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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

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