-around righties with no platoon splits, which lessens the importance of their own side of the plate, Plouffe does display the kind of notable career split you’d expect from most right-handed hitters.
To not target lefty hitters right now suggests one of two things: Either you think the prospects (like Olson and Wendle) will pan out quickly, in which case stop trying to block them, or you think Alonso and Lowrie will be in the lineup all year, in which case where are you going to play Plouffe? As a short-end platoon 1B? No stop it you don’t need to spend time or money on that just use Renato Nunez or something.
Hopefully this is not a thing.