As most of you already know, the Oakland A's acquired outfielder Chris Young from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Cliff Pennington. Speculation has already begun that either Coco Crisp or possibly Jonny Gomes may not be back with the club in 2013. While I like the acquisition of Young, I think losing one or possibly both is a bad, bad idea.
First and foremost, Young doesn't hit left-handed pitching like Gomes does. Both players struggle against right-handed pitching (Young hit just .210 in 2012, Gomes .209). But while Gomes provided tangible value as a designated hitter, Young figures to be best served in the outfield. He is a plus defender, but does not have the bat that Gomes does in a platoon situation.
Case in point: Against left-handed pitchers, Gomes feasted with a slash line of .299/.413/.561 in 2012. He is the perfect compliment to likely incumbent designated hitter Seth Smith. Young on the other hand had a slash line of .267/.343/.467 last year. If he is being thrust into the starting lineup, that likely means Jemile Weeks will be hitting leadoff because there is no room for Crisp. Why do I say that? Well, when was the last time the Oakland A's paid anyone $8.5 million to come off the bench?
Speaking of Crisp, numbers never lie, but they don't always tell the whole truth. Sure he hit all of .259 this year. But no one was more clutch on this team than Crisp (as evidenced by his four walk-off at-bats). When he became the leadoff hitter, the A's offense and team production improved. He was the harbinger of the 2012 team. In his 130 games, the A's went 72-48. When they won, Crisp's slash line was .303/.375/.542.
In the 48 losses, his slash line was .187/.236/.211. Simply put, as Coco went, so went the 2012 A's offensively. Which makes potentially trading him so senseless. Yes, Billy Beane has said he doesn't plan on trading anyone in the outfield. But the 2012 season hasn't even ended yet! Taking Beane at face value is how so many GM's get fleeced in the first place.
If you had to let one player walk, which would you prefer to see go?
If it were up to me, I would actually use Chris Young as the chip to go and acquire middle infield help. In a strange way, his best asset to Oakland might be his value in a trade. Follow me here. Assuming Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick prove themselves to be legitimate five- and four-tool outfielders respectively, the A's have a cornerstone for their lineup.
What they would need is less mash and more dash, and a little bit more professionalism at the plate. Brandon Moss may have had an outlier season, but he is still a viable power threat. So is Chris Carter. Josh Donaldson will start at third base and Scott Sizemore is ready to return if Donaldson stumbles.
The biggest question marks are up the middle. Will Jemile Weeks bounce back at second base? Will the A's re-sign Stephen Drew? If the A's trade Crisp, who plays in center: Cespedes or Young? If you keep things intact initially, at least dominoes could fall before making moves. If Drew bolts, Young could be used to acquire a replacement or some other piece.
But putting him in a new league as a .239 career hitter and sacrificing your leadoff hitter as an expense is not the best decision. I'm also not keen about letting a guy who crushes left-handed pitching just walk away either. While I do view the trade as a win, I'm not sure exactly how this makes the A's better. The outfield was already very good defensively.
And Young is just another boom or bust guy at the plate who will mash, but at the cost of a lot of strikeouts (average of 149 per 162 game season). Frankly, the A's need more consistent singles hitters than home run guys. So if Young coming is the cost of Crisp and Gomes going, consider it Billy Beane's first mistake of the 2013 season.