Sep 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstopJed Lowrie
(8) is unable to control the ball against the Philadelphia Phillies during the eighth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
All season long, fans of the Oakland Athletics clamored for a new second baseman to replace the trio of Eric Sogard, Nick Punto and Alberto Callaspo. Yet, with Jed Lowrie set to become a free agent, the need for a shortstop outweighs the need for a second baseman at the moment.
While this will likely be an unpopular stance among A’s fans, I would like to see a solid defensive middle infield, and the offense they provide is a bonus. That means that Sogard could be a decent option, if need be. I’m not saying that Andy Parrino‘s career .179 average would do the trick, but something around .230 would suffice. In the playoffs, not giving away free outs is what matters. If the A’s are going to make another run in 2015, they have to improve defensively, and a solid defense starts up the middle.
The second position that could use an upgrade, as I’ve written about in recent weeks, is catcher. Derek Norris had a breakout offensive season, but his lack of a right arm in the Wild Card game cost the A’s in the long run. I don’t want to see Norris shipped away, but I would like a catcher that smothers balls in the dirt, and that has the ability to throw to second base, without the ball winding up in center.
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I am willing to give Norris the benefit of the doubt, and put some of the blame of his defensive woes late in the season on his, and the other catcher’s injuries. Being banged up, plus needing to catch nearly every day will take its toll. In 2014, his 16.7% of runners thrown out was worst among qualified catchers. Yet, in 2012 and 2013, his caught stealing percentage was at 26.1 and 25.5%, respectively.
The last hole for the Oakland Athletics is one more solid reliever. With Luke Gregerson likely departing via free agency, the A’s are in need of a late-inning reliever. Ryan Cook has been wildly inconsistent. Eric O’Flaherty could be a viable option, but he, like Sean Doolittle is a lefty. Having them back-to-back would leave Fernando Abad as the only lefty option prior to the eighth inning.
Bob Melvin could split up O’Flaherty and Doolittle, and insert Dan Otero as the setup man, but he has done an exceptional job as the jack of all trades/double-play on command pitcher out of the bullpen. If no changes are made, that could be your late game trio in 2015.