Chris Young returns, Daric Barton DFA'd
Chris Young makes his return from the disabled list today, and to make room for him on the 25-man roster, the A's designated Daric Barton for assignment. Shipping Barton out was one of three possibilities, the other two being the optioning of Luke Montz and the waiving of Nate Freiman. The team professes to want to keep Barton, of course, but every team professes to want to keep every player they designate for assignment. Optioning Montz would not have required a 40-man move.
Since I can't make sense of the roster jumble in my head, let's work this out on paper.
The base lineups, it seems, as it stands, with Barton designated:
(Note that this is not tonight's lineup, as Melvin has opted for Chris Young in right with Seth Smith on the bench.)
Suppose instead that the team had optioned Montz:
DH: Moss? Smith?
I'm not sure I see either of these options as obviously better than the other, now that they're drawn out. Bob Melvin made a defense-over-offense choice tonight with Chris Young in right instead of Seth Smith, but I suspect that's part of the A's "just got on the roster? Okay, you're starting!" plan as much as anything. Long term, if Smith is on the bench against righties, I don't know why he's on the roster.
What having Barton around does, though, is push Derek Norris out of the lineup and force John Jaso behind the plate. Norris is hitting in some sense of the word (.218/.364/.322), but I'm not sure you worry about that. Jaso isn't a great catcher, but Norris isn't the second coming of Yadier Molina either.
Barton does help the defense against righties because Barton is probably better than Moss at first and Moss is probably better than Smith in the outfield, so you get a cascading improvement in ball-catching.
Losing Montz would create a dilemma against lefties—as it stands, Melvin can run an entirely right-handed lineup out against your C.C. Sabathias and Jason Vargases. Without Montz, he couldn't do that.
The issue of Montz being a third catcher so that Jaso can designatedly hit is sort of a moot point, as I see it. If Barton stuck around instead of Montz, then Jaso would not DH in the v. RHP lineup anyway because he'd need to vacate the DH spot for Smith so that Barton could start.
I don't know whether a team will claim Barton. I don't know whether it matters. He got on base five times in 23 trips to the plate in his brief time in Oakland and he hasn't hit since 2010. Defense at first base only goes so far.
Who is the A's emergency [X]?
Tonight's win over Texas resulted in half a game of a fun lesson in what happens when "injury stacks" happen: you wind up with your everyday first baseman playing center field. That's what Bob Melvin was forced to turn to when Yoenis Cespedes had to leave the game with a tummyache1. With Coco Crisp, Chris Young, and Josh Reddick all on the disabled list until at least Wednesday (when there's now some hope that Crisp could actually be the first one off the list, with Young apparently not recovering as fast and the possibility of Reddick having surgery being tossed around), it's amusing to ponder what the A's depth chart at each situation actually looks like and how many owies it would take to get to a really dire situation.
In center, we've already seen it:
Moss is by my estimation the sixth center fielder on the depth chart, but that makes him, again, as we saw tonight, #2 on the current roster.
Let's just note right now that right field, left field, and first base aren't fun. "Oh no Jemile Weeks is the 10th first baseman on the depth chart!" never made anyone laugh that hard.
So. Second base?
As for the current roster, this means Donaldson is fourth, though if you get to the point where you're down Sogard, Lowrie, and Rosales, that means you're also missing your shortstop, so Donaldson probably plays there, maybe with Luke Montz at third, and ... gosh Daric Barton at second?
In a sense what this really means is that you only need two injuries to get Donaldson to second base because whoever that third guy is will be playing short. That's an exciting prospect.
If you want to get into rank speculation of who would come after Barton among all the players who've never caught before, you'd probably have to go with Adam Rosales, though it's worth wondering whether he'd hurt himself leaping forward for a pitch and launching his head directly into the hitter's swing path. Maybe just sit Bartolo Colon back there.
A's Power Ranking, Five-Twelve
Your updated A's Power Ranking. As always: this is cumulative, not just based on the last week, and ranks only players who are presently on the 25-man roster. Stats through Saturday's game, though I've seen most of Sunday's as I write.
Riser of the week: Ryan Cook, from 17 to 10
See you back here next week.
Josh Reddick to the DL, Daric Barton up
Josh Reddick's wrist is going to cause him to miss enough time that the A's made a roster move today, calling up Daric Barton from Sacramento. Reddick apparently doesn't need all 15 days, but isn't going to miss only a game or two, either, leaving the A's in that limbo where they could have a 24-man roster for a week. Rather than live with that, Billy Beane filled Bob Melvin's bench.
Daric Barton, as you may recall, was removed from the 40-man roster a ways back, so the A's had another move to make to add him. Faced with another opportunity to designated Jesse Chavez for assignment, Beane decided instead to flat-out cut Jordan Norberto. Readers of the blog will know I'm not the biggest Norberto fan, mainly due to my bias against guys who can't throw strikes. Still, the lefty averages better than 93 mph from the left side with his fastball and whiffed 46 in 52 innings in the bigs in 2012. Unfortunately, since August of last year he's been dealing with arm injuries and he's pitched just 1 1/3 innings in 2013, with his last appearance coming on April 10th.
All of this means that you might think the A's could have waived Norberto, hoped he went unclaimed because of his injuries, and kept him in the organization. And in fact there's talk that the team might try to re-sign him to a minor-league contract now that he's been released. But the word, both from Susan Slusser on Twitter and via email from Bob Rose, A's press maven, is that you cannot request waivers on an injured player. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to figure out where this rule comes from after a quick look at both the Major League Rules and the Collective Bargaining Agreement. There are rules about designating for assignment players on the Major League Disabled List, but unless I'm missing something, Norberto wasn't on that list, because why would he be? He was optioned to the minors, then got hurt—there's no need to clear a 25-man roster spot because he's not on the 25-man roster.
