Chris Young and also other things

By Jason Wojciechowski on October 23, 2012 at 12:55 AM

This being the last A's blog to write about things, you already know that Oakland traded long-time1 shortstop Cliff Pennington and scuffling minor-league shortstop Yordy Cabrera to Arizona for not-as-young-as-you-think-he-is center field Chris Young. Here are a list of things Young can do on the baseball field:

  • Be mistaken, sorta, for a 6'10" pitcher from Princeton;
  • Post a modest batting line (True Averages of .278, .273, and .261 the last three years, and don't think I don't notice that decline), but one that still ranks well among center fielders;
  • Probably play pretty good defense, although FRAA, notably, think he's only about average to a tad below;
  • Throw better than Coco Crisp;
  • Probably stay healthy (Young made his first major-league disabled list trip in 2012);
  • Take a walk;
    • As in like bases on balls, though it's likely that he also knows how to move his feet in a generally perambulatory way;
  • Generally get pitched away a lot, which might indicate a certain amount of respect for his power, which is modest in pure-slugging terms, but shows up when you consider his isolated power -- slugging is, in a sense, the value stat, and isolated power the skill one:

(As always, notes on that image: it's pitch-frequency for all years from 2007 on (trading recency for sample size), it's from the catcher's point of view (so Young stands on the left side of the image while batting), and it's normalized so that the more red a square is, the more Young sees pitches in that area relative to other right-handed batters.)

That's a pretty good list of tasks for a center fielding baseball jugador to accomplish, and it did not cost much to get Young. Cabrera may still have promise, and the A's obviously thought a lot of him at one point (paying him a million and a quarter bucks as an older high school draftee second rounder), but the scouting reports haven't been that much kinder than the stat line (.232/.293/.332 in the Cal League), so he's hardly a surefire contributor at the big league level. Pennington is a little bit harder to give up, not just emotionally, but as a good defensive shortstop who from 2009 to 2011 showed a little bit of stick, and one who is a bounceback candidate out of a terrible platform season that won't give him much room to ask for a huge raise in his first arbitration-eligible season.

The team context in giving up Pennington, with Stephen Drew uncertain to come back and there being almost literally nobody in the organization to play short otherwise (Brandon Hicks? Adam Rosales? Eric Sogard? Josh Horton? Dusty Coleman? Please, please rise fast, Addison Russell), makes the move even more interesting. One could read this as a signal that Billy Beane is very confident that he'll be bringing Drew back after all. One could read it as a strong feeling that this was a deal he could not pass up regardless of what kind of interesting position it might put create in trying to fill shortstop. One could even read it as a precursor to a trade for Jed Lowrie or Yunel Escobar. Or, hell, both, since Beane seems entirely unafraid of the old "problem" of having too many players for any given position.

Speaking of trades, the first thought most of us had, and it's entirely forgivable because we're normal people without Beane's ability to think outside the box, was that the A's would simply have to trade one of Young, Coco Crisp, or even Josh Reddick to make this outfield work. Beane put the kibosh on that talk in his post-trade conference call, though, claiming that he'll be keeping his current outfield mashup. And daring Bob Melvin to make it work, he didn't say, but we all know he was thinking it.

Now, general managers lie, though they should probably not get in the habit of doing it on the record while 20 reporters listen, because as much as credibility with the press doesn't matter, it sure as hell makes the press-relations part of your job easier. I see no reason, then, to think that the A's can't enter 2013 with seven players (Cespedes, Crisp, Young, Reddick, Smith, Carter, Moss) rotating through five spots (outfield, DH, 1B) because figuring in injuries, handedness platoons, and the other types of data the A's can provided Bob Melvin regarding ways to gain small edges against certain types of pitchers, there should be plenty of at-bats to go around. Injuries in particular are a great reason to have legitimate major leaguers, as opposed to the more speculate variety like Shane Peterson or Collin Cowgill, hanging around "on the bench," the scare quotes being earned by the fact that the A's approach to platooning left no real reserves by the end of the year but rather 13 different starters, some of whom just happened to not start every day.

There's some downside risk in both Young as a player and in this trade as a whole (Pennington could work out; so could Cabrera), but, while I'm not going to fall into the trap of referring to Young as an All-Star in the present tense when the last time he made the team was 2010 (not going to name names, but if you Read The Papers, as it were, you know who I'm talking about), I'm happy about the deal and see a significant chance of it working out.

But, as a last word before I move into a bit of a link roundup: bye Jonny Gomes :(

R.J. Anderson notes, inter alia, Young's difficulties with infield flies in 2012. He also refers to the team "needing help" at third, which is probably both fair and unfair: Josh Donaldson and Grant Green and Scott Sizemore (upon a move back to third if Jemile Weeks wins the second-base battle) aren't great, but there's a little bit of upside in there, enough that I think the team can focus on other areas unless there's a slam-dunk improvement available.

David Wishinsky continues his crusade against poor Coco Crisp, who put up yet another two-WARP season in an A's uniform despite a horrendous start, no arm, and injury difficulties. (I also quibble with the idea that the 29-year-old Young is entering his prime.)

Naveen Nallappa has a very nice FanPost at Athletics Nation that notes Young's improved plate discipline, per the PITCHf/x numbers, as well as the fact that his homers had plenty of distance such that we shouldn't be worried about his ability to go yard in Oakland. I'm not touching the UZR point.

Marine Layer has a spreadsheet of 2013's salaries and notes the A's recent history of following up promising and/or good seasons with payroll bumps (though they have not worked out all that well to this point).

Sean Davis is, among other things, sad about Jonny Gomes.

Susan Slusser's story about the trade mentions that Adam Rosales is the top in-house candidate at short if Stephen Drew walks. Poor Josh Horton.

  1. Relatively. This is Oakland.