A's Position Players

By Jason Wojciechowski on February 24, 2010 at 10:50 AM

Susan Slusser just tweeted an update on Jake Fox's option status: he's out them. Eric Patterson is also out. I started thinking about the A's roster and I wonder if either of these guys is going to survive spring training with Oakland.

Assume twelve pitchers, because that's been the status quo for a few years now. So that leaves thirteen position players. The absolute mortal locks are Kurt Suzuki, Landon Powell, Mark Ellis, Aaron Pennington, Jack Cust, Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, Ryan Sweeney, and Gabe Gross. That's nine. Daric Barton seems to be the assumed first baseman, so that's ten. If Eric Chavez is healthy, he'll be on the roster: eleven. The A's didn't trade for Kevin Kouzmanoff to sit in Sacramento: twelve. That leaves one more spot, and about five guys who might take it: Adam Rosales, Steve Tolleson, Jake Fox, Travis Buck, or Eric Patterson. In the above configuration, no matter how many reps Eric Chavez takes at shortstop this spring, the A's don't really have a utility infielder, so you have to figure Rosales takes that 13th spot. That leaves Fox and Patterson, both out of options, in a position to be traded to a team that has room for them.

There's some wiggle-room here, though. First, is Chavez healthy? Will he be ready Opening Day? Or is he a candidate for a Day 1 DL move?

Second, the A's have often left their fifth starter in Sacramento to start the year because of the copious early-season off-days MLB schedules.

Put these two things together and maybe Jake Fox and Eric Patterson can both earn bench spots, at least for a few weeks. When the fifth starter needs to come up, decisions need to be made, but at that point, who knows what kind of injuries Cust or Barton or Kouzmanoff might have suffered.

The other possibility is, assuming health for Chavez, the A's really believe in his abilities at shortstop, so they decide to not carry Rosales, figuring that in an injury situation at short, Chavez can step in, and if Ellis goes down, Pennington can move over (he started fifteen games at second for the A's in 2008). Thus, without the need to carry Rosales, Fox could be Chavez's bench-bat twin, a four-corners right-hander.

I wouldn't count on that last possibility, though. Much as the A's have a reputation for front-office creativity and bargain-hunting, their roster construction hasn't been the most adventurous thing around. They've never really resisted the move to seven relievers, for instance, even though they've had some very good bullpens with weak #7 men. They also don't really seem to have bought into that Earl Weaver maxim: "Your backup shortstop is in AAA." This, of course, is the issue in play here.

Not that Jake Fox or Eric Patterson is likely to turn into someone the A's truly regret losing, but both can have their uses (even if Patterson's are almost wholly speculative at this point), so it'd certainly be said to see them squeezed out by Eric Chavez's last gasp at relevance (along with the A's continued reluctance to trust that six men is enough to cover three to four innings of pitching on any given night).