If there’s one position where the A’s could use some help, it’s easily at shortstop. Various other teams could say the same thing, but the A’s problem is a bit bigger. In 2012, a mixture of Stephen Drew, Cliff Pennington, and a handful of others combined to post a .606 OPS, the fourth worst mark in baseball amongst shortstops as units. Again, a big “help at shortstop” sign can be found near the O.Co Coliseum.
Stephen Drew seems in line to resign with the A’s after being traded from Arizona during the season. In 172 plate appearances with Oakland, he rendered a .707 OPS. So he clearly wasn’t great, but he was also better than anything the A’s had at the time.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported during the winter meetings that the A’s could sign Drew to a modest one-year deal. Although, nothing seems imminent as talks have seemingly hit an impasse lately.
So why not pursue the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera, who’s being shopped?
Well, Beane doesn’t necessarily want to enroll a long-term replacement at shortstop. He has a highly-regarded prospect in Addison Russell waiting in the wings, and he just happens to play shortstop. The best case scenario would have Russell reaching the majors by 2015 and rapidly matures into Oakland’s everyday shortstop. Thus, the GM’s decision to stick with the shorter deals to clear the way for Russell when he arrives on the scene.
That’s the hopeful side of the story and would justify Beane’s hesitance to trade for someone like Cabrera.
At 27 years old, Cabrera likely has several more productive seasons ahead of himself and the Indians do want three to four prospects for him, which is understandable. The A’s can afford that price tag, as their farm system is stacked. So prospects won’t be a road block.
But then there’s the negative side of the story.
The A’s need Cabrera because putting too much faith in Russell to be a savior wouldn’t be too wise. Remember, he is only 18-years-old, meaning that his skill set is raw, but he boasts plenty of potential.
But Beane has reason to put a boatload of faith into Russell…
While scouts predict 2016 the earliest date for Russell to make his major league debut, his first year in professional baseball raised plenty of positive eyebrows, and perhaps moved that debut date up slightly. But to reiterate, he wasn’t playing in AA or anything remotely close to the level where prospects last find themselves before making the jump to the majors. Still, the power-hitting infielder slashed for 369/.432/.594 in just over 200 at-bats with three teams, which is impressive at any level of baseball, mind you.
As for his highly-hyped up power, he tallied just seven home runs, but that number should steadily increase as he adjusts. Essentially any scouting report you read about Russell will explain how power is his best tool. If the book on him is accurate, then the A’s have found a rare commodity—a power-hitting shortstop. Those words are gravy in baseball because there simply aren’t many of them.
But here’s an interesting twist: who’s to say that Russell will spend his entire career at shortstop?
Well, many scouts believe that Russell will eventually make the switch to the hot corner as his frame and skill set don’t fit the description of a shortstop.
So with third base as an alternative for Russell, trading for Cabrera would no longer be a useless move. Instead, Beane could at least try to retain Cabrera for the long haul, and align Russell to play third baseman. It’d be a win-win.
Beane would be plugging a hole at shortstop, and another hole at third base. A little side note: A’s third basemen combined to compile the third worst OPS (.641) in baseball this past season. So it’s not like that position has seen much production either. Plus, Russell can begin making the transition as soon as next year, which would still set him on course to make his debut in 2015 or 2016.
To summarize, the A’s would be receiving one of baseball’s premier shortstops in Cabrera, which would be a refreshing thought considering that they haven’t had much stability at that position for years. Then, they can still put Russell to use at another area of need. And if Russell never pans out, shortstop would still be covered.