It has been 24 hours since the Oakland Athletics acquired Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar and we’ve all had time to analyze this trade from every angle and add Zobrist and Escobar to our browser’s spell check dictionary. The consensus? That Billy Beane is still a genius who is, presumably, working five moves ahead of everyone else but who is, most likely, flying by the seat of his pants and getting terribly lucky.
In one trade, Beane addressed every remaining issue the Athletics had, some of which weren’t issues until he began trading all stars away a few weeks ago. Many fans pointed to third base and the fact that Brett Lawrie has a penchant for missing games due to injury; problem solved. Many fans pointed at shortstop, a positition which was going to be handled by Marcus Semien who is capable at short but more experienced at third or second; problem solved. Speaking of second, many fans pointed at Eric Sogard and his splits against lefties being fairly abysmal but having no real alternative to him in the platoon; problem solved.
In Beane we trust, right?
Ken Rosenthal tweeted out some examples of how this new found depth the A’s have acquired could pan out in the 2015 season.
All of this leaves out Eric Sogard who, for the time being, I believe is pretty safe on the roster and also excludes the possibility of Zobrist playing time in the outfield as well. In some respects, Beane has created a lineup that is more versatile and resilient to injury than he’s had in recent memory, if not ever.
Zobrist, as a switch hitter, will likely see significant playing time with the A’s (2014 was his least played season since 2009 and he still managed 90% of the games) and will probably bounce around the ballpark in a variety of positions depending on the platoon matchups.
Escobar does not have pitcher splits to speak of but when he needs a day off or late in games when changes need to be made, Zobrist could easily slide over to short while Sogard takes second against right handed pitching. The possibilities with this team, now, are virtually endless but four days ago so many A’s fans were complaining that Beane had given away all of our depth.
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In 2014, we had one third baseman and now we have a couple. In 2014, we had a good defensive second base with horrible splits and now we have a couple of solid second basemen with platoon potential. In 2014, we had a shortstop situation that seemed to have lost its pop and now we have a shortstop situation that could include as many as four people. Things are different than they were in 2014 and they’re different than they were a week ago. In one move, Beane turned a fraction of the fanbase (not me because I always thought they were pretty good) from wanting to sell their jerseys to picking up season tickets.
Does this lineup guarantee success? Absolutely not. At the end of the day, they may not play well as a team and there may be a learning curve to playing “Oakland baseball” but are their chances for success better? Absolutely. With Lawrie, Escobar, Zobrist, Semien, Ike Davis, Billy Butler, and Mark Canha, added to the infeild the Athletics look to be a team that can not only win but contend for a fourth straight post season berth.
As I’ve written many times before and will probably continue to write, don’t judge Beane until he’s done. He may still make some moves but from here on out we’re looking at fine tuning and tweaking. The major pieces appear to be in place for 2015.