On paper it appears the A’s entire infield could be set going into the 2016 season.
Then again, when has the status quo ever reigned supreme with this team? In surveying the A’s free agent infield options, let’s make the assumption that Oakland’s brass might be willing to shake things up a bit.
For instance, are the A’s convinced that third baseman Danny Valencia’s excellent production in August and September will translate over to an entire season? Might the A’s opt to add someone at first base and play Mark Canha more in left field? Are they sold on Brett Lawrie as a second baseman?
All of those questions are worth keeping in mind when considering who’s available on the open market:
1B Mark Canha: age 26
2015 stats: .254, 16 HR’s, 70 RBI, 61 R
2B Brett Lawrie: age 25
Stats: .260, 16 HR’s, 60 RBI, 64 R
SS Marcus Semien: age 25
Stats: .257, 15 HR’s, 45 RBI, 65 R
3B Danny Valencia: age 31
Stats: .290, 18 HR’s, 66 RBI, 59 R (includes games w/Toronto)
Util Eric Sogard: age 29
Stats: .247, 1 HR, 37 RBI, 40 R
Thoughts: Semien has gotten backing from A’s officials as the regular shortstop despite an AL-high 35 errors in 2015. Executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane told CSN California last week that there’s a decision to make at third base, the position he feels suits both Lawrie and Valencia best. First baseman Ike Davis, who missed the final 1½ months of the season following hip surgery, appears to be a non-tender candidate.
1B Chris Davis: age 29
Stats: .262, 47 HR’s, 117 RBI, 100 R
A good fit?: The premier power hitter of this year’s free agent class, Davis is destined for a nine-figure contract, and – shocker! – it won’t be with the A’s.
2B Daniel Murphy: age 30
Stats: .281, 14 HR’s, 73 RBI, 56 R
A good fit?: His incredible postseason performance drove his price up considerably. Unless the A’s feel his bat significantly outweighs his defensive deficiencies, it’s tough to see them making a run at Murphy.
Others: SS Ian Desmond, 2B Ben Zobrist
BEST OF THE REST
2B Howie Kendrick: age 32
Stats: .295, 9 HR’s, 54 RBI, 64 R
A good fit?: One scout, who requested anonymity, said Kendrick remains a terrific all-around hitter who fits great in the No. 2 spot. He received a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, but the A’s have a protected top-10 draft pick in 2016, meaning they wouldn’t surrender that top pick by signing Kendrick.
3B David Freese: age 32
Stats: .257, 14 HR’s, 56 RBI, 53 R
A good fit?: Freese is the standout in a free agent class that’s regarded as weak in third basemen (though Murphy can also handle third). For Freese to be a consideration, the A’s would have to decide to part ways with Valencia, and likely Lawrie too. The above mentioned scout said he viewed Lawrie as a potential trade piece.
Others: 1B Mike Napoli, 2B/SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Justin Morneau: age 34
Stats: .310, 3 HR’s, 15 RBI, 19 R
A good fit?: He played in just 49 games last season because of concussion and neck problems. The A’s may just decide to make Canha their everyday first baseman, but if they wanted a left-handed hitting complement to Canha (not to mention DH Billy Butler), Morneau should be available on a reasonably priced one-year deal.
Others: SS Jimmy Rollins, SS Alexei Ramirez
Overall: There would have to be some corresponding roster movement for most of the above players to garner real consideration from the A’s. But for a team that finished an AL-worst 68-94, one could argue that a degree of change should be in the cards. Right now, shortstop Semien seems the only infielder assured of coming back as the everyday man at his incumbent position.