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A’s activate Chad Pinder, option Seth Brown

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Brown is third on the team in homers

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s activated super-sub Chad Pinder from the 10-day injured list on Friday.

Pinder went on the injured list in early July due to a strained hamstring, and ended up missing 34 games. It’s the second time this season that he had to sit out at least a month to a leg injury, after also spraining a knee in April.

To make space on the active roster, outfielder Seth Brown was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

When healthy, Pinder has played 46 games, at five different defensive positions. He’s mostly played the two corner outfield spots, but has also started a handful of games at each of 2B, SS, and 3B. However, his bat has taken a step back from the last couple years.

  • Pinder, 2021: .216/.269/.358, 76 wRC+, 3 HR, 5.5% BB, 27.6% Ks, .324 wxOBA

That’s his highest strikeout rate since 2017, though Statcast still loves it when he makes contact, with huge exit velocities. In terms of xwOBACON (that’s xwOBA on only the balls he makes contact with), his .421 mark is just behind Matt Olson (.425) for the team lead.

Meanwhile, Brown has developed into one of the A’s top power hitters in reality not just in theory, as his 16 homers rank third on the team despite playing in a part-time role. His rate of 15.5 plate appearances per homer is the best on the club, even ahead of Olson. Brown is also the second-fastest player on the team and a plus defender in the outfield corners.

Perhaps most importantly, Brown was the only left-handed hitting outfielder on the roster. The only remaining lefty who has played any outfield this year is Tony Kemp.

Analysis

This is not the move the A’s should have made. The better move would have been to activate Pinder and then send him to Triple-A.

I’m a massive Pinder fan, and entering the year he was my top 2021 breakout candidate. But it hasn’t happened, at least not yet, and as things stand now there’s not a realistic place for him on the roster.

Oakland already has too many right-handed batters, and they’re all hitting better than he has this year. That leaves defense as a way for Pinder to contribute, but he’s only a plus in the outfield. But Brown is already a plus there, while also providing basically the lefty version of what we hoped Pinder’s bat would become. Pinder can cover the infield in a pinch, but he shouldn’t need to anymore because Josh Harrison is here and Harrison is better at it.

In other words, Harrison took Pinder’s spot. They’re both righty super-subs who have slightly different strengths, but Harrison is a better fit right now with his infield defense and high-contact at the plate, and there isn’t space for both of them. If the A’s want a good defensive outfielder who hits it hard but strikes out a lot, then Brown is the answer.

And for the times when you specifically want a righty outfielder instead of the lefty Brown? There’s still Stephen Piscotty for the short side of the platoon. They could DFA him, considering he’s having his third straight bad season, but personally I agree with not doing so. There’s still MLB-caliber talent in there, and depth doesn’t stop being important in late-August — in fact, it’s even more important now, because injuries can still happen and you can’t trade for new replacements anymore. You don’t need Piscotty to have a great year, just a hot couple weeks in an emergency, and he’s absolutely capable of that.

Even before considering Piscotty’s guaranteed 2022 salary, there’s no need to DFA him yet, not when another spare righty batter can still be optioned to the minors so everyone can stay in the organization. That spare righty batter is Pinder himself. If there are service time issues that require his consent to go to the minors, well, he’s hailed as a team leader so this would be the moment to take one for the team.

Rosters expand from 26 to 28 in less than two weeks (on Sept. 1), so whoever went down today will probably be back soon anyway. Now they’ll spend that window of time with zero lefty outfielders and a bench full of righty super-subs.

Here’s the updated roster, with the injury report below.

Oakland A's 26-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Sean Manaea (L)
Frankie Montas (R)
Cole Irvin (L)
James Kaprielian (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)

60-IL: Mike Fiers (R)
IL: Chris Bassitt (R)

Relievers

Lou Trivino (R)
Andrew Chafin (L)
Jake Diekman (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Sergio Romo (R)
Deolis Guerra (R)
A.J. Puk (L)
Burch Smith (R)

60-IL: Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Yan Gomes (R)

Infielders

1B: Matt Olson (L)
2B: Jed Lowrie (S)
SS: Elvis Andrus (R)
3B: Matt Chapman (R)
UT: Josh Harrison (R)
UT: Tony Kemp (L)
DH: Mitch Moreland (L)

Outfielders

Mark Canha (R)
Starling Marte (R)
Chad Pinder (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)

Injury report:

One more injury update below, on pitcher Mike Fiers.