Centerfielders: the new market inefficiency? - Thearon W. Henderson
After acquiring Chris Young from Arizona, Billy Beane has a glut of outfielders. Is there a chance that the student can help the mentor?
In this space a few days back, we previewed a number of possible Arizona Diamondbacks outfield trade targets, as they were a team who'd made it known that they had outfielders to deal. Not even 24 hours later, the Diamondbacks cleared up some of their outfield logjam by dealing centerfielder Chris Young to the Oakland Athletics as part of a three-team trade. Surprise!
With Young now out in Oakland, however, the upstart A's suddenly find themselves with their own overabundance in the outfield. We all know about the history between Sandy Alderson and A's GM Billy Beane, so perhaps the two sides can come to an agreement on a deal this offseason. In the chart below, you'll find the six Oakland outfield trade candidates:
|Name||Age||2012 BA/OBP/SLG||2012 fWAR||Career fWAR||2012 wOBA||Contract Situation|
|Josh Reddick||25||.242/.305/.463||4.8||6.6||.326||Pre-arb, not arb eligible until 2014|
|Coco Crisp||32||.259/.325/.418||2.9||26.9||.324||$7 million in 2013 with $7.5 million team option for 2014|
|Chris Young (with Arizona)||29||.231/.311/.434||2.8||16.3||.325||$8.5 million in 2013, $11 million team option for 2014|
|Yoenis Cespedes||26||.292/.356/.505||3.1||3.1||.368||$8.5 million in 2013, signed through 2015|
|Seth Smith||29||.240/.333/.420||1.4||7.7||.325||Arb eligible, made $2.41 million in 2012|
|Brandon Moss||28||.291/.358/.596||2.4||2.7||.402||First time arb eligible|
While there's no Justin Upton level superstar here, Reddick and Cespedes are the closest to that echelon. Both are young, both are cost-controlled for a number of seasons (Reddick for 4 years, Cespedes for 3, albeit at a much higher rate), and both can hit for power. Considering the fact that we're talking about the unpredictable Billy Beane, Reddick or Cespedes probably aren't completely untouchable but you'd have to imagine that it'd take an extreme overpay or a star level talent to pry one of them from Beane's grasp.
Brandon Moss mostly spent time at first base this season, but he has corner outfield experience in the minor leagues. Once upon a time, Moss was a highly-touted prospect in the Red Sox system but he never hit enough in his prior big league trials. After crushing the ball for AAA Sacramento, the A's called him up and he hit 21 home runs in under 300 plate appearances. It was a breakout season for him, though at age 28, he'd certainly be a risk if you're the team trying to acquire him. If he could be had on the cheap, he'd be a worthwhile gamble with that kind of power but the A's would be foolish to deal him for nothing after what he did this season.
That leaves us with Smith, Crisp and Young. We reviewed Young in the Diamondbacks preview and nothing has changed with him, other than his current employer and perhaps how he's valued. It wouldn't be terribly surprising to see Beane flip him to another team this offseason, though it might make more sense for him to deal away Smith or Crisp instead. Smith, the former Rockie, is a lefthanded hitter who plays corner outfield and the defensive metrics tend to say he's a better left fielder than right fielder (career +2 DRS in LF, -12 in RF). He's a well above average hitter against right handed pitchers, sporting a career .283/.361/.503 line against them but his biggest issue is a major platoon split. In fact, he's only had 283 at bats against lefties over his 5+ season career (compared to nearly 1400 against righties). Considering the Mets' needs, that does not seem to bode well for him, though he would be a fine lefty half of a platoon if acquired. Still in arbitration, he'll be affordable and the platoon split issue and the fact that he's a corner guy should limit his trade value to the point where it shouldn't take a ton to get him in a deal.
In contrast, the veteran switch-hitting center fielder Crisp may fit the Mets' needs better. The defensive metrics place him at about scratch in center over the last few seasons. Offensively, he'd fill a large hole at the top of the lineup, allowing Ruben Tejada to shift into the second slot in the batting order. Crisp walks an adequate rate (right around 8% for his career) and though he only has a career .329 on base percentage, he does add some moderate doubles power, 5-10 home runs, and speed (he was 39/43 in stolen base attempts in 2012 and rarely gets thrown out). Crisp turns 33 in a week, which is a bit of a concern considering his skillset and the fact that the Mets should be looking for younger players who can contribute past 2013. In his defense, he has a team-friendly option for 2014 and shouldn't cost a lot to acquire.
The A's have an interesting glut of outfielders to deal from but it doesn't seem like there's an obvious standout choice here. Cespedes or Reddick would be nice acquisitions but the chance that either one gets dealt or that the Mets have enough to tempt Beane to deal them seems slim. Moss is probably too risky unless he can be acquired for very little and with the numbers he put up in 2012, Oakland has no reason to sell low on him right now. Smith would be a nice lefty half of a platoon but two of the Mets' deficiencies are a lack of righthanded bats, followed by lack of an actual center fielder and Smith's acquisition wouldn't remedy either of those. That leaves us with Crisp and Young, likely the two best realistic options available from Oakland. I'd imagine that if you liked Young with Arizona, you probably still like him now but Crisp could be very useful and would add the more traditional leadoff hitter dynamic that the team didn't have in 2012.