Alan Torres aka cuppingmaster was kind enough to answer some questions about the Atheltics prior to the Astros vs. Athletics series.
What are your impressions of Jed Lowrie to this point and do you still make the trade?
Alan Torres:After a blistering start, Lowrie has understandably cooled off, but he's a significant upgrade over what was at SS for the A's last year (Adam Rosales/Eric Sogard/Cliff Pennington). With a wRC+ of 128 and playing in 45 of the A's 47 games so far, I think it has worked out well. What hasn't been that great is Lowrie's defense at SS; if you believe in UZR, he's at -6.3 so far, which is pretty bad. Again, nothing unexpected here, but A's fans were so used to the cannon arm and quick release of Cliff Pennington that everything else seems so slow.
I would definitely do the trade again. The A's had a glaring offensive hole in the middle infield, and Hiro Nakajima was uniformly underwhelming in Spring Training before he was injured. This is not even mentioning Jemile Weeks' defensive issues that he cannot seem to make up for with his bat. I felt like last year, Moss was for real, and his performance so far justifies that belief, along with pretty decent defense. With that, and his relative success against LHP as well, it obviated Carter for the A's. Max Stassi was a tough loss, but he also had a reputation of being injury prone, and there is David Freitas (who the A's swapped for Kurt Suzuki late last year) and now Stephen Vogt who would have been ahead of him had he stayed. Brad Peacock has excellent stuff, but he probably 7th or 8th on the starting pitcher depth chart going into Spring. What's more, Sonny Gray is starting to look more legit by the day and may even end up in Oakland should Dan Straily remain inconsistent.
Some of the TCB writers have a strong dislike for Coco Crisp. What are his redeeming qualities or do you hate him as much as they do?
AT: This is the first I have heard of other teams' fans disliking Coco Crisp. It's fair to say he's an Oakland fan favorite. I actually think he's is an underrated player. In his 3+ years with the A's, he's averaged 2.5 fWAR or so. He's also an elite base-stealer. I'll concede that defensively, at least by the numbers, he's not what he once was, even though I think he generally takes above-average routes and isn't prone to mental mistakes. The A's aren't necessarily coming out way ahead having given him a 2 year/$14M contract, but it's not much of a liability either.
What would you be willing to give up to acquire Jose Altuve?
AT: Michael Choice would likely headline a trade for Altuve from my perspective. Included in this trade might be someone like Jemile Weeks (who I do think still has a chance to be a useful major leaguer, albeit a small one). Previously, defensive issues would have suppressed his value. But, if his defensive improvements are real, an above-average hitting and fielding 2B is a valuable thing in baseball, and well worth Michael Choice. Moreover, having a solid 2B frees up Grant Green to play a position he is more suited for, like left field. I'm unsure whether the A's will exercise Crisp's option for 2014, but Cespedes can play CF if Grant Green slid over to LF and Crisp walked. There are reasonable OF options for the A's, but no real MIF options until Addison Russell, honestly.
What is the Oakland Athletics biggest weakness on the field?
AT:Amazingly, it's been the starting pitching. Sure, defensively, the A's are in the bottom quarter of MLB by UZR at -9.6, that isn't nearly as much of a problem as the starters are. What with Brett Anderson now suffering from a stress fracture in his foot -- and no one knows how it happened, or his timetable for return -- and Jarrod Parker being wildly inconsistent, it's been left to Tom Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily, and Bartolo Colon to pick up the slack. Overall, Milone has been the most consistent starter, but he's a mid-rotation guy and that's probably his ceiling. In order for the A's to remain in contention, Straily and Parker will have to be effective much more consistently, and Griffin and Colon will need to keep doing what they are doing. Dan Straily's start against the Rangers on Tuesday was very impressive, but he is about as likely on Monday against the Giants to throw 4 innings, walk 5, and strikeout two as he is to repeat it. Parker had a neck issue earlier in the year, but that appears to have cleared up enough to have more encouraging outings lately.
Should anyone else go down, the options are slim. Sonny Gray needs more seasoning in AAA, but does appear to have solidified his future as a starter. Andrew Werner, Jesse Chavez, and Bruce Billings are technically options, but if the A's are using one of those guys, contention does not seem likely.
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