By Jason Wojciechowski on January 15, 2010 at 6:30 PM
Susan Slusser has reported on Twitter (or at least that's where I saw it) that the A's and Padres have agreed on a trade sending Scott Hairston back to San Diego along with Aaron Cunningham for Kevin Kouzmanoff and "a prospect". Obviously, the deal can't be fully evaluated without knowing who the prospect is. It's one thing if it's Jaff Decker or Donovan Tate. It's another if it's Allan Dykstra. (I'd assume it's actually someone in between, someone on the level of Cunningham, but that's mainly because I see the trade almost as two separate trades, and that may not be an accurate depiction of the mindset of Hoyer and Beane.)
On the major-league level, this leaves the A's attempting to solve their third-base problem (and acknowledging that Eric Chavez is done) while alleviating their outfield crunch. This presumably leaves Ryan Sweeney without any serious competition as the everyday starter in right and Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis in some configuration in left and center. It won't hit much, but that outfield could rival Seattle's defensively, right? (Although let's be fair to the three guys -- they're all basically league-average hitters. Sweeney and Crisp have shown that the last two years, and Davis ... well, Davis was about as much below average in 2008 as he was above in 2009. Marcel and CHONE both have him somewhere in the range of average offensively, with Marcel being much more optimistic.)
With Hairston and Cunningham out of the way (which I don't mean as a negative on either guy, since both have shown that they can hit), that presumably clears the way for Travis Buck (who's supposedly been hitting with Nick Swisher this winter) to be the fourth outfielder. I think this is a good thing as long as he gets some at-bats, because I still believe in his stick.
What about Kouzmanoff? He turns 29 at the end of July, which I believe makes him 28 in terms of the standard seasonal-age cutoff, but whatever, he's basically in the tail end of his prime. Kouzmanoff's an arbitration-eligible guy, but he's in his first year of such status, so he's under team control until 2012. In WAR terms, he's been very steady: over the last three years, he's been at 27.6, 27.6, and 27.1 RAR, though the shape of that value has changed. In 2007, he was 10 runs above average with the bat but a little below average afield. By 2009, he was hitting below average while putting up 7.5 runs above average per UZR. CHONE figures him to take another step backward with the bat in 2010, although a small one. Combine that with his UZR/150 over three years of data (which is apparently the consensus of what it takes to get an idea of a guy's true defensive ability) and you've got a two-win player.
That's not exactly something you get excited about having, but it is something that's not readily available in the free-agent market. Adrian Beltre's a superior player, but CHONE figures him for 2.7 WAR, just a half-win upgrade on Kouzmanoff, and he signed for ten million. So to get a guy you're going to pay a few million dollars for this production, you have to give up some stuff.
What I'm curious about is what happens if Eric Chavez does make a miraculous comeback. That's not something you can really plan on, so I can't really advocate not getting an actually adequate third baseman (rather than notionally adequate guys like Eric Patterson, Jake Fox, or Dallas McPherson), even if it does cost you Cunningham.