Much like there are five stages of grief, there are five stages of the offseason. Stage one is excitement, an unbridled belief that no matter how bad your team was the previous season, things can turn around in the four darkest months of the year. Stage two is disappointment, when you’re team misses out on the best player on the market or trading block, even though they never really had a chance. Stage three is irrationality, the part of the offseason where one starts designing 24 team, 48 player trades that sees your hometown team acquire a star and some functional plumbing for nine minor leaguers and some Dippin’ Dots. Stage four is boredom. Nothing is happening, nothing is rumored to happen, and conceivably, we could make it to opening day with nothing more happening. Blergh. Stage five is excitement, when Spring Training is close enough to forget that no trades are happening, and you can almost smell a delicious Coliseum dog.
This post is borne between stages three and four - a little bit of unlikely and a lot a bit of bored.
An argument for a third baseman
We’ve discussed the weirdness that is the A’s being interested in a third baseman, and we’ve discussed why from an organizational standpoint, it could make sense. There’s a last factor to whether or not the A’s should give a third baseman a shot, and that’s their current third baseman, Ryon Healy.
We all know Healy’s story, his meteoric rise to being the A’s best player and arguable best story of 2016. We also know his downfalls, namely that defense isn’t his calling card. At age 24, he’s unlikely to improve on his biggest problem, that he’s not exactly quick, which is drawn mainly from his outrageous size. The dude is a beast.
Since Healy really became a household name, the idea of moving him across the diamond to the less demanding position of first base has permeated the fanbase. The question has become more when than if, and the when seems to be whenever Matt Chapman is ready, something that could be as soon as next season.
Third base and first base are obviously similar, and Healy has significant experience playing first base in his minor league career. The transition probably won’t be tremendously hard, but it’s still a transition. We’ve seen players struggle at new defensive positions and we’ve seen players struggle offensively while dealing with defensive changes.
Maybe, the A’s should be proactive about getting Healy to his future position. The best time for the A’s most exciting player to go through a transition is when the team is in transition, and the sooner they can get Healy to his future position, the sooner they’ll be ready to take the next step.
Moving Healy could have positive effects on the A’s young pitching staff, too. A better defender at third would yield better results for a team centered around pitching.
That brings us to the headliner of this article.
Congratulations, you’re now half as qualified to write this article as I am! Read this and you’re all the way there.
That’s kind of the crux of Hwang, and a lot of international players, specifically those that come from Korea. There’s always the somewhat impossible task of translating their game to the major league level, which in turn lowers their contract demands and makes for a risk/reward proposition.
The past few years have given examples of on-field Korean successes. Jung Ho Kang has proven to be a terrible person since arriving in Pittsburgh, but he’s been an undeniable find in the infield. Hyun Soo Kim has also been a win for the Orioles, and there are a few guys who could become wins by the end of their contracts. Even if they don't, their contracts are team friendly and wouldn't hurt long term if their respective players don't progress.
The A's need to take risks like this. Hwang probably profiles as a utility infielder, something the A’s don’t necessarily need. Chad Pinder currently slots into that role nicely, though after an OK at best 2016 at AAA, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for him to get more seasoning there. And risks imply some reward, as there's a chance Hwang could exceed his expectations like a Kang or Kim and be a viable full time player.
There are more intangible factors, too. Baseball becoming more international is undeniably awesome, and provided Hwang isn’t secret scumbag a la Kang, he’d make the team more fun for fans. It might draw more fans to the team or expand the fanbase, and it’s a low risk proposition that should help the A’s on the field.
There are a few important things to remember here on the other side of the fence. For one, the A’s haven’t been remotely tied to Hwang, so that makes a fit pretty unlikely. Again, the contract guesses are just guesses, there hasn’t been so much as a peep as to what Hwang would fetch, should he fetch anything at all. This isn’t his first time being eligible to make the jump to the bigs, and he had no suitors before. There’s also the small but not insignificant manner of Yonder Alonso, who doesn’t make sense on a major league roster if he’s not a starter.
But we’re at that point in the offseason and it could make sense for a plethora of reasons. Are you in?