I don't disbelieve Slusser and Rose, by the way, and the fact that the A's appear to want to keep Norberto supports the theory that they didn't actually want to release him—I'm basically just begging for help. Can anyone find any textual support for the rule that you can't request waivers on an injured minor-league player?
With that out of the way, and noting that Daric Barton was the starting first baseman tonight against the extremely right-handed Justin Masterson, and further noting that he walked in his first trip to the plate and then made a fine defensive play that was nearly a double play in his first chance in the field, here's what I guess the lineup looks like now:
Tonight's lineup did not look like this, with Jed Lowrie at designated hitter and Eric Sogard at second, but if this roster were the A's roster for more than the next 10 days or however long it takes for Chris Young to get back and push Luke Montz or Michael Taylor back to the minors, I'd expect the above to be the basic lineup from which various variations arise.
I could be overrating Montz's place on the team, but it strikes me as entirely pointless to have Montz, Freiman, Moss, and Barton all on the squad if Montz isn't going to play sometimes. The above basic lineups have the virtue of making all 13 position players starters. Assuming that is a virtue.
It does, by the way, since I mentioned it, sound like Young will be the first back from the disabled list, as he's a tad ahead of Coco Crisp. I think he'll replace Taylor directly as it's not clear when Taylor would ever play once Young is back. Montz at least still has notional value in that case as a backup catcher when Jaso is DHing. I suppose in theory we could see Hiroyuki Nakajima make an appearance, but that likely depends on Bob Melvin's comfort with not having a backup infielder on the nights that Lowrie DHes versus not having a backup catcher on the nights that Jaso DHes. If Jaso is the default DH against righties, as I have him above, it probably makes sense to keep Montz around. Lowrie, by contrast, is presumably an occasional DH, not the default.
Now I might be mixing predictions of the A's approach with my own predilections and hopes, but that's always been more or less my mode around here, so why change now?
What do the A's do if Jarrod Parker goes on the DL, something Bob Melvin has said isn't likely to happen but about which really youneverknow? Susan Slusser tweeted that she heard that Sonny Gray is the favorite to replace Parker, which is interesting because Andrew Werner is a starting pitcher (eight starts for San Diego last year, seven for Sacramento this year, no relief appearances in his career) is already on the 40-man roster, though his 8.54 ERA might be giving the A's pause. Having to make another 40-man move with Norberto already gone could prove tough.
That said, perhaps Jesse Chavez's time would be up if Gray were to be his replacement. You can understand the A's unease with cutting Chavez for the sake of Barton—if a reliever were to get hurt, they'd be left with Werner, Pedro Figueroa (7.62 ERA himself), or ... well, no, it's just those two pitching at Triple-A and on the 40-man roster. I'm a Michael Ynoa fan, but I don't think he's ready.
But if you're adding Gray to the 40, then dumping Chavez leaves you where you started, rather than short an emergency reliever, assuming, of course, that Parker were only hurt for a short time and that Gray would go back to the minors thereafter.
I don't have strong feelings about Chavez, so I don't think he needs to go so much as I think it's weird that he's survived this long and figure there's no way he'll last the year on the roster given Mike Ekstrom and Hideki Okajima and Gray and Bruce Billings and even Danny Otero all waiting around in Sacramento for a shot and none on the 40-man roster. At least if he's removed for Gray, Chavez can say he was booted by a legit prospect.
Luke Montz vs. John Jaso
In the seventh inning last night, Derek Norris led off with a double to left-center (which he crushed, by the way), bringing the tying run to the plate. With lefty Nick Hagadone on the mound, Adam Rosales pinch-hit for Eric Sogard. After he flew out, Bob Melvin sent Luke Montz out to hit for John Jaso, which caused Tito Francona to relieve Hagadone with righty Bryan Shaw.
Given the relative merits of Jaso and Montz (as opposed to Rosales and Sogard), it seems likely that Melvin had the ball in his court: he could choose Jaso vs. the lefty or Montz vs. the righty. He was never going to get Montz vs. the lefty.
Because I wasn't sure about that choice at the time, and still wasn't sure when I woke up this morning, I thought I'd throw out some numbers so we know what Melvin was working with.
Here's Jaso v. LHP in his career: .176/.308/.237 in 162 plate appearances.
Here's Jaso v. RHP in his career: .269/.367/.415 in 984 plate appearances.
Jaso's not good against lefties. He was actually worse against them in 53 trips last year: .119/.250/.143. The best you can hope he'll do is eke out a walk.
Baseball Reference recently added minor-league splits back to 2008, though it does not appear that they are yet aggregated, so here is Montz year to year against lefties and righties:
There's no such thing as a sample size big enough to make me happy, but Montz has made his living the last two years, and in his career in general, roasting lefties. His performance against righties has sometimes been adequate and sometimes been awful—and remember that the 724 OPS he put up against righties last year came in the Pacific Coast League, a place not well known for its run-suppression.
There are other factors at work besides Montz and Jaso, of course, including how tired Hagadone was, how fresh Shaw was, how the two hitters match up against those two particular pitchers, not just as righties and lefties but as players with specific arsenals and sequencing routines, how Jaso and Montz were feeling that day, and, not least, the small possibility that Francona might lose his mind and leave Hagadone in to face Montz.
I don't have answers in any of these areas, and Melvin, even to the extent he had answers, didn't have an hour to sit around and think about it. So I don't know if he was right, but I do know he wasn't wrong.
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