The Oakland A’s may look to offset the potential loss of left fielder Robbie Grossman with organizational depth. According to MLB.com’s Martín Gallegos, the A’s suspect 28-year-old Seth Brown could play an important role – but it’s now or never for the Oregon native. Brown’s combination of power and patience is a skill set the A’s have shown a fondness for over the years, and he played well during a 2019 call-up: .293/.361/.453 in 83 plate appearances.
From 2017 to 2019, Brown made the progressive leaps an organization likes to see as he jumped from High-A to Double-A to Triple-A in successive seasons. He earned his time on the big-league roster in 2019 after an impressive .297/.352/.634 line with 37 home runs in just 112 games at the highest level of the minors.
Grossman himself was somewhat of a late bloomer, cutting his teeth on unfortunate Astros squads of 2013 and 2014. He would be released by the Astros and then the Indians before finding a home in Minnesota. After three seasons of part-time work that culminated in a solid 1.7 bWAR season in 2018, the Twinkies cut him loose, too.
Hello, Oakland. Grossman’s 2020 output was easily the most productive season of his career, but those considering him in free agency must gauge whether his power display during the shortened 2020 season is the final step of his development or a small-sample burst. His .240 ISO this season far outpaced his career mark of .127 ISO.
All in all, Grossman’s skill set isn’t flashy, but that hasn’t stopped him from posting an above-average wRC+ in four of the last five seasons. If a market doesn’t develop for Grossman, the A’s could seek a reunion. Grossman and Brown both hit from the left side, of course, making for a ham-handed timeshare between the two.
Enter Chad Pinder, who could be in line for more regular playing time. Pinder has long been a short-side platoon utility player for the A’s, but his bat played up in a major way during their playoff run. Pinder was often penciled into the number three spot in the order while standing in for the injured Matt Chapman at the hot corner. Pinder could easily line up with Ramon Laureano and Mark Canha against lefties, but Stephen Piscotty should also be back in the lineup. The A’s could be intrigued by the possibility of more face time for the soon-to-be 29-year-old Pinder, but much of that time may have to come at second base, where Tony Kemp currently tops the depth chart.
All of which is to say, expect the A’s to slow-play the market this offseason and see where the value play lies. They’d like to explore the possibility of bringing back Tommy La Stella, who would expect a majority of the timeshare at the keystone. A long-time part-time player who almost retired many years ago when the Cubs sent him to Triple-A, La Stella is not likely to cherish a return to diminished responsibilities.
Add to the outfield mix ML-ready prospects Luis Barrera and Greg Deichmann – the latter of whom, Gallegos notes, was just added to the 40-man roster – and the A’s could head into 2021 as currently constituted with plenty of options to throw at the wall.
The real issue for the A’s is building a bridge between Marcus Semien and prospect Nick Allen at short. Allen’s defensive prowess is considerable, but the 5’8″ 22-year-old glove last appeared in High-A with a slash line of .292/.363/.434. Normal circumstances would dictate another year in the minors for Allen, but these days the development curve is more blueprint than model.
If Allen is close, Pinder could hold the line at short, but he’s totaled just 34 innings as the infield captain since 2017. Assuming they’re not ready to simply hand the keys to the car over to Allen, the A’s will focus their free agent energy (aka, dollars) on finding a short-term fix to keep the spot warm.
The A’s, like the Rays, are comfortable fielding a dynamic offensive lineup that shape-shifts as needed throughout the regular season. They’ll dole out playing time piecemeal until settling on the right mix. That could mean an increased share for Brown, but the A’s are sure to have ways to flex the roster if he’s unable to claim it.