The A's tried all offseason to replace Kevin Kouzmanoff in the lineup and on the field.
I was in the minority at the time of fans that wanted Kouzmanoff to be given another chance. I felt that it was not fair to judge him based on one season in which he was adjusting to a new league and batting in a place in the lineup that were not suited to his game.
My thought was that he would improve dramatically this season, and even if he did not he would still provide the A's with solid defense at the hot corner.
Wow was I ever wrong.
Kouzmanoff wasted a brilliant performance by Tyson Ross on Wednesday night when he botched a routine ground ball in the ninth inning for his sixth error of the season.
The A's were able to come back and win the game in the tenth inning and salvage the final game of the series and avoid the sweep.
To give you a little perspective on just how poor defensively Kouzmanoff has been this season, he already has twice as many errors as he made in all of 2009 (three). He has half as many errors in the first 24 games of this season as he had in 142 games last season (twelve). If he plays in 140 games again this season (I rounded down just to make it easier), he is on pace to commit 31 errors!
The problem here is not just his glove, Kouzmanoff has no redeeming value with his bat either. Including his 1-4 showing on Wednesday, he actually raised his batting average to .222.
I have not had the opportunity to talk with Kouzmanoff, therefore I can't say for sure what he feels is causing his slump. Based solely on the information available and from observing his play I can offer this guess, he is in his own head and can't get out.
The offseason courting of every available, and any possibly available, third baseman on the planet messed Kouzmanoff up between the ears more than he has openly admitted.
He came into spring training saying the right things. He was going to prove to the A's and to himself that he was a power hitting third baseman, and that last year was just a down year.
He has put too much pressure on himself and actually regressed further beyond anyone imagined he could based on his struggles last season.
Unfortunately for Kouz, the A's can't wait around on him to figure it out. The offense has been anemic and the obvious place for an upgrade is his roster spot at third base.
The A's appeared to have lost patience with him last season, how will they react after the start to this season?
The only way that Kouzmanoff can rebound from this and continue his career now is with a change of scenery; his days in Oakland are numbered.
How should the A's handle playing time at third base from this point forward though?
In the short term Andy LaRoche must start at third base with Kouzmanoff only providing him with a day off a week. At this point the position needs to become LaRoche's to lose.
The A's have experimented with Adrian Cardenas at third in Sacramento, but his glove has proven shaky. Cardenas needs to be given strictly playing time at third in AAA for a week while receiving instruction at the position in hopes he can provide a solid enough showing to get his bat to the Majors and allow LaRoche to slide back into a utility role.
If LaRoche earns the position full time then Cardenas can fill the utility role until Rosales returns from the disabled list in early June.
Steve Tollison also needs to be given consideration as a call-up in the event that neither Cardenas or LaRoche can handle the position.
Thinking a little outside the box
With both Jemile Weeks and Adrian Cardenas pushing Oakland's hand a little with their hot-hitting in the minors as the A's continue to struggle with the bat, either player could be called up to step into the A's lineup.
The question would be if Mark Ellis' solid defense at second could be transitioned across the diamond to third, allowing Weeks or Cardenas to take over at second?
I'd consider this a long shot at best, but some move has got to be made to improve the defense on the left side of the infield.
Options outside the organization
That's right, perhaps it is time for Billy Beane to pick up the phone and start shopping around for a third baseman again.
Despite Oakland being a team named in his no-trade clause, Chone Figgins may be wearing out his welcome in Seattle. Since Kouzmanoff has worn out his welcome in Oakland, perhaps we could swap the two infielders in hopes that Figgins returns to form playing for a contender again (and yes, the A's still count as a contender).
Alex Gordon from the Kansas City Royals could also be available. Although he now plays the outfield, he was a top prospect at third base and is still young enough that he should be able to convert back into an infielder.
Gordon was unable to play to his potential his first few seasons in Kansas City due to injuries, but he is enjoying a hot start to this season so far.
Aramis Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs could also be available in a trade. While he does not represent a massive defensive upgrade, he does have the power that Kouzmanoff has not been able to display during his Oakland tenure.
A trade for David Wright has been suggested, by me, twice already (make this three times now). Wright would require a hefty package of prospects and some proven Major League talent, but he is exactly the type of player we need to place at third in Oakland.
Wright plays in a park that is comparable to playing at the Oakland Coliseum (or Overstock.com Coliseum after Friday). His numbers should not suffer coming over and playing in the spacious coliseum.
Ryan Zimmerman would be an even better fit, but would come with a heftier price tag than Wright.
Scott Rolen is off to a slow start in Cincinnati, and currently hurt, but he could also be available if he would be willing to come play in Oakland. Rolen was an All-Star in 2010 and won a Gold Glove.
Whichever route the A's choose to take in regards to the current third base situation, the one thing that is clear is that Kouzmanoff can not continue to receive regular playing time.
He has earned the loss of his position, and should have earned a ticket out of Oakland as soon as the A's can find a suitable replacement.
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