Count your outfielders

All is apparently not quiet on the Western Front. Talks of the A’s in pursuit of one-time Oakland player Johnny Damon have fizzled this weekend, but according to multiple reports — including FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and ESPN’s Buster Olney — the club is now in “serious discussions” with free-agent outfielder Gabe Gross. The 30-year-old Gross, who hit .227 with six homers and 36 games for Tampa Bay last year, would presumably offer the A’s a left-handed option off the bench and yet another backup outfielder.

Over the past couple weeks, both Beane and Geren have boasted about what could shape up to be the best defensive outfield in the league with Davis in LF, Crisp in CF and Sweeney in RF. The A’s also have the highly touted Michael Taylor waiting in line, not to mention options in Eric Patterson and Travis Buck — the latter who the A’s seem to have lost a lot of hope on, especially if a Gross signing gets done. So with the A’s entering camp with more outfielders than some can count, it begs the question of why Beane is so interested in signing an outfielder rather than what he calls a much-needed utility infielder.

At the same time, it’s Beane. And where his mind goes at this time of the year is anybody’s guess. After all, it’s fair to say the Ben Sheets signing didn’t make much sense — considering the pitching depth — before the deal came into fruition. And now that it has, it makes great sense barring any injury. But Gross is not Sheets. And he’s not Crisp. Or Kouzmanoff. So what gives?


There’s another consolidation trade coming in my opinion.
A blocked infielder is probably coming to us for Buck+?+?

While a Gabe Gross signing would be about as exciting to an A’s fan as a paint-by-number is to an art collector, I would not be too terribly disappointed by the decision. As opposed to viewing this as something that would impede the development of Oakland’s more-than-capable young outfielders, try to picture the move as one intended to enhance the club’s options. And last time I looked, having options was a good thing.
It’s hardly worth discussing all possibilities — they are innumerable — but the one that primarily interests me is the one most A’s fans fear: What would happen to Travis Buck if Gross becomes the fourth outfielder? Even if Buck could outperform Gross at the plate, the difference would likely be negligible. Buck has shown a difficulty with being consistent in limited, albeit sporadic at-bats, and a return to Sacramento could increase his stock, if not with Oakland then as trade-bait.
Best case is Gross plays an acceptable backup outfielder while Buck gets some consistency and confidence. Worst case is Gross completely fails and Buck returns to his familiar ‘Will I or won’t I see the batter’s box today’ status with Oakland. It’s a no-risk/modest-reward situation.

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