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A’s Are A Bit Stuck With Andrus At Shortstop

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics
“My career has taken one of these!”
Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

His hit-and-run single was a thing of beauty, but it still left Elvis Andrus’ slash line at .148/.197/.176 for the season. you can’t have everything but in a perfect world you would prefer for your OPS to be higher than Mike Trout’s batting average. (It literally isn’t.) And while he has played a decent shortstop, his 4 errors lead the team and are accompanied by the occasional gaffe (but enough about 100-foot sacrifice flies). Andrus has been the worst hitter among qualified American League batters, and he has been worth 0.8 WAR — for the other team.

Fans may be ready to move on six weeks into the season, but rarely are veterans cast aside so fast. Further complicating matters is my firm belief that any replacement for Andrus is not currently in the A’s organization. Let’s examine…

Nick Allen

As the heir apparent at shortstop, Allen is probably the player whose name is most frequently bandied about by fans wanting ABA (Anyone But Andrus). The theory is that Allen would represent a defensive upgrade oh, and he couldn’t really hit any worse.

if the single goal was to upgrade the big league roster, however marginally, you could probably make a case for Allen at shortstop right now. but these decisions do not come in a vacuum, and it is nonsensical just think Allen will have a more successful career if he is rushed to the big leagues now following a 2019 season in A-ball followed by the lost 2020 campaign. would have been nice to follow the blueprint of a 2020 season in AA, but given where the pandemic left minor leaguers there is just no way Allen should be in the big leagues right now.

Allen would likely hit under .200 (for what it’s worth, Fangraphs projects He would hit .201/.250/.270), and in fact there is no guarantee that he would hit any better than Andrus will going forward. More importantly, his development matters and should not be compromised for the hope of a few more singles and a couple web gems.

Allen’s readiness for the start of the 2022 season is very much a question. 2021 is simply an answer: No.

Pete Kozma

Unlike Allen, Kozma has a track record and is ready to step into the show now. His track record, however, is the problem. Though he sure didn’t look it in spring training, historically Kozma is a good shortstop. But we don’t have to guess whether he can hit major league pitching, because he can’t.

Kozma hasn’t even faced big league pitching since 2018 so he may be rusty, which is a scary thought. He is a career .215/.278/.291 hitter, which translates to a 54 wRC+. and the last time he played more than 112 innings at shortstop was in 2013. He might be insurance for the backup utility spot on the infield, but he is not the guy you release your shortstop in order to play.

Chad Pinder

Pinder is another guy often cited in the “I mean how bad could it be?” argument. It is an example of preferring what’s behind door number two because you can’t see the can of squid. Pinder may have been drafted as a shortstop but there is a reason he moved off the position, and why the A’s said all offseason they really needed a shortstop because they didn’t have one.

If you are wondering how shaky a shortstop can be, even when the back of his baseball card says he can play there, just think back to the 2015 season and Marcus Semien’s rookie season. if you had that in the front of your mind, you might not be so quick to endorse Pinder as an everyday shortstop.

As great a corner outfielder as he is, at shortstop Pinder has a throwing arm as erratic as Semien’s was, takes a while to get rid of the ball on the pivot, and has a bit of a clanky glove. on an everyday basis, he would be a defensive disaster and that doesn’t even account for the fact that against right-handed pitching, on a career basis Pinder is a very pedestrian .233/.284/.418.

Started the year with a hot bat, and is a valuable outfielder, emergency infielder, and role player, but what he isn’t is an everyday shortstop.

Um...Um...Edwin Diaz?

Um, um...No. I mean sure, you could roll the dice with a 15th round pick who has a career OPS of .661 in the minors. Here on planet Earth, the minor league prospect who is closest to the Major Leagues is Nick Allen and that’s just how it is.

Honorable Mention

Because they exist, let’s not overlook Vimael Machin (inadequate on both sides of the ball as a potential shortstop), Tony Kemp (not a shortstop, though he slugs like a bad one), and Jed Lowrie (you want to mess with what?). Those are 3 players who do in fact exist, but who are not going to cause Elvis to leave the building.

The point here is, if the A’s feel stuck with Andrus and wish to move on, they are looking at a trade or signing of someone who is not currently in the organization. That’s where any discussion should start, if it starts, and I doubt it will in the front office before the middle of June. And so the focus shifts to getting the most you can out of Elvis, and last night’s hit-and-run was a beautiful illustration of that principle.

As for whether the bat will come around and approach career norms, let’s not forget that in 2020 (29 games) Andrus batted just .194/.252/.330 with an unsightly 58 wRC+. The last time his wRC+ eclipsed 76 the year was 2017. That being said, that 76 mark he “achieved” both in 2018 and 2019 would be welcomed with open arms. Especially considering the reality that Andrus’ in-house replacement is as real as the batter who reaches 2nd base to start the 10th inning.