To me the question really isn’t should the Oakland Athletics go after another outfielder, but do they need one? The answer to both is an emphatic, yes! Particularly one outfielder that is currently on the market.
Former Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, and now Atlanta Braves outfielder Carlos Quentin must be the next Billy Beane target.
You might ask why do we need a defensively unreliable, injury prone hitter — who is probably best served as a designated hitter, thus reducing his value — given last night’s eight-run outburst?
The short answer to my long-winded question is Josh Willingham. When I started thinking about all the comps to Quentin and his powerful bat Willingham really stuck out to me. The Athletics acquired Willingham for his age 32 season. 2015 will be Quentin’s age 32 season. Their 162 averages are strikingly similar.
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Prior to coming over to Oakland Willingham had three 20+ home run seasons and six seasons with 15 or more home runs, but had played in 133 or more games just three times. Quentin has four 20+ homer seasons, and six total seasons with 13 or more homers, and has played in 130 or more games just twice.
We know the story with Willingham, which is why a comp to him works so well. The Athletics weren’t very good in 2011, but Willingham was. He triple-slashed .246/ .332/ .477 with 29 home runs and 98 RBI. Most importantly he stayed healthy and played in over 130 games for the Athletics. He played nearly 100 games in the outfield and spent time at DH, but his defensive value wasn’t much.
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Quentin has played almost exclusively in the outfield posting similar defensive numbers to Willingham. But in Oakland he wouldn’t need to play every day, nor would he need to play outfield every day. He spent time this spring working on playing first base and we know he can DH. I’m not suggesting he supplant Billy Butler and Ike Davis, but having the versatility to play three different positions is important to this A’s team.
Additionally Quentin doesn’t have a severe platoon split (.835 OPS vs. righties, .818 OPS vs. lefties), making him potentially an everyday player.
You might point to Quentin’s terrible 2014 season, but I point to his .196 batting average on balls in play last season, well below his career .255 mark. His career isolated slugging is .232, which is great, even for the most accomplished hitters. His career wOBA (an advanced metric measuring the run-scoring values of hits ) is .361. Fangraphs says an above average wOBA is .340 and a great one is .370. His career wRC+ is 122. It is safe to say that when Quentin is right he is a much better than league average hitter.
So what would the lineup look like with Quentin in it?
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Such a lineup would offer more offensive punch, but would limit the opportunities for guys like Sam Fuld, Ike Davis, and Mark Canha — players Beane and co. acquired for a reason. Entering the spring, however, it wasn’t exactly known that Quentin might be available. After the Braves acquired him they immediately DFA’d him, making him available for potentially nothing, maybe a low level prospect.
Even though the A’s broke out for eight runs and two homers on Opening Day, there are still concerns that this team will stay consistent and be able to replace the power lost from last season’s squad. Quentin is a risk for a few reasons, but his potential impact on this lineup is great.
The defense of Fuld and Craig Gentry is a valuable asset, don’t get me wrong. And the minds that make up the roster are much smarter than I. I can’t help but think that Quentin’s bat would improve the lineup, despite the defensive downgrade.
Given this team’s history of taking unwanted, injury-prone, seemingly washed up power hitters and making them useful I can’t think of any other choice than to take this chance.