Over the weekend, the San Diego Padres signed Eric Hosmer to a front-loaded eight-year deal which he can opt out after five seasons. Since Hosmer is strictly a first baseman, that signing has displaced Will Myers, sending him to one of the corner outfield spots and has created a bit of a logjam for the Pads.
On Monday, Dennis Lin of The Athletic reported that trade interest has increased for former top prospect Hunter Renfroe since the signing, but for now he is one of four outfielders vying for the final starting outfield spot. Renfroe just turned 26 and in his first extended look in the bigs he hit .231 with a .284 on-base percentage to go along with 26 homers and 58 RBI last year. While he was tied for the NL lead in assists by a right fielder at nine with NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, he offset that number on the ledger in errors.
He’s a big right-handed bat that produced a DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) of one a year ago while manning right field. In some ways, he reminds me of a younger Khris Davis, who hit 22 homers in his age 25 season, then 27 in his age 26 season before being traded to the A’s.
There are two big differences between them, however. The first is that Renfroe appears to be able to hold his own in the outfield, and while he may be better suited as a DH down the line, a team shouldn’t be afraid to deploy him if needed. The second difference is that Davis has a better eye at the dish, doubling Renfroe’s walk rate (11.2% to 5.6%). This past season both sluggers struck out in roughly 30% of their trips to the plate.
Renfroe is intriguing.
The other outfielder that could become a trade target is Franchy Cordero. The fact that you likely haven’t heard of him means that he would take less to acquire, which is a positive. Cordero hasn’t seen much playing time at the big league level, collecting just 99 plate appearances thus far, all coming last season. He hit .228 with a .276 OBP and three homers, three triples and three doubles. He also struck out in 44.4% of his plate appearances and held a wRC+ of 83.
He’s not flashy at the dish just yet, but that’s not why I’m bringing him up. With an outfield currently consisting of Matt Joyce, Dustin Fowler and Stephen Piscotty from left to right, Oakland’s outfield defense should be loads better than it was last year. Joyce is under contract for one more season, and while the A’s have a nice queue of outfield prospects, most project to be ready in two to three years. Ramon Laureano, acquired from Houston this offseason and