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May 27, 2011

Transaction Analysis

May Swapmeet, Sizemore for Purcey

by Kevin Goldstein

The best thing about May trades is that they seem kind of random. When the Detroit Tigers traded infielder Scott Sizemore to the Oakland Athletics for lefty reliever David Purcey this afternoon, no one saw it coming.

“This guy is being wasted at Triple-A.”

“Scouts still believe in the bat.”

“He deserves another shot.”

Those are all things I wrote about Sizemore during the first month of the season, when he dwelt at Triple-A  and hit .408/.495/.605 in 23 games for Toledo. A career .301 hitter in the minors, including a .313 mark at the upper levels, Sizemore has spent a considerable amount of his professional career proving he can hit, but he's yet to jump the final hurdle of solving big league pitching. After earning the Tigers' opening-day job last spring, Sizemore lasted just 48 games after .224/.296/.336 numbers sent him back to the minors, and he didn't do much to get out of Jim Leyland's dog house this month by beginning his second stint by going 14-for-63 (.222). Still, we have a minor-league track record of well over 2000 plate appearances to go along with scouting reports that consistently say that this is not some kind of 4-A mistake hitter. Clearly he had worn out his welcome in Detroit, but he could end up quite the find for Oakland as a potential .280 hitter with plenty of doubles, a fair share of walks, and 10-12 home runs annually.

The biggest question is how Sizemore fits into Oakland's future plans. While he's seen as a second baseman, the position at which he's spent the majority of his time as a professional, that position is occupied by free agent-to-be Mark Ellis in Oakland, and 2008 first-round pick Jemile Weeks has been healthy and outstanding at Triple-A Sacramento, with his .322/.412/.454 line giving him likely first dibs at the position should Ellis get traded, or Oakland simply get tired of his non-productive ways. The guess here is that Oakland will give Sizemore a shot at the third base job, as they are now in their second year of trying to figure out why Kevin Kouzmanoff was never able to build on the somewhat promising seasons he had with San Diego. Currently hitting .198/.238/.333, he's one of many woeful performers in the Oakland lineup. While Sizemore would represent an upgrade at either position, he does have limited experience at the hot corner and fits better there for the A's, both in the near and long term.

As for Purcey, he certainly fits well with the Tigers' affinity for big guys who throw hard, but that has remained the sum of his skills as the 29-year-old is now far more known commodity than developing prospect. With a 92-95 mph fastball, Purcey can still bring it from the left side, but he's yet to find a dependable second pitch, and his control can come and go, with much more "go" in recent outings. It's hard to see him suddenly figuring things out at this point in his career, and his splits are not nearly dramatic enough to make him a future LOOGY. Further complicating matters is a tendency to elevate his pitches, a habit he'll pay for far more in Detroit than Oakland.

There is really no logic in the deal for the Tigers, as between Daniel Schlereth, Adam Wilk, and Charlie Furbush, they have plenty of capable left-handers in their bullpen, and merely being capable is the best they could hope for from Purcey. This is a case of a team getting too frustrated too soon with a prospect struggling in the big leagues, and Oakland swooped in on Friday afternoon to take advantage of the situation. 

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Oakland

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