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Oakland Finishes Outfield With Seth Smith

It seemed like only a matter of time until Seth Smith was shipped out of Colorado. The Rockies have depth in the outfield and the demand for a player of Smith’s caliber was there. A suitor finally stepped forward Monday, as the Oakland Athletics acquired Smith in exchange for starting pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman.

The acquisition is just another in a makeover offseason for the A’s. Billy Beane spent much of December and early January bringing in a bevy of young starting pitchers to fill the starting rotation between Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and Jarrod Parker. Monday, Beane shifted his attention back towards the outfield, and by trading a couple of surplus pieces, he landed the final piece of what could be a surprisingly good outfield corps in 2012.

In Colorado, Smith was largely limited to a platoon role, but it was one he filled quite well. In three seasons and change, he managed a .275/.348/.485. Even with the lift provided by Coors Field, Smith was a clearly above-average hitter, sporting a 113 wRC+. Although his fantasy numbers will certainly take a hit on the move from Colorado to pitcher-friendly Oakland, the characteristics that made him an above-average hitter — good (not great) power and slightly above-average contact and walk rates — shouldn’t disappear.

The bigger question will be how Smith handles everyday at-bats should the Athletics commit to him in a full-time role in left field. The Rockeis were careful to limit his exposure to left-handed pitching — of his 1449 career plate appearances, 1209 (83.4%) have come against right-handers, as opposed to the league average of 70.4%. Smith’s splits show this was done for good reason — in his 240 plate appearances against righties, Smith only owns a .202/.269/.319 line. Although the split is likely exaggerated due to sample size, the split is so huge — 115 points of wOBA — it isn’t difficult to envision Smith struggling mightily against right-handers in an expanded role.

Perhaps this explains why the asking prices never quite matched up with teams like the Braves, Rays, or Reds. The Rockies may have been asking for value equivalent to a full-time starting left fielder, whereas these teams — all playoff contenders — were all unwilling to part with said value in exchange for a big question mark in nearly one-third of his plate appearances as a starter.

As the market collapsed, the Athletics were able to pounce, giving up two surplus starters with shiny ERAs and little else. For a minimal cost, the Athletics picked up a good platoon outfielder with the chance to earn a role as a starter. It’s but a small step forward in Oakland’s rebuilding process, but every little bit counts, and the A’s are in better shape now than they were this morning.