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Oakland A’s CF target: Leonys Martin

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Should the A’s go after the recently DFA’d centerfielder?

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

You knew this post was coming.

With Rajai Davis out with a hamstring injury, the A’s are slightly short staffed in the outfield. Even with Davis around, you could argue they’re short staffed, often relying on one of their platoon outfielders to play against their like handed counterparts. Davis should be back roughly when his ten day stint is up, but hammy strains like to loiter, and it’s possible the now 36 year old will need more time to heal.

That brings us to Leonys Martin, recently DFA’d former Seattle Mariner. If you get DFA’d by a club struggling as mightily as the M’s, things probably aren’t going well for you personally, and that was indeed the case for Martin. In 54 at bats this year, Martin has just six hits good for an unsightly .111/.172/.130 triple slash line.

He’s only 29 though, a year removed from a solid season as a reliable centerfielder in the midst of a quietly decent career. Should the A’s take a shot at recently DFA’d Leonys Martin?

What would it take to get him?

Since Martin was DFA’d by the Mariners, he’s been placed on waivers. All 30 teams now have the chance to claim him during his ten day waiver period, with the team with the weakest record in 2016 (starting in the AL then moving to the NL) getting first dibs at making a deal. If no deal is made during the ten day period, Martin would become a free agent available to all 30 teams.

While Martin is intriguing to a number of teams, his price tag in a trade is unlikely to be high. The M’s might fetch a lottery ticket reliever or a potential utility player, but Martin just won’t yield a solid prospect in return.

That said, there will be competition for his services as there are some truly desperate teams out there. The Giants just lost Denard Span to injury and are trotting Drew Stubbs into their outfield, a move that would have drawn ire in 2012. While Martin would be a decent play for the A’s, there’s just more in it for a team like the Giants. With a closing window and playoff odds that are fading with every loss, they’re more willing to overpay, something the A’s really shouldn’t do.

Don’t count the A’s out, though. If they wanted to make a trade for Martin, they’re high up on the waiver wire and have a deep farm system with plenty of meh guys suitable to net Martin in return. Should he clear waivers, the A’s could offer him an enticing home with the chance to play a role suitable for his skills.

Why the A’s should totally go for Martin

A real life, actual, functioning defensive center fielder! It’s been roughly forever since the A’s have had one of those, and the fleet footed Martin would help offset Matt Joyce’s ankle weights in right and Khris Davis’s noodle arm in left. A great way to help flawed corner outfielders is to stick a bonafide defender in between.

Jaff Decker has been good, but he’s probably not as good as he’s played thus far. His more likely spot is as a fourth outfielder with his solid but not amazing defense at all three spots and his platoon bat. Leonys Martin is a lottery ticket, similar to Decker in terms of overall value, and two lottery tickets is always better than one. Acquiring Martin would push Decker towards his likely home of fourth outfielder while improving the A’s centerfield platoon as well.

Finding Martin a roster spot wouldn’t be a difficult task. Matt Olson is basically Matt Joyce in right and while it’d be nice to get Olson big league at bats in the near future, he’s redundant. There’s no room for him at first and with Joyce in his way, a trip to Nashville is an inevitability. He’s up because of circumstance. Decker would shift into Olson’s current role but with added flexiblity, and Olson would get the everyday at bats he deserves.

For the A’s to compete, they need to take risks. Martin represents a higher upside heavy half of the centerfield platoon, a risk that could keep the A’s afloat defensively. His awful start came in a tiny sample and he’s just a year removed from a very solid season. The A’s should capitalize on the Mariner’s overreaction.

Finally, imagine this cannon gunning down Albert Pujols’ smug ass trying to stretch a groundball to centerfield into a single. Yum.

Why Martin would be a mistake

Oakland Athletics Photo Day Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

No, that’s not Derek Norris’s quiet younger brother. That’s Jaff Decker.

If the A’s were Decker-less, the decision would be obvious. Pursuing Martin would be a no-brainer, he’d be a lottery ticket made for the A’s roster. Bringing Martin into the fold would put Decker out of his platoon job and into the fourth outfielder role.

Decker has been solid thus far, and too similar overall to Martin to warrant a pursuit. Like Martin, he’s a platoon player, fit only to face righties with almost no utility against lefties. Both profile as average-ish defenders, though Martin’s defensive upside is markedly higher. On the flip side, Decker’s offensive ceiling is a touch better than Martin’s, basically making the difference between the two a wash.

If Martin has any advantage at all, it’s superseded by Decker’s standing on the roster and impressive play to start the year. When you’re a team slated to be bad, you don’t mess with a good thing. Decker has been a bright spot early and with his youth and limited experience, it’s possible his early season success could last. He’s a potential long term asset for the A’s with six years of team control left, and the A’s would be well suited to continue down Decker-road until it’s clear what kind of player he is.

Martin is more of a short term play, getting up in age and down in value, unlikely to land on big league rosters for more than a few more years. He’s also very much a lottery ticket - you can hope the upside is still there but the most likely out come is that he’s a bust. His defense has slipped by almost every metric, putting more pressure on his always meager bat. Hoping to squeeze more value out of an aging speedster just isn’t worth giving up Decker at bats for, and there’s no guarantee Martin would make the A’s any better on either side of the ball.

Prediction

While there is a potential fit, it just doesn’t make perfect sense for the A’s won’t and shouldn’t happen. There are teams that are more desperate, therefore wiling to offer more to both the Mariners in terms of prospects and Martin in terms of playing time. The A’s can’t guarantee anything more than sporadic playing time at this point, something a number of teams could top.

Martin is a bit like Decker in terms of his overall potential value. The former is a better bet with the glove, the latter representing more upside with the bat, and both topping out as part time players. The A’s have a good thing going with Decker now; going with Martin would represent a risk on multiple levels.