Oakland A’s Place Premium on Power with Chris Young Trade

Chris Young Oakland A's

Jennifer Stewart-US Presswire

With the trade that brought outfielder Chris Young to the Oakland A’s and sent infielder Cliff Pennington to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the A’s seem to be making a statement.

Power is at a premium in Oakland.

In Young, the A’s acquired an excellent defensive center fielder with a consistently powerful bat. Guys like that do not usually sit on the bench. More importantly, Young is set to make $8.5 million in 2013. Guys like that never sit on the bench in Oakland. Even with Arizona throwing in $500,000, the A’s still owe Young a hefty paycheck.

The point is, the A’s cannot afford to acquire a bench player that expensive, which means that one of the other Oakland outfielders is likely on the trade block. It is ludicrous to think that the A’s would deal Yoenis Cespedes and only slightly less absurd to believe that they would trade Josh Reddick. That leaves Coco Crisp as the only logical player for the A’s to move.

General manager Billy Beane insisted even after acquiring Young that he has no plans to shop Crisp and that the trade was merely meant to add depth to an oft-injured outfield. Once again, at Young’s salary that seems like a dubious claim. Unless the A’s payroll has significantly increased, they will not pay a bench player $8 million. There is the possibility that one of the top four outfielders serves as the designated hitter, but that would seem to be a waste, since all of them possess good defensive tools.

Even if Crisp returns, his playing time in Oakland will almost certainly decrease with the addition of Young to the fold. That means that the A’s will have sacrificed average for power. Crisp is a .274 lifetime hitter, compared to Young’s .239 career mark. However, in six full seasons in the majors, Young has hit 130 homers. In his 11 seasons, Crisp has managed only 86.

The A’s expect Young to hit upwards of 20 home runs in 2013, should he stay healthy. If he does replace Crisp in the lineup, Young would give Oakland about 13 more homers next season than it had this year. Based on 2012′s numbers, that increase would put the A’s at 208 home runs over the course of next year, making them one of the top power teams in baseball.

Of course, if Crisp is traded or assumes a diminished role, it would mean that the A’s, already one of the worst hitting teams to make the playoffs in decades, could slide even further in the batting average and on-base-percentage categories.

That is a risk that the team might be willing to take, as the trade for Young indicates. Pennington has been a better lifetime hitter than Young, and yet the A’s were willing to lose their infielder for some added power.

Perhaps that should come as no surprise. Oakland did make the playoffs in 2012 on the strength of its pitching and powerful bats, not because of its ability to get on base.

For the A’s, it is probably easier to further improve the power numbers than to suddenly field a team that can hit for a respectable average. To improve Oakland’s batting average dramatically, Beane would have to do some pretty nifty wheeling and dealing that would reshape the entire A’s lineup. But adding a few more power bats to a team that already boasts quite a few is not nearly as tall of a task.

With free agency looming, and the potential to trade Crisp, Oakland must figure out what additional pieces the team should acquire. A leadoff hitter would be a welcome addition to the club if Crisp leaves, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that Beane adds one or two more power bats instead.

After all, it seems that when it comes to hitters, power is most valued commodity in Oakland these days.

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