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Oakland A’s sign shortstop Pete Kozma to minor league contract

Experienced depth for the middle infield

Tampa Bay Rays v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Oakland A’s have signed several minor league free agents during the month of November, as all teams do every year. Most of them are usually relatively unknown players, but this week they added someone you’ve actually heard of.

The A’s signed shortstop Pete Kozma to a minors deal on Tuesday, per the team’s website. His minor league contract does not give him a spot on the 40-man roster.

Although Kozma hasn’t played in the majors since 2018, he has factored into seven different MLB campaigns for four different teams. From 2011-15 he was on the Cardinals, including a season as the primary starter at SS in 2013 for a club that reached the World Series.

From there he signed with the Yankees and briefly got back to the majors in 2017, before moving to the Rangers for a few months. In 2018 he played a couple dozen games for the Tigers, and he spent 2020 in the Braves organization but never got called up. In total, his record includes 341 games and 813 plate appearances.

Kozma, career: .215/.278/.291, 54 wRC+, 5 HR, 7.7% BB, 21.4% Ks

In his biggest sample in 2013 (448 PAs), his numbers were almost precisely in line with those low career marks. He’ll play at age 33 next season.

While he doesn’t bring much with his right-handed bat, Kozma does have a valuable glove. His advanced metrics are consistently positive in his small seasonal samples, and in his full 2013 they were good as well (+6 DRS, +8.1 UZR). His most recent performance in 2018 was just as encouraging. Here are some highlights, on both sides of the ball.

Kozma has been to the postseason three times for a total of 29 games, and he’s got two major highlights to his name. One came in 2012, in the deciding NLDS Game 5 against the Nationals. With the score tied in the 9th, he singled off Drew Storen to drive in two runs and take the lead, ultimately serving as the series-clinching hit (around the 3:00 mark in the video above).

The other highlight was more of an infamously awkward moment. In the 2012 NL Wild Card Game against the Braves, Kozma let a deep popup drop behind him, appearing to give way to an outfielder that wasn’t actually calling him off. The miscue would have increased the pressure of an 8th-inning comeback rally attempt, but instead the umps controversially called it an infield fly and awarded Kozma and the Cardinals the out on the batter (see the 1:15 mark in the video above).

In 97 plate appearances in the postseason, he’s got a .171/.292/.244 line, with a homer in the 2012 NLDS, and an 0-for-10 effort in St. Louis’ 2013 World Series loss.

Analysis: Don’t worry, this isn’t the A’s new starting shortstop. It’s just a routine depth addition, helping fill out the Triple-A roster and give Oakland someone experienced to turn to midseason in an absolute emergency. He’s the 2021 version of Nate Orf.

But hey, why not Kozma? He’s as fun of a name as you can hope for in this situation, and he can competently play the position at which the A’s most need to pad their depth chart. Welcome to Oakland. Or Las Vegas, more likely.

Other A’s signings

We’ll talk more about these other minor league free agents in a future post(s), but here are the names in case you want to get a head start on checking their Baseball-Reference pages.

  • RHP Christian Alvarado
  • RHP Argenis Angulo
  • RHP Matt Blackham
  • RHP Montana DuRapau
  • 1B Frank Schwindel

In addition, the A’s re-signed RHP Ben Bracewell, among a few other long-time farmhands who had reached minor league free agency.