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Oakland A’s reportedly in market for a lefty outfielder

Reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

With Joyce on the DL, the lineup is heavy on righties.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s are interested in adding an outfielder who bats left-handed, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It’s already known that the team is in the market for more pitching, especially starting pitching, but this adds a new possibility to their midseason shopping list. Rosenthal does not offer any specific names or teams whom Oakland might be targeting, nor is it clear how imminent the desire is.

The A’s lineup currently skews heavily right-handed, especially in the absence of Matt Joyce. The outfielder has missed most of June and July with a strained back, and even before he landed on the DL he wasn’t hitting much — possibly as a result of the injury. He’s swinging a bat again but hasn’t yet begun playing games on a rehab assignment, so it’s unclear how much more time he’ll miss.

Joyce, 2018: .203/.311/.359, 88 wRC+, 7 HR, 13.3% BB, 22.6% Ks

In his absence, Nick Martini has made a strong first impression. The 28-year-old made his MLB debut this season after a long career in the minors and he’s capitalizing on the opportunity — most recently, he’s reached base in 11 of his last 14 trips to the plate. There has been some batted ball luck, and he’s been hit by three pitches along the way to help pad his OBP, but his plate discipline is legitimately excellent and he notched a couple timely extra-base hits in the series against the Rangers. His triple on Thursday would have been a homer in most parks, off the 407-foot mark in center field.

Martini, 2018: .346/.485/.538, 184 wRC+, 4 XBH, 12.1% BB, 15.2% Ks

That batting line comes in a tiny sample of only 33 plate appearances, so the point here isn’t to jump to conclusions and anoint him as a budding star. Rather, it’s a nice start by a role player who offers many of the things the A’s should be looking for — a lefty bat, on-base skills, and sound defense in the corners.

Whether the answer turns out to be Martini or an external addition, it’s easy to see why the A’s want another left-handed hitter. They currently have righties at SS (Semien), 3B (Chapman), RF (Piscotty), and DH (Khrush), plus both catchers (Lucroy/Phegley) and two of their other main outfielders (Canha/Pinder). The only lefties in the picture are at 1B (Olson), platoon-CF (Fowler), and a switch-hitter at 2B (Lowrie). Oakland is also missing lefty outfielder Boog Powell, who has been on the DL for almost the entire season (knee) but is now on a rehab assignment in Triple-A.

As a matter of speculation, one name that shows up a lot in fan discussions is Leonys Martin of the Tigers. He’s a CF with a good defensive reputation and a decent bat, and he plays for the same team as starting pitcher Mike Fiers, who has been publicly linked to the A’s. However, that’s just one example (with no official reports behind it) and there are plenty of other names who could be on the radar.

Hot takes

I don’t like this rumor. Of course I want the A’s to make a push while they have the chance, but if they spend more future resources on this Wild Card run then I want it to be on pitching. If the right starter (or lefty reliever) isn’t out there, then roll with what we’ve already got. This group has made it this far, and frankly I don’t want to mess with the lineup too much. Regardless of which side of the plate they hit from, scoring simply hasn’t been a problem this year.

On top of that, I’d like to see what Martini can do. I’m not expecting him to maintain his currently inflated batting line, but I think he has a chance to be a productive role player. Furthermore, he is almost exactly the same player as Joyce, albeit a lite version, so he’s as natural of a replacement as anyone. And the book isn’t even closed on the actual Joyce, who could yet return, nor is it closed on Boog who is literally playing in games now. There are three potential answers to this question already in-house, which makes this feel like a problem that doesn’t really exist.

Perhaps someone like Leonys would be better than the proverbial Boog, but by how much? Enough to be worth making a move? And if the target is someone more substantial, like Eddie Rosario of the Twins, is that something they should be spending massive resources on right now when the starting rotation is clearly the thing most likely to hold them back both now and in the next couple years? If there’s one thing we know, it’s that the A’s are extremely unlikely to find success by buying all of their needs for top dollar. They’re much more likely to win by building from within, and that means finding value in someone like Martini when the chance is right in front of them.

I see the need for a lefty outfielder, but not the need to trade for a new one. If the target is a cheap/depth rental, then just go with guys like Martini, Fowler, and Boog. If the target is a big ticket, then holy hell make it a starting pitcher instead. I hope nothing comes of this rumor.