A’s 2011 In Review: Daric Barton


When the Oakland Athletics traded Mark Mulder, an integral part of Oakland’s highly touted rotation, the organization seemed to be ditching the familiar, and embracing the unknown.

In the trade that sent Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals back in 2004, the A’s acquired pitchers Dan Haren and Kiko Calero and then-minor league prospect Daric Barton.

In retrospect, the deal wasn’t all that bad. In fact, you could call it a definite win for Oakland. Mulder, who was a perennial Cy Young contender in most of his seasons with Oakland, fell apart in St. Louis; Mulder made 32 starts in his first season with the Cardinals, but made only 21 starts over the course of the next three years.

The A’s, meanwhile, got three solid seasons out of Calero and saw Haren develop into an All-Star. Haren, like Mulder before him, was traded to a team in dire need of an ace. The Diamondbacks in exchange for Haren, rewarded the A’s with a slew of prospects. That, however, is a different story.

For the sake of this post, however, I’ll try to keep my focus on the Mulder trade. The other player the A’s got in exchange for Mulder was Daric Barton. Barton, from the day he arrived in Oakland, was deemed as a future superstar. I mean, a lot of hype and some pretty lofty expectations surrounded the kid once he arrived in Oakland.

At the time, scouts from all over the league hailed Barton as the best player included in the Mulder deal. “What a steal,” they would say. “He’s got superstar potential,” was another common remark about Barton’s skill-set as a young prospect in Oakland’s system.

In fact, back in 2007, Keith Lieppman, Oakland’s director of player personnel, compared Barton, then just 21 years old, to Hall of Fame players Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn.

Really? Barton was compared to Boggs and Gwynn?

Those were some pretty lofty expectations.

But in 2007, those expectations appeared to be on track with what kind of player Barton could become. After several convincing seasons in Oakland’s minor league system, the A’s rewarded Barton with a September call-up during the ’07 season.

In 18 games that year with Oakland, the A’s first baseman definitely showed flashes of Boggs and Gwynn, posting a .347/.429/.639 with four home runs and eight RBIs. After dominating the minor leagues, Barton appeared to be well on his way to dominating the majors as well.

But, if we fast-forward to the present day, we can quickly put to rest those comparisons to Boggs and Gwynn. He had disappointing seasons in ’08 and ’09, but put up respectable numbers in 2010 only to experience a free fall this season.

In 67 games this season, Barton posted a lifeless .212/.325/.267 slash line with no home runs and 21 RBIs. It was a far-cry from his .273/.393/.405 numbers in 2010, and while it was later discovered he had a torn labrum, Barton’s 2011 season was reason for concern.

While he appears to be ready to compete this spring for a starting role, the A’s former prospect looks to have lost his stability within the organization. Once considered a part of the team’s future, Barton’s own future with the club appears murky at best.

The A’s have other options at first, including Chris Carter and Brandon Allen. Going forward, Barton will have to prove himself again to an organization that once viewed him as the next Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn.

What do you think? Will Barton rebound this upcoming year or has his time in Oakland run its course?