Gabe Gross joins the A's

By Jason Wojciechowski on January 31, 2010 at 10:15 PM

Gabe Gross has apparently signed a cheap one-year deal with the A's. So that means the A's traded two outfielders to the Padres to alleviate an outfield crunch partially created by their weird redundant signing of Coco Crisp, and they follow that up by ... making a weird redundant signing of Gabe Gross. Yeah. I can talk myself into this, though.

After all, it's not like Gabe Gross is a bad player. He's got a career EqA of .255, with the last two years (671 total PAs) clocking in at .262 and .239. He's not a good hitter, in other words, but he's not a total horror-show with the bat, either. He has excellent fielding numbers per Total Zone, putting up a +21 per 1250 innings in rightt field, although he's only logged 1877 innings there overall, so it's not as big a sample as you'd like to see. UZR agrees with the assessment, though, putting him at +17.6 per 150 games. So I think we can call him a plus right-fielder, which presumably makes him a plus left-fielder as well (unless for whatever reason he just can't read the ball off the bat from that side, which is highly implausible) and could probably handle center in a pinch, although the A's have plenty of center fielders already on the roster.

Gross has been heavily platooned in his career: he's got 1260 plate appearances against righties and just 177 against lefties. That's kind of remarkable, actually, given that you tend to face relievers, get the odd start against a lefty when your platoon partner is ailing, etc. etc. It appears to be for good reason, though, since he's a .152/.273/.291 hitter against lefties in that small sample.

Anyway, if Gross were being brought in as the lefty half of a platoon, that'd be fine, except that Ryan Sweeney's already a lefty, Coco Crisp is a switch-hitter (and not one of those faux-switch-hitters, either, but a guy who's hit about the same against both halves in his career), and Rajai Davis's platoon split is basically nonexistent (although he hasn't had that many major-league plate appearances, so it's possible he's a latent platoon player that just hasn't come out of hiding yet).

As mentioned above, the A's already have a three-center-fielder outfield, so Gross obviously isn't being brought in for late-game defensive purposes. And to the extent that Gross is here to replace Travis Buck as a lefty pinch-hitter, he isn't really an upgrade. CHONE and Marcel project both guys to basically be league-average hitters, but given that Buck has hit well in the past, both in the majors and minors, and that Buck is four years younger than Gross, I'll bet that PECOTA is going to spit out much better 75th and 90th percentile projections for Buck than for Gross.

I can't really complain, I guess, because a depth signing is a depth signing, and the A's very clearly do not believe in Travis Buck's ability to bust through as a star. Plus, unless I'm mistaken, Buck has an option remaining (having been sent on the Sacramento-Oakland shuttle in 2008 and 2009, but having spent his only minor league time in 2007 on a rehab stint), so he can spent the late spring in Sacramento and wait for one of the four guys ahead of him to get hurt. And hope that Michael Taylor doesn't bash the hell out of the ball, leading the A's to hand him the first available opportunity instead of Buck.

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