Oakland Athletics Need A Solid Backup Plan For Left Field

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The Oakland Athletics are expected to be big players in the free agent marketing this offseason. However, they will not be scouring for an additional outfielder like some may have previously thought. As reported by Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, the A’s want to stick with their idea of having Coco Crisp start in left field.

However, as many will remember, Crisp has a chronic neck issue. As revealed in May, this problem will not be fixed unless he undergoes career-ending surgery. Since he has yet to announce his retirement, it is assumed that he plans play in 2016.

Even though GM David Forst believes that Crisp will be healthy to play in left by the start of next season, he did say something very telling at the General Managers meeting in Boca Raton this week:

"“When he doesn’t play for a month, that’s when he feels the best,” Forst said. “I think we’re going to go through the offseason assuming he’s working hard, but he always comes in feeling great. It’s the baseball activity that aggravates his neck. We’ll just remain hopefully optimistic on Coco that he can get to a place where playing every day doesn’t set him back.” – Brian McTaggart, MLB.com"

So, Forst is basically saying that Coco does not experience an neck issues when he not playing baseball. However, it starts to become a problem when he partakes in baseball activity. Seeing as Crisp’s job is to the play baseball, this is not a very optimistic view for his potential regular fielding time next year. Last season, Crisp only played in 44 games, so it is almost expected that he will be in around the same amount of games in 2016 unless he plays extremely carefully, which we all know is not Crisp’s style.

However, Forst also noted, that if Crisp does go down with an injury next season, he feels as though they have enough outfield players that could cover left. Currently, the Oakland Athletics have Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Jake Smolinski, and Mark Canha. There are a few issues with all of these players. First of all, it is unclear if the A’s are even going to tender Fuld’s or Gentry’s contracts for next year. If they do decide they need one of these two defensively sound players, it will most likely be Fuld. He played in left for most of the season when Crisp was injured. Even though his bat is not very strong, he is probably the most reliable defensively.

Smolinski would be the overall best option if he can get back into a grove offensively. Throughout his minor league career, Smolinski mostly played in left field and held a .981 fielding percentage throughout 409 games played in that position. Additionally, his fielding has been exceptional since being called up to the MLB – Smolinski has yet to commit an error in the 89 games he has played in the big leagues. However, despite having a hot bat during his Major League debut in 2014, Smolinski has cooled off considerably. If he can start producing more, he could be a good long term option for left.

Lastly there is Canha. Ultimately, Canha is a first baseman. Right now, he is the only A’s first baseman. If Oakland does not pick up another infielder to help Canha at first this offseason, it is likely that he will assume the starting role. Additionally, two out of the four errors Canha committed this year were in left field. Overall, he is much better suited for first.

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It is reassuring to think that the A’s definitely have a few different options for left field when – not if – Crisp goes down with yet another injury. They just need to figure out who will assume that position. Like third base, the Oakland Athletics are going to have to evaluate left field very carefully and decide who is best suited to backup Crisp.

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