Athletics Stockpile Another Asset in Chris Young

Billy Beane cares not for outfield log jams. Last season, Beane’s Athletics acquired Seth Smith for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman despite already having Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp on hand. Saturday, Beane added another outfielder to the mix, acquiring Chris Young from Arizona in exchange for Cliff Pennington and infield prospect Yordy Cabrera.

The situations aren’t entirely analogous — the Athletics had DH at-bats to hand Smith but may not have those for Young (or another member of the Oakland outfield), but the general idea remains: when an asset can be acquired on the cheap, the Athletics will make it happen.

Young’s situation is an ideal buy low opportunity. He owns a 104 wRC+ over the last three seasons and could still have his peak in front of him at age 29. The counterpoint — and perhaps the reason the Diamondbacks were willing to take on Cliff Pennington despite his horrid offensive season (65 wRC+ in 125 games) — was a decline in 2012 from Young. After notching a 109 wRC+ as a 26-year-old in 2010, Young slipped to 101 last season and 97 this year.

The bet on upside can be seen as relying too heavily on 2010 and not enough on 2011 and 2012, but it would be remiss to ignore Young’s injury issues in 2012. On April 17th, Young entered play with a 1.392 OPS, boosted by a .370 BABIP but also eight XBH and six walks in 10 games. Young would leave the game with a shoulder separation. Here’s Corey Dawkins of Baseball Prospectus two days later:

The Diamondbacks also placed Chris Young on the disabled list Wednesday. Young injured his shoulder when he crashed into a padded wall on Tuesday night while making a catch. He was diagnosed with a severe contusion and a small tear in the ligament. After crashing into the wall, he grabbed his collarbone and the top of his shoulder, an almost universal sign that he separated his shoulder and did not dislocate the ball-and-socket joint. According to our injury database, these injuries have kept players out for over three months, but there is no word on how long Young will be out at this point.

Thirty days later, Young was in the Diamondbacks’ lineup. From the May 17th edition of the Arizona Republic:

Young has been on the disabled list since crashing into the wall at Chase Field on April 17, injuring his shoulder. For now, the club is saying that his throwing is behind his hitting.

“I wouldn’t say he’s back 100 percent with the arm,” Towers said.

Young’s swift return was a surprise to many, and given the immediate results one has to wonder if Towers was simply working the media with his response that Young’s hitting was somehow ahead of his throwing. From his return through the All-Star break — his only layoff of more than three straight days after returning from the injury — Young hit just .140/.234/.248 (.172 BABIP) in 145 PA. In his 168 plate appearances after the break, Young managed a .261/.327/.471 (.301 BABIP) line. His overall .203 ISO was his highest mark since 2007.

Small samples are at play here, but Young’s slump sports a combination of length and magnitude worth note. He notched just a .239 wOBA over those 145 PA. According to The Book, the uncertainty in measured wOBA is 0.5/sqrt(PA), or 0.041 over 145 plate appearances. Young was projected for a .325 wOBA by Marcel and a .366 wOBA by ZiPS; either way, his slump performance is over two standard deviations from either true talent measure and over three standard deviations from the ZiPS projection.

A separated shoulder cost Jacoby Ellsbury over two months earlier in the year. Jordan Schafer was out 25 days but only returned due to 40-man September rosters; he was used almost exclusively as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement as he went 0-for-8 in 10 games played.

Although it’s plausible Young was simply in a two month long slump to end all slumps, chances are high his overall numbers in 2012 were done in by a decision to return too early from his separated shoulder injury. With peak years still remaining, a moderately low-cost 2013 contract ($8.5 million) and a history of good to great center field defense, the Athletics had reason to buy low anyway. If it turns out real improvement was masked by recovery from a debilitating injury, Oakland could have more than just a nice asset on their hands.

The crowded outfield situation in Oakland has an entire offseason to work itself out. For now, the Athletics simply have more talent on their roster than they did heading into the weekend.




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34 Responses to “Athletics Stockpile Another Asset in Chris Young”

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  1. TJ says:

    Hmm, seems like a pretty good move. Are they expecting Grant Green to step up? Can Sizemore play SS if he’s healthy? I mean, it can just be Stephen Drew… right?

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    • Captain Coco Crisp says:

      Grant Green is now an outfielder.

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      • bobbee says:

        Actually, he’s now essentially a utility guy. He played 2nd, 3rd, a bit of SS and the OF with Sacramento last year.

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    • John Smith says:

      Grant Green is officially a bat without a position, just like adrian cardenas before him. Sizemore is the starting 2B next year, so long as he recovers in time for opening day. I think the A’s hope Drew exercises his part of the mutual option; if not they have AAAA guys like Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard and Brandon Hicks to keep the spot warm while they pray that someone calls to trade a major league shortstop for their surplus of pitching.

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  2. Jonathan says:

    So outfielders are the new market inefficiency? Between Moss, Crisp, Cespedes, Reddick and Gomes, that’s five OF in their every day lineup already and now they’ve acquired Young.

    Beane, you sly dog.

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    • PL says:

      Gomes is a free agent who won’t be back, but you left out Young.

      Collin Cowgill is a pretty talented guy wasting away at AAA too. Michael Taylor could easily break Houston’s OF as well. Beane is going to be busy as all get out this winter, despite his constantly saying otherwise. Why he’s allowed to flat out lie like he does is beyond me, we all know he’s going to be constantly trying to upgrade, so why doesn’t he just come out and say that “well, I’m constantly trying to upgrade, but I like our team right now”.

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      • Jonathan says:

        I did mention Young, unless they have two of them and I didn’t notice.

        And he’s allowed to lie because there’s nothing in a GM’s job description about giving the media every little detail. Every GM is always looking to upgrade at any given position.

