MESA, Ariz. — With roughly two weeks of spring training remaining, trying to predict the A’s 25-man Opening Night roster makes for some good speculation.
Just don’t expect Eric Sogard to engage.
No one in Oakland’s clubhouse besides outfielder Coco Crisp has more seniority in green and gold than Sogard, who first came up with the A’s in 2010. Still, Sogard could be left on the outside looking in when it comes to a season-opening roster spot.
“It’s just another camp for me basically,” Sogard said before Sunday’s 3-3 tie against the Chicago Cubs. “It’s nothing different from what I’ve gone through in the past. I just like to focus on myself and get myself ready for the season. Let the rest take care of itself.”
Sogard has proven to be an important piece for the A’s over the years due to his slick defense and ability to play all over the infield. But the addition of utility man Chris Coghlan, acquired via trade after camp had already opened, makes for a numbers’ crunch that could squeeze Sogard out if the A’s go with their standard alignment of 13 position players and 12 pitchers.
Oakland is expected to start an infield, left to right, of Danny Valencia, Marcus Semien, Jed Lowrie and a combination of Yonder Alonso and Mark Canha at first base. If Semien needs a day off, Lowrie could slide over to short and Coghlan could handle second.
Sogard, 29, has minor league options remaining, so the A’s could send him to Triple-A Nashville without making him available to other clubs on the waiver wire. General manager David Forst, upon acquiring Coghlan, did not rule out a trade of some kind to relieve the logjam.
Sogard is a .239 career hitter who never has driven in more than 37 runs in a big league season. But A’s manager Bob Melvin always talks highly of his value.
“He’s been here for quite a while now, acclimating to that (utility) role,” Melvin said. “He’s like a security blanket. When you put him out there, he’s gonna give you good defense. And mentally, he doesn’t put pressure on himself that, ‘I need at-bats to stay sharp.’”
Sogard’s chances for the Opening Day roster likely boil down to what the A’s place the highest priority on.
This team led the majors with 126 errors last season and the year before committed the second most with 111. Being that defense has been a team-wide weakness for the past two seasons, there’s a case for Sogard staying as a trusty backup shortstop and late-game defensive replacement. He’s the A’s best pure defensive infielder.
But fitting him on the roster would make for a very tough decision to clear room. Could the A’s conceivably leave Mark Canha off the Opening Day roster? It would seem unlikely given his 70 RBI last season ranked third on the team. But again, priorities.
Do the A’s decide that infield defense is a bigger need than a right-handed run producer?
There are multiple options but no easy answer.