The Oakland A’s got word on Saturday that they were losing their injured starting third baseman for the rest of the season, and then the next day they also lost one of his top backups to injury. On Monday, they’re expected to make an external move to address the hot corner.
The A’s will sign free agent third baseman Jake Lamb, reports Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. The deal can’t officially happen until Monday for procedural reasons, though, notes Rubin.
The deadline for postseason eligibility is Tue., Sept. 15, so Lamb will join the organization in time to participate in October if desired, adds Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.
The 29-year-old Lamb is available because the Arizona Diamondbacks designated him for assignment on Thursday. After earning an All-Star berth in 2017 on the strength of a 30-homer season, he disappeared at the plate for the last three years, bottoming out this summer at 5-for-43 with one extra-base hit. Since 2018 he’s also had his playing time limited by three different stints on the IL for a month or two each, regarding his shoulder twice and then his quad.
- Lamb, 2016-17: .248/.345/.498, 112 wRC+, 59 HR, 12.3% BB, 24.9% Ks
- Lamb, 2018-20: .199/.307/.330, 73 wrC+, 12 HR, 12.4% BB, 26.7% Ks
(Note: 1,229 plate appearances in earlier/good split, 514 in later/bad split)
Which version of the lefty batter might show up in Oakland? He’s still in his prime at age 29, so rediscovering his peak isn’t out of the question, but three straight years of negative track record are tough to ignore even with injuries as an excuse. For what it’s worth, Statcast has remained encouraged, as over these last three summers his xwOBA is .330, which is at least league-average if not slightly above.
Looking deeper, it’s not immediately clear why he’s not getting results. His exit velocity has risen each of the last two years and is at a career-high this summer, as is his hard-hit rate and launch angle — all the things you want to see from a slugger. He’s chasing and whiffing slightly more, but not enough to ruin him, and his strikeouts haven’t risen out of control.
Perhaps that’s what the A’s see in him. After Saturday’s Chapman news they had a little over 48 hours to find a new third baseman before the playoff eligibility deadline, and trades aren’t allowed this late in the year, so taking a bounce-back flyer on a former All-Star still in his prime whose peripheral stats are still strong sounds like as good a dice-roll as any. He costs essentially nothing to add and if it doesn’t work out they don’t have to keep him.
On defense, Lamb’s metrics have been volatile over his career, and overall DRS calls him a positive while UZR says he’s an even bigger negative. His two largest samples in 2016-17 were his worst ones, but his next-biggest in 2015 was his best, so, we’ll see?
If you’re excited about taking a flyer on Lamb’s upside for free, then you’ll like this move. If not, then don’t worry, all your preferred in-house options for 3B are still here, and you can bet the A’s won’t be waiting around long to figure out who the hot hand is.
Oakland has two weeks to figure out who’s playing third base in the postseason, and now they have a candidate with more than 25 MLB games under his belt — which can’t be said for Sheldon Neuse, Vimael Machin, or Nate Orf — and who doesn’t require moving anyone off their primary position, like current second baseman Tommy La Stella would. I’ll buy that for a dollar.
Lamb might debut Monday in his hometown of Seattle, reports Slusser.