The A’s signed former Tampa Bay Rays OF Sam Fuld to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Tuesday. It was reported that if he makes the team he would earn $800K with incentives valued at $100K if attained. He also has two opt-out dates of late March (presumably near the end of Spring Training if things are not panning out) and June 1. Now that the schematics are out of the way this is what Fuld’s addition will mean to the A’s and the roster.
Aug. 7, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Sam Fuld against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sam Fuld is known for one thing. His glove. Over the course of his seven-year career (that includes only three and a half years at the Major League level) Fuld has rarely showed up with the bat. He had a decent stretch of offense in 2011 with the Rays in which he slashed .240/.316/.360 and had 20 stolen bases in 346 plate appearances. In that season he performed more to what his potential should be as his BABIP was a measly .276. The average BABIP for all of baseball usually falls around .300. However, last season saw Fuld only slash a .199/.270/.267. His BABIP was an astoundingly low .223. This could mean three things: Fuld was experiencing some horrible luck (the most likely), he was playing through some sort of injury or he was over pressing at the plate.
Defensively is where Fuld really stands out as I mentioned above. This is a classic Beane signing. A few years ago Beane commented on the continuum that is a team and the construction of that team. Runs are in the middle of the continuum. On one side are the players who create runs. On the other side are the players who save them. Both sides are valuable. You have to score runs, but preventing runs is equally as valuable. That is where Fuld comes in. His career fielding percentage is .988 and according to baseball-reference.com’s metrics he saves an average of 21 runs a season compared to the average player. That’s 21 solo home runs or 21 runs scored, but in more complex terms.
This signing creates an interesting battle in Spring Training. Michael Taylor’s Emergence (Finally)”>As I previously wrote last December, this spring was supposed to be a legitimate chance for Michael Taylor to make the 25-man roster. Taylor provides huge upside offensively, but lacks strong defensive skills. Fuld, as mentioned, is the exact opposite. A platoon does not work here due to the crowded roster already in place. Whoever has a better spring in Phoenix will be the A’s extra outfielder.
Fuld might end up being an important cog in the A’s roster this season. The Green and Gold are primed to make another playoff run in 2014 and Fuld is the exact type of low risk high reward type of player that has been paying off for the A’s in recent years. If he can put up even average numbers at the plate while providing is above average defense the A’s could have another piece for an already deep bench.