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January 17, 2012

The BP First Take

Tuesday, January 17

by Daniel Rathman

Eight years ago, Seth Smith was backing up Eli Manning on the Ole Miss football team.  Now, he’s backing him up in the headlines.  A day after Manning helped the New York Giants reach the NFC title game, Smith was traded to the A’s for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman

The 29-year-old Smith was rumored to be on the trade market since the start of the offseason, but general manager Dan O’Dowd could not find a taker until after the outfielder avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.4 million deal with Colorado. And the deal O’Dowd finally made with Billy Beane seems strange from both sides. 

Smith is a flawed player—he cannot hit left-handed pitching—but a useful one because of his adequate defense at either corner outfield spot and career .290/.364/.518 triple slash against righties. What’s unclear, though, is how he fits in Oakland, where the A’s outfield has gone from gutted to overstocked in just a couple of weeks. Coco Crisp will play every day in center, leaving Smith, Josh Reddick, Collin Cowgill, and Michael Taylor to battle for playing time in left and right. The only obvious solution is a dual platoon, but keeping four outfielders on the roster for two lineup slots is nonsensical, especially for a rebuilding team. Smith would have fit better in Atlanta, or Tampa Bay, or New York, where obvious timeshare possibilities with right-handed outfielders or designated hitters abound.

Meanwhile, taking Moscoso out of Oakland is like pulling a fish out of water. His 3.38 ERA last season was produced mostly thanks to the A’s outstanding outfield defense, which resulted in a .221 BABIP. Moscoso is an extreme fly-ball pitcher—his 26.8 percent ground-ball rate last season was the lowest in the majors—and a can of corn in Oakland can easily become a bleacher burner in Colorado. Outman, also a contact pitcher, is a somewhat better fit, but might be destined for the bullpen rather than the back end of Jim Tracy’s rotation.

The roles for Moscoso and Outman are the same in Colorado as they would have been in Oakland: keep the seats warm for the team’s top prospects, in this case Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. But both were more apt to fill those roles in their previous home. The Rockies now have a slew of candidates for their fourth- and fifth-starter gigs, including fellow off-season pickups Tyler Chatwood and Kevin Slowey, none of whom are particularly well-equipped to succeed at Coors Field. And they’re working on adding another, who might be the worst fit of all.

 Put all of that together, and it seems this deal can be summed up with one word: Why?  

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

Related Content:  Josh Outman

6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

harderj

Maybe the new Moneyball is platoon corner outfielders who have just signed fairly decent contracts and can be moved for prospects at the trade deadline...

Will Jonny Gomes' phone be ringing soon?

Jan 17, 2012 07:10 AM
rating: 3
 
Deadheadbrewer

At this point I'm fully expecting a Brett Anderson for Gerardo Parra trade any day now.

Jan 17, 2012 09:41 AM
rating: 3
 
bravejason

Maybe Beane recognized the park influence Moscoso stats and decided that Moscoso's value was as high as it could be? It almost sounds like this is just a preliminary trade for Beane in order to set the table for another deal.

Jan 17, 2012 11:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Completely agree that the one way this makes sense for the A's is if they flip Seth Smith for more than they gave up. But if that's the case, it becomes even more confusing from Colorado's end.

Jan 17, 2012 11:53 AM
 
smallflowers

Given his trade history, especially in the post-Zito/Hudson/Mulder era, it's hard for me to doubt Beane. Smith may not fit, sure, but he'll fit somewhere else. The A's are "rebuilding" so they can afford to hold him until he's flipped to the other location - or until the trade one of the other OF's that are confusing the matter. Especially considering the bag of used washers they gave up.

(This is what every bad team should do in Scoresheet, too: add cheap talent no matter the fit or position and then work out the details later.)

Jan 17, 2012 19:30 PM
rating: 0
 
Patrick

Why is having five OFs a bad idea for a rebuilding team, specifically? In the case of the younger guys (Reddick, Taylor, Cowgill), it seems like a good way to see what you have while breaking them into the big leagues more gently by platooning them. Not to mention the depth necessary given Crisp's injury history.

Jan 19, 2012 07:30 AM
rating: 0
 
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Premium Article Future Shock: White So... (01/16)
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The BP First Take: Mon... (01/16)
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The BP First Take: Wed... (01/18)
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Premium Article Painting the Black: Su... (01/17)

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