By Jason Wojciechowski on April 15, 2017 at 2:49 PM
The A's have made what you might call their first elective roster move of the season,1 optioning out Mark Canha and selecting the contract of Jaff Decker, who was playing at Nashville after being one of the last cuts out of spring training. To make room on the 40-man roster, they put Jake Smolinski on the 60-day disabled list.
You know Canha wasn't hitting (.105/.150/.158), but you also know it was just 20 plate appearances. On the other hand, check out these swing rates:
He's swinging at everything, and not just the stuff in the zone; check out those low zones, the non-strikes; that low and away pitch especially, the 5/7 box, looks terrible, and is especially damning in light of only swinging at three out of seven of low/away pitches in the zone.
Pair that type of hitting with two first basemen ahead of him and "ehhhhhh" defense at best in the outfield corner, center-field experiment in the spring notwithstanding, and you've got a recipe for trying something new on the bench while maybe trying to get Canha some more regular at-bats in a lower-pressure environment in Nashville. Plus Decker is hitting .387 in his first 36 plate appearances in Triple-A and there's something to be said for recognizing performance, even short-run performance, to keep morale high in the ranks.
What's interesting is how this move, swapping out the 24th man, reshapes the way the entire outfield could operate. The main three dudes are still going to be Davis-Davis-Joyce, but where Canha was a platoon partner for Joyce, and a sort of theoretical center-field option if something happened to Davis Sr., Decker can legitimately give Rajai a day off in center (perhaps against a particularly tough righty) and work as a defensive replacement for Khris late in close games. Joyce, meanwhile, should advance to an every-day role unless Adam Rosales is going to bop out to right field 20 percent of the time. (I would not advocate for this.)
Today's lineup, against a righty in Lance (I legitimately typed "Carson" the first time) McCullers, already shows this new flexibility, with Decker getting the start in center, giving Rajai his first day off of the season. (Marcus Semien is also getting his first rest, with Rosales at shortstop.)
How you evaluate this contention depends on how you feel about Jesse Hahn replacing Raul Alcantara in the rotation. Hahn had already been called up to pitch out of the bullpen to replace John Axford. Would the A's have made the rotation switch had Hahn not already been on the 25-man? My guess is no: they can't option Alcantara, so the move would have required them to option Daniel Coulombe or Frankie Montas, and I'm guessing that would have been a bridge too far given one poor start by Alcantara. With Hahn already up, the team can defer a real decision on Coulombe, Montas, or even exposing Alcantara to waivers until Axford is ready to return. ↩