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2023 Athletics Season in Review: Kevin Smith

Another piece of the Matt Chapman trade, gone and soon forgotten.

Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

No, not that Kevin Smith, writer/director of Clerks and Tusk. This is Kevin Smith, now former infielder of the Oakland Athletics. Despite high hopes and a couple seasons of ripe opportunities to help make good on the Matt Chapman trade, the A’s finally cut bait on the 27-year-old. As the leader of the #FreeKevinSmith movement, even I had to admit defeat and give up on his future in Oakland.

How Acquired?

In the A’s 2021-22 firesale, David Forst sent star third baseman Matt Chapman to the Toronto Blue Jays for a completely underwhelming package, activating extreme cases of deja vu across Athletics Nation. Kevin Smith was one of the players, standing in as sort of the Brett Lawrie of the trade — a high-floor infielder who should theoretically be able to step right into the major league lineup and provide solid production. Unfortunately, that did not take place in his first season with the A’s. In 2022, Smith hit under .200 and was barely even half as good as a league average player.

What were the expectations?

The A’s chalked Smith’s fruitless debut up to the rookie learning curve going into 2023, wiping the slate clean and giving him an opportunity to win a roster spot in Spring Training. It made sense after seeing the September he had at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit a ridiculous 11 homeruns in just 18 games. There was hope he’d made a crucial adjustment and with no solidified answer at third base or shortstop, one of those positions was prime for his taking.

2023 Results

Though he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, Smith continued his Triple-A breakout, mashing to the tune of a 1.025 OPS — absurd even by Vegas standards. In spite of that performance, Smith essentially repeated his rookie year at the major league level. His .185/.220/.326 batting line was nearly identical to what he did in 2022 while his walk and strikeout rates worsened. The A’s squeezed every last chance out of him, almost letting him finish the season in Oakland before optioning him back to Triple-A with a week left to go.

What went right? What went wrong?

The A’s have often targeted players with strong performances in the upper minors who haven’t yet gotten an opportunity to prove themselves in the majors. Sometimes it works a la Ryan Noda; other times, you get a Kevin Smith. He put up incredible numbers at Triple-A but he clearly lacked the discernment and discipline needed to be even an average major league contributor.

2024 Outlook

After the season ended, the A’s declined to tender Smith a contract, essentially releasing him less than two years after they acquired him. He lasted longer than his trade-mates Kirby Snead and Zach Logue but is survived by the hypothetical centerpiece prospect, Gunnar Hoglund, who finally pitched for an extended period and looked good (fingers crossed)! What’s sad is that Smith provided even less to the A’s than Brett Lawrie, his spiritual predecessor in the Josh Donaldson trade and demonstrated that the A’s not only haven’t learned any lessons since that trade; they’re borderline incompetent now given how they’ve screwed up almost every major trade during this rebuild. Unfortunately, Kevin Smith will likely be remembered by A’s fans more for the front office malpractice he represented than what he did on the field.