Oakland Athletics acquire Seth Smith

Even in a firesale, Billy Beane has still managed to acquire two veteran outfielders with both moves being savvy ones when looking at the big picture. The Oakland Athletics basically stole Seth Smith from the Colorado Rockies, because they gave Colorado two fly ball pitchers in Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman. These are two pitchers who will look even worse in Coors Field, and the A’s added a league-average outfielder who has a steady bat that overcomes underwhelming defense.

Outman was worth 0.8 WAR last season in 58.1 innings and has induced a grounder on 38.8% of his pitches in his career. He has a career strikeout rate of 6.36 and a walk rate of 3.33, and he is a mediocre to subpar reliever. Outman is one of those easy-to-find middle relievers who has been extremely lucky in his career.

Moscoso was worth 1.3 WAR in 128 innings in 2011 and has a career strikeout rate of 5.55. Like Outmanm Moscoso gives up fly balls in bunches with a career GB% of 27.3. His career HR/FB% of 6% illustrates his luck, and his 5.05 xFIP helps to show his true value as a pitcher. He had his first full season in 2011, and it was quite underwhelming. Moscoso is well below average and is just a filler in this deal; expect him to be a long reliever who rarely makes an appearance on the mound. He allows far too much contact which greatly reduces his ability to generate whiffs, and he completely lacks an off-speed pitch despite an above-average fastball.

The more interesting player in this deal is Seth Smith, which is quite ironic considering his standing as the most average- and thus boring- player in the MLB. After giving him a one-year deal worth $2.4 million, the Rockies subsequently traded him to the Athletics. They were always looking to deal Smith, and the reason is confounding in itself. The Rockies were interested in acquiring worse players and even overpaid on Michael Cuddyer instead of staying put with Smith.

Somebody was bound to benefit from the Rockies unreasonable desire to deal Smith, and Beane and the A’s were the benefactors. Moscoso and Outman are two minimal contributors who are worth a combined 1 WAR with 1.5 WAR being a realistic ceiling. Whereas Smith is a 2 WAR hitter who can actually significantly help a team. The two pitchers in this deal don’t strike out anybody and give up too many fly balls; that combination does not bode well for their future success in a much more difficult ballpark. Everything won’t be rosy for Smith in his new surroundings, but his 115 wRC+ is a park-adjusted number and is unlikely to change due to his new park.

There are two projection systems for Seth Smith available on FanGraphs; the one provided by Baseball Info Solutions and one from RotoChamp. Neither are scientific, but- when combined with one’s own knowledge- are a useful tool for predicting future performance. Assuming Smith is an average defensive player, BIS has him as a 2 WAR player. If one rates him as a 5 of 7- 7 being the worst- then he is a 1.5 WAR hitter. Defense means everything when evaluating Smith, which is why he was worth 2.9 WAR in 2009 compared to 1.9 WAR in 2011. His wRC+ was just nine points higher in 2009, but his UZR had a difference of +11.8.

RotoChamp is in total agreement with BIS, and a simple Marcel system using the past three years also has Smith as exactly 2 WAR. He is as average as it gets in the Majors, and that’s something to be happy about. The A’s gave up two poor relievers for an average outfielder in what was an awful deal for the Rockies that made absolutely no sense. They may not like Smith’s platoon split, but trading him for nothing doesn’t solve the problem. There had to have been a better offer on the table than this one, and the Athletics just struck a bargain at the hands of the Rockies.

This deal goes beyond actual performance, because the acquisition of Seth Smith is a lot like the Athletics signing of Coco Crisp. They can just flip Smith to a contender at the deadline, because a team looking to make that last wild card spot would love to have a solid bat to put them over the top. Beane’s goal is to acquire prospects, and he traded two players who aren’t in the team’s plans for the future for an average outfielder who can help the team now and later by netting them a prospect or two.

Be sure to check out all of Call to the Pen’s transaction breakdowns for the 2011-12 offseason. You can follow Call to the Pen on Twitter at @FSCalltothePen or like us here on Facebook.

Topics: Billy Beane, Colorado Rockies, Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman, Michael Cuddyer, Seth Smith

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