It is getting harder and harder to justify keeping Daric Barton on a major league roster, especially one still struggling to find consistent offense.
The Oakland Athletics showed Barton a lot of loyalty during the offseason and pegged him as their starting first baseman and a major part of the future.
So far this season, Barton has not rewarded the team for their faith in his abilities.
He has admitted that a potential contract extension is in the back of his head, and he is thinking and pressing too much while at the plate.
The result has been a season-long slump that has him batting close to the Mendoza line at .211, without a single home run, and with just 12 extra base hits (all doubles). He set the record last night for most consecutive games without a home run by a first baseman at 64 games.
Barton, still widely considered one of the better defenders at first base, has also seen his struggles carry over to his defense. Last season Barton committed 10 errors in 157 games.
So far this year he already has eight errors in just 64 games.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, arguably a more established major leaguer, already was handed his ticket back to Triple-A for a similar display of total defensive and offensive ineptitude.
You have to wonder: How much longer until a similar fate befalls Barton?
The A's might be considering sending Daric Barton to the minors. The .212-hitting Barton has an option left, and he's simply never been able to escape his season-long funk. Sending him down to get his head on straight might not be a bad idea at this point. If a move is made, Conor Jackson and/or Adam Rosales would likely handle first base.
This is another significant example of a major move that would send the signal that the A's are committed to making a run this season. The A's still believe that Barton is a part of their future—the team has not made any indications that they are ready to hand over the reigns to Chris Carter.
There is still a feeling around this club that Barton's defense is highly valued. A trip to Sacramento would be an opportunity for Barton to turn things around, clear his head, and build some confidence by beating up on Triple-A pitching for a little while just as Kouzmanoff is now doing (.333/.355/.700 2 HR 7 RBI 30 AB).
With Mark Ellis scheduled to come off the disabled list this Wednesday, this could be Barton's final few games to turn things around before packing his bags for Sacramento. Presumably, the A's would option Barton to the minor leagues in favor of keeping the hot-hitting Jemile Weeks in the majors.
Ellis's return creates a position dilemma for new manager Bob Melvin.
Weeks needs playing time to continue developing at second, but Mark Ellis is better than a utility player. Plus, the more versatile Adam Rosales already fills that role, anyway.
Scott Sizemore, another utility-type player, would appear the most likely to head back to Sacramento if the club chooses to stick with Barton, creating a third-base platoon opportunity for Rosales and Ellis.
Ellis could become a trade chip to bring in a young prospect, although Melvin's praise of Ellis's intangibles indicates the A's would like to let him play out the final year of his contract in an Oakland uniform.
The most likely scenario is that the club will choose to stick with Ellis, Sizemore, and Rosales.
Barton will be rooming with Kouzmanoff in Sacramento and waiting for his next opportunity in Oakland.
I'm not willing to wager a guess as to whether Ellis shifts to a third-base platoon with Scott Sizemore or if he becomes the utility player while Rosales and Jackson platoon at first base (as the Chronicle suggested).
Ellis could even become the super-sub-type player the A's turned Bobby Crosby into two years ago, or he could settle into a role similar to Marco Scutaro's and see occasional time in the outfield as well.
There are a lot of unknowns that will need to be sorted out between now and Wednesday.
One thing is becoming increasingly more clear, though: The decision does not come down to whether or not Jemile Weeks will stay in the majors.
It is whether or not Daric Barton stays.
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