By Jason Wojciechowski on May 18, 2013 at 3:26 PM
Chris Young makes his return from the disabled list today, and to make room for him on the 25-man roster, the A's designated Daric Barton for assignment. Shipping Barton out was one of three possibilities, the other two being the optioning of Luke Montz and the waiving of Nate Freiman. The team professes to want to keep Barton, of course, but every team professes to want to keep every player they designate for assignment. Optioning Montz would not have required a 40-man move.
Since I can't make sense of the roster jumble in my head, let's work this out on paper.
The base lineups, it seems, as it stands, with Barton designated:
(Note that this is not tonight's lineup, as Melvin has opted for Chris Young in right with Seth Smith on the bench.)
Suppose instead that the team had optioned Montz:
DH: Moss? Smith?
I'm not sure I see either of these options as obviously better than the other, now that they're drawn out. Bob Melvin made a defense-over-offense choice tonight with Chris Young in right instead of Seth Smith, but I suspect that's part of the A's "just got on the roster? Okay, you're starting!" plan as much as anything. Long term, if Smith is on the bench against righties, I don't know why he's on the roster.
What having Barton around does, though, is push Derek Norris out of the lineup and force John Jaso behind the plate. Norris is hitting in some sense of the word (.218/.364/.322), but I'm not sure you worry about that. Jaso isn't a great catcher, but Norris isn't the second coming of Yadier Molina either.
Barton does help the defense against righties because Barton is probably better than Moss at first and Moss is probably better than Smith in the outfield, so you get a cascading improvement in ball-catching.
Losing Montz would create a dilemma against lefties—as it stands, Melvin can run an entirely right-handed lineup out against your C.C. Sabathias and Jason Vargases. Without Montz, he couldn't do that.
The issue of Montz being a third catcher so that Jaso can designatedly hit is sort of a moot point, as I see it. If Barton stuck around instead of Montz, then Jaso would not DH in the v. RHP lineup anyway because he'd need to vacate the DH spot for Smith so that Barton could start.
I don't know whether a team will claim Barton. I don't know whether it matters. He got on base five times in 23 trips to the plate in his brief time in Oakland and he hasn't hit since 2010. Defense at first base only goes so far.