Jake Fox and the As’ Roster Crunch

[Author’s note: slightly modified to correct my bad arithmetic]

I recently wrote about Oakland’s roster, but there is one thing I didn’t get to: the fate of Jake Fox. Assuming that the As go with 12 pitchers, then the 9 starters, that leaves 4 spots on the 25-man roster. One spot will be taken by backup catcher Landon Powell. Franchise Centerpiece Utility Man Eric Chavez is in as a backup 1B/3B. Adam Rosales is the only player on the roster who could back up Cliff Pennington at shortstop, so he’s in as the backup middle infielder.

That leaves one for four candidates: Gabe Gross, Travis Buck, Eric Patterson, and Jake Fox. Gross and Buck are both decent outfielders, but Gross was acquired for a reason, and he should make the roster. Travis Buck still has an option, so he’ll probably head back to the minors. That assemblage means that Patterson and Fox won’t make the cut, but given that neither has options remaining, they would be exposed to waivers. If the As were to bite the bullet and DFA Zombie Eric Chavez, which should they keep?

While Patterson has played second base, his defense reportedly isn’t that great there. With Rosales presumably making the team for his greater infield defensive abilities, the speedy Patterson would need to make the team on the basis of his abilities as an outfielder. One might make the argument that Gross is really only a corner outfielder, so the As need a backup for center. While I think his defensive numbers show that Gross could be at least adequate in center, it doesn’t matter because, as has often been remarked, the As are already starting three center fielders in Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, and Ryan Sweeney. If Crisp goes down, the As can move Davis or Sweeney into center, and put Gross in the corner. Offensively, both CHONE and ZiPS project Patterson for a .320 wOBA, which isn’t all that great.

Jake Fox is clearly a better hitter than Patterson, but where he fits on the team is another issue. While he’s probably a terrible third baseman, he wouldn’t kill the team if he had to play there or first base occasionally, and Rosales can cover third when they need a defensive replacement. Fox might be able to cut it as an emergency fifth outfielder, but that’s not much of an argument for keeping him on the roster, and neither is his potential as an emergency catcher.

Eric Patterson has his uses, and I could see why the As would be loathe to let him go. It’s a tough (if relatively trivial) choice, but I’d go with Fox. He could be platooned with Jack Cust at DH, or play first when Barton needs a rest. Given his CHONE and ZiPS projections, I estimate Fox’s ability versus left-handed pitching to be around .350 wOBA. Given that most of the As’ decent hitters are left-handed, that is likely to be more useful than a fifth-outfielder/pinch-runner.

Of course, this assumes the As are willing to finally cut ties with the injury-ravaged remains of Eric Chavez, and whether they would ever contemplate that, or whether it’s even a good idea, is a post for another day.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

20 Responses to “Jake Fox and the As’ Roster Crunch”

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  1. baycommuter says:

    Not sure about your addition– 12 pitchers plus 9 starters plus Chavez, Rosales and Powell make 24– so there’s only one spot left for the four players you mention. Gross has the edge.

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    • Argh

      I went over it in my head several times, and came to that conclusion more than once, then promptly forgot about it.

      Geez I’m an idiot.. re-writing it a bit now.

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  2. Gricomet says:

    Jake Fox seemed like a good pick up at the time, then they picked up a number of other guys who filled similar or overlapping roles. Rosales fills the bench role better than Fox even if he has worse hitting potential. Fox could have been a cheap and young DH but then they resigned Cust. The outfield is full of better or younger guys and Fox would be bad there defensively. I like Fox, but he doesn’t really fit on the team well now at all. Unfortunately there hasn’t been time to rebuild his value so I’m not what Beane could get for him. One would assume he would be waiver claimed if they try to send him down.

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  3. Matt Rado says:

    Why do you assume 12 pitchers? The A’s have enough off days that they’ll only need a fifth starter two or three times in the first month. No reason they’d need more than 11 pitchers.

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    • JD says:

      The A’s have just 2 off days in April. They play 2 straight weeks to start the season, and two of the guys scheduled to be in their rotation are Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer. One of the primary bullpen weapons they have is Joey Devine. And Wuertz, Breslow, and Bailey have all been slowed by nagging issues this spring.

      I normally hate 12 pitchers, but if there was ever a time a team absolutely needed an extra guy, it’s this April with this A’s team.

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    • Because most teams use 12, and it’s a short post, so I didn’t want to spend another paragraph talking about that.

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  4. lincolndude says:

    I don’t think Crisp has even played the outfield yet this spring, though he did hit a home run as DH the other day. Could he start the season on the DL? I think Chavez has also taken some grounders at short (that may have just been an idea that didn’t end up happening), in which case they could start Rosales or Pennington in the minors and wait for the inevitable injury. That would leave them really light on middle infielders, though.

    I just can’t see them letting Fox go. Carrying 11 pitchers for the first month and seeing what the situation is after everyone’s had some live action might be the best solution.

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  5. Jon says:

    What’s too bad in all of this is how people have forgotten what a really good player Chavez was pre-injury. He was consistently an .850-.890 OPS third baseman that played (from 2002-2006 he had four season of at least +6.6 UZR/150). He was a 4-5 WAR player, and now he’s become the butt end of Bad Contract jokes. Crazy world, this baseball.

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    • lincolndude says:

      I actually posted on Chavez today. He and Scott Rolen were almost exactly the same through age 27. After that, their careers diverged big time.

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    • NO one has forgotten. I remember how good Mike Sweeney was way back when. And Vernon Wells. And Alfonso Soriano… see where this is going?

      And just because it’s an albatross contract now doesn’t necessarily mean it was at the time it was signed, but that’s another post.

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  6. JD says:

    I honestly don’t see any use for Eric Patterson. I mean, unless he’s gonna have a near-.500 BABIP like he did last year when he was “Good,” he can’t hit or field. How is that worth a roster spot?

    Also, what’s with this “As'” thing?

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  7. BX says:

    also, Chavez will clear waivers, so you can stash both…and shuffle some of the mediocre relievers with options if you need both Chavez and Fox on the 25 man and no position player is worth sending down…

    Chavez is an elite player when healthy, if its a choice between him and Fox..

    It’s just the health that makes DFAing Fox to keep Chavez a HUGE risk. That’s what mediocre relievers are for.

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  8. JK says:

    This article assumes Jake Fox has no options remaining. He actually has an option remaining, so he’ll be sent down. Patterson does not have any remaining, so we’ll see what happens with him.

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    • JK says:

      Actually, mlb says that Fox does not have options remaining. Earlier this spring they had said he did not have an option, then they said he did, and in an article today says that he does not have an option. So, ignore my comment.

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  9. bill says:

    What ever happened to bringing the top 25 guys based on Spring Training performance?

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  10. Snookie says:

    This time of year just about every team in baseball is losing sleep on how exactly they are going to trim their roster to 25. If there ever is a safe time to DFA somebody (Fox) with the hopes of him clearing waivers, this is the time. Additionally, Fox hasn’t helped himself at all this spring either enticing another team to take a chance on a out-of-options DH.

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  11. escapingNihilism says:

    what is with the Bill James projection for Fox?

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