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      • PL says:

        Oh yeah you did, my bad.

        I agree he shouldn’t have to give out details, but a “no comment” or “i’ll always be trying to upgrade” is better than “I want to bring back the whole team next year” and then he immediately trades Pennington. In the meantime, we have people whos lives depend on news like this, so we have to read “Beane wants to bring back squad for 2013″ articles, which are entirely pointless when he’s not trying to do that.

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      • christo16 says:

        It’s a negotiating tactic, if other GMs know exactly what he’s looking to do, he’s not likely to get a good deal.

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  3. Anon says:

    Good move by Beane. Increase talent on your team with plenty of time to trade an extra player away.

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    • MFG says:

      Agreed. The new market inefficiency is good ol’ common sense. Don’t over-think things.

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      • PL says:

        Am I the only one who thinks GM’s are so into overthinking these days that they’re actually undervaluing HRs (which is how the A’s won this year)?

        HRs put runs on the board, period. All the associated outs do hurt the team, but if the runs are there already, meh, who cares? Only the roto-geeks (no offense).

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      • Preston says:

        Don’t you know anything, HR’s are why the Yankees suck. You can’t count on big sluggers in the playoffs, you need speedy slaphitters. Joe Buck told me so while a team that spent all it’s payroll on Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder beat them.

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      • Jonathan says:

        “Joe Buck told me so while a team that spent all it’s payroll on Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder beat them.”

        You know Fielder and Cabrera combined for all of two XBH in the ALCS, right? And Fielder hit like absolute crap in general in that series.

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  4. PL says:

    Chris Carter had an 837 OPS vs Righties and an 898 OPS vs Lefties and plays worse defense than Billy Butler, but sure Billy, go ahead and use the DH spot on Seth Smith instead.

    Moss had the 2nd highest ISO in MLB with all players over 290 PA’s. Carter and Moss should be playing every day, Smith shouldn’t be on the team and neither should Crisp, really. I’m hoping any team who needs a CF overpays for either Crisp or Young with prospects or a SS, C or SP.

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    • Preston says:

      Beane can find a home for a good defensive Cf in Crisp, and Smith is a fine 4th OF type.

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    • jali says:

      Coming into this year, no one could reasonably expect either Chris Carter or Brandon Moss to be anywhere near this good. Smith was a good, safer bet.
      Going into next year, we’re not even into the actual offseason yet, is Billy supposed to have gotten rid of Smith already? (Disregarding the likely outcome that at least one if not both of Carter/Moss will be a lot worse next year)

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  5. Slats says:

    When is Moneyball 2 going to be released?

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  6. Spike says:

    hard to justify what the Snakes did in these moves, frankly. Their need to drop payroll must have been pretty urgent.

    Could see the A’s even deal Reddick as his value may never be higher. Asdrubal Cabrera?

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    • Jonathan says:

      I like Reddick, but I agree that trading him may be smart. Some of the holes in his swing were more obviously exploited as the season went on, but people are always willing to overpay for power. I could see a lot of teams interested in acquiring him considering all of his team control.

      Honestly, he’d be a good target for the Yankees. He could abuse the short right porch and they’re going to need someone to step in to replace Swisher, what better way than by acquiring a guy who’s pre-arb to get under that luxury tax threshold?

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    • PL says:

      Reddick plus who gets the A’s David Price?

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      • Choo says:

        Reddick plus Satan holding a gun to Andrew Friedman’s head.

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      • Jonathan says:

        Reddick plus half of the current A’s rotation plus salary relief. And also San Jose, maybe.

        Price is really good and I’m still of the mind that the jury’s out on Reddick.

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    • BX says:

      The DBacks didn’t drop payroll. They got Heath Bell, who is guaranteed 13MM over 2 years, while Young’s guaranteed 8.5 MM this year, and 1.5 MM buyout (he has an 11MM 2014 option).

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  7. Napes says:

    The abbreviation for this article on the front page, may need to be adjusted:

    10/22 – Athletics Stockpile Another Ass» by Jack Moore 18

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  8. Danny Knobgobbler says:

    Anyone who follows this team closely knows what’s going on. Crisp’s reputation as a good defensive CF is largely a myth at this point. He’s never had an arm and as was illustrated several times in the playoffs he often breaks in the wrong direction on contact. Beane knew he had to go and went out and got one of the best defensive CFs in the game. With an OF of Cespedes/Young/Reddick the A’s should prevent a ton of runs and dare anyone to run on them. With $7MM owed to him in 2013 there’s absolutely no way Beane keeps him for roster depth, despite his claim that Coco is one of his favorite guys on the team.

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    • Spike says:

      that’s interesting bc for others who don’t follow the team as closely know that Crisp hit a pretty impressive .859 in the 2nd half (over 260 PAs)….

      I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if Young gets flipped for something else, since CFers are always in demand.

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      • Danny Knobgobbler says:

        Yeah, because those 260 PAs out of a career 4835 PAs are surely predictive of what’s to come for the 33 year old!

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      • Jason B says:

        “Crisp hit a pretty impressive .859″

        I would say it is DAMNED impressive if he hit .859 over 260 PA’s! That’s 223 hits. How are we just now hearing about this?!?!

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  9. Kev says:

    Actually, Beane acquired Seth Smith a few weeks before he had signed Cespedes. It was the Cespedes signing that created the apparent logjam.

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  10. Billy Beane says:

    Troll!

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  11. bSpittle says:

    “Athletics Stockpile Another Ass”

    Interesting parts of the title get cut off in the link.

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  12. rodger packer says:

    the only reason Reddick suffered a setback offensively was that he never fully recovered from that crash to the wall in balitimore.

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