A day after reports emerged that the A’s had agreed to sign free agent pitcher Bartolo Colon, we learned that the team has completed a deal to send pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman to the Colorado Rockies in return for outfielder Seth Smith.
With a career OPS of .833, Smith immediately becomes the best hitter on an A’s team severely lacking in punch. His 2011 OBP of .348 and SLG of .483 outpaced all A’s regulars in both categories last season. And the 29-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder can be expected to play left-field and hit in the 3-4 slot in the 2012 A’s lineup.
Smith’s career home/away splits have been noted by many, but in 2011, he had an .848 OPS at Coors Field compared to an .814 OPS on the road. The main difference in Smith’s performance at home and on the road over his career has primarily been in his home run hitting proficiency, hitting 1 home run every 20 at bats at Coors Field compared to 1 home run every 34 at bats everywhere else – and it’d certainly be no surprise to see Smith’s overall home run production decline playing half his games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum compared to the hitter-friendly Coors Field. He’s also been a better first half player over his career, hitting 26 points higher in the first half.
By far the most significant split though comes in Smith’s performance against right-handed and left-handed pitching. He has a career OPS a whopping 293 points higher against right-handers than against left-handers. Here again, the biggest difference can be found in his power potential, hitting 1 home run every 23 at bats against right-handed pitchers compared to 1 home run every 53 at bats against left-handed pitchers.
Whatever else the A’s brass may say publicly on the subject, it’d be safe to assume that Smith might be watching a lot of left-handed starters from the safety of the A’s dugout in 2012. And multiple sources have already been reporting that the A’s are still in the market for a right-handed hitting free agent outfielder – someone like Cody Ross or Petaluma’s own Jonny Gomes – presumably to serve as a possible platoon partner for Smith as well as a fourth outfielder and a potential designated hitter. As far as the rest of the outfield picture goes, Coco Crisp is expected to man center with new acquisition Josh Reddick roaming the field in right.
The greater impact of this deal though may be on the A’s pitching plans. After it was announced that the A’s had reached a deal with Colon, the assumption was that the A’s were planning to take their time with their talented young pitching prospects. But with the news of this deal, it now looks like the A’s are ready to swing the major league doors open wide to their eager horde of young pitchers.
With Moscoso and Outman now out of the picture, and Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden not expected to be ready to start the season, the only A’s starters with more than 100 innings of major league experience under their belts are Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon (who has a lot more under his belt than that!). Behind that duo are five pitchers who, combined, have less than 150 innings of major league experience: Tyson Ross with 75 1/3, Graham Godfrey with 25, Tom Milone with 26, Brad Peacock with 12, and Jarrod Parker with 5 2/3.
Ross, the most experienced of the bunch, has struggled mightily while trying to return from his latest injury, posting an ERA of 7.61 at Triple-A Sacramento and an ERA of 5.94 in the Arizona Fall League. With that in mind, the best bet might be to give Godfrey, Milone and Peacock the first shots at cracking the rotation. That would give Ross a little more time to piece things back together and Parker, the youngest and probably most talented of the batch, a little more time to develop at Sacramento. The Rivercats’ could then open the season with a starting rotation featuring Tyson Ross, Jarrod Parker, Travis Banwart, Carlos Hernandez and Edgar Gonzalez.
Whatever happens, it looks to be a very interesting spring in the desert this year. Bob Melvin won’t even know the players without a scorecard!