Editor's note: The above video is from May 31, 2016.
OAKLAND — The second half will usher in a shift in focus for the A’s judging by decisions that came down Friday.
Freshly promoted prospect Ryon Healy will see the lion’s share of time at third base for the time being, manager Bob Melvin said, with Danny Valencia switching to more of a part-time, utility-type role. In addition, Billy Burns’ demotion means Jake Smolinski will start seeing more time in center field at the expense of Coco Crisp.
Those announcements gave Friday a turn-the-page feel at The Coliseum as the A’s prepared to host the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game series coming out of the All-Star break.
“There’s going to be a bit more moving parts than usual,” Melvin said. “I’ve got to try to stay communicative with the guys each and every day about when they’re gonna play and where they’re gonna play. So it’s gonna be tough on some of the guys, but we’ve put ourselves in this position as a team where, with our record, we have to look at some other guys and see if they’re gonna be pieces for us in the future.”
The A’s enter Friday night with a 38-51 record and 15 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West. It was already assumed that they would look to start trading veterans leading up to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. Friday’s revelations provide further evidence multiple players will be on the move.
Left-hander Rich Hill, who is recovered from a blister on his left middle finger and will start Sunday, remains the most likely candidate to be traded based on the need for starting pitching around the majors. But Valencia’s removal from the regular playing rotation is an eye-opener, and it suggests the A’s are likely to look to try to move him as well.
He could hold some appeal to teams looking for power at either corner infield position or even the outfield, but worth considering is whether his reputation as a sometimes difficult clubhouse presence will affect the market for him.
Valencia said the news that he would lose playing time caught him a bit off-guard, but he also knew that Healy’s arrival would affect someone’s innings one way or another. Healy, a third-round draft choice in 2013 out of the University of Oregon, has hit .326 with 14 homers, 64 RBI and a .940 OPS combined between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville this season. He was drafted as a first baseman but has seen increasing time at third base in the minors too.
Valencia, who missed time on the DL with a hamstring injury, has been the A’s primary cleanup man and has hit .304 with 12 homers and 33 RBI. For a while, he was shaping up as the A’s best All-Star candidate.
“They’re going to want to obviously get a look at (Healy) at third,” Valencia said.
Addressing his own situation in regards to a reduced role, he said: “I didn’t think I’d go from hitting fourth to not playing.”
Right fielder Josh Roddick, a free agent at season’s end like Hill, remains a strong trade candidate. Crisp’s reduced playing time would suggest he could be on the move too, though a vesting option for 2017 that kicks in if he appears in 130 games could be problematic to a deal getting done.