A’s acquire Young; deal Pennington, Cabrera
Though Billy Beane forecasted an unusually quiet winter just last week, the A’s general manager was back to his old ways on Saturday, swinging an early offseason deal with the D-backs that brought him veteran center fielder Chris Young.
In exchange for Young and cash considerations totaling $500,000 to offset the All-Star’s salary, the A’s traded away infielder Cliff Pennington to the D-backs. Arizona also landed infield prospect Yordy Cabrera from Oakland, before flipping him to the Marlins in a deal for reliever Heath Bell.
The addition of Young immediately, albeit presumably, brought into question the fate of speedy table setter Coco Crisp, set to make $7 million with the A’s in the final year of a two-year deal. But Beane, speaking on a conference call Saturday night, quickly denounced the idea that Crisp is suddenly on the trade block.
“There’s no need to go down that road,” Beane said. “Everybody knows how important this guy is to our team. He also has the benefit of being a personal favorite of mine.”
Those around him, notably left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and right fielder Josh Reddick, along with outfielder and designated hitter Seth Smith, also seem safe. The same cannot be said of 2012 clubhouse ringleader Jonny Gomes, who appears to be the odd man out and, in turn, targeted for free agency, after Beane said Young’s presence “will have an impact” on the possibility of his return.
Having five proven outfielders on hand is a good problem to have, Beane noted, as surpluses are often diminished because of injuries. This team understands that just as much as any other, given Crisp and Cespedes combined to miss 75 games as a result of injuries this year. So added depth, particularly in the form of Young, is always welcomed.
“We had a very productive outfield last year and were able to get a lot of playing time for everyone involved,” he said. “We had, in my opinion, one of the deeper outfields in the game, and I think this is another way of duplicating that.
“This is a really good player and someone whose talent we’ve admired for a long time.”
Beane entered into conversations about Young with longtime friend and Arizona general manager Kevin Towers the day after Oakland lost Game 5 of the AL Division Series to the Tigers. The pair has made plenty trade headlines in recent years, including an August deal that brought shortstop Stephen Drew to the A’s. Pennington’s absence bodes well for the return of Drew, who holds a $10 million mutual option.
If either side declines, Drew will become a free agent. But Beane sounds intent on preventing that scenario, saying he plans to contact Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, very soon.
Young, who turned 29 last month, is a career .239 hitter with a likable combination of power and speed. In seven Major League seasons, each with Arizona, he’s averaged 24 home runs and 21 stolen bases, all while showcasing excellent defense — a common trait among Oakland’s outfield.
Young finished the 2012 campaign with a battling line that read .231/.311.434, getting off to a hot start by hitting .410 with a 1.397 OPS through mid-April, before injuring his right shoulder while crashing into the outfield wall and posting a dismal .206 mark the rest of the way. A quadriceps muscle injury ended his season in September, but Young said Saturday he’s fully healthy. Moreover, though strictly a center fielder since high school, he said playing the corner positions “is not a challenge I wouldn’t be willing to take or figure out.”
“I’m excited about a new opportunity,” he said. “Just watching Oakland on TV and having a few friends who ended up getting traded over there and playing there, I’ve just heard amazing things. I’m excited to help.”
Young, who played under Bob Melvin during the manager’s reign at the helm in Arizona, will make $8.5 million next season. He is also carrying around an $11 million club option for 2014 that includes a $1.5 million buyout created when he signed a five-year deal worth $28 million before 2009.
With that in mind, toppled with the prospect of Drew’s $10 million option, Beane confirmed the team’s payroll will definitely increase from the $55 million budget it held this year.
For Pennington, who was Oakland’s longest tenured position player, he departs the only team he’s ever known, having enjoyed parts of five seasons with the A’s, who selected him with their first pick in the 2005 Draft.
Pennington hit .215 with a .278 on-base percentage and .311 slugging mark for Oakland this season, all career lows. Such production led the A’s to bring in Drew in late August, and Pennington was subsequently moved to second base. His departure frees up the everyday spot for Scott Sizemore, whom Beane revealed Saturday will indeed move from third base back to his natural second base position. Jemile Weeks and Adam Rosales, meanwhile, act as depth there, and Josh Donaldson will resume everyday duties at the hot corner.
It’s a group Young watched with close attention down the stretch.
“Honestly, I was pulling for them,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of the teams that have been able to beat the odds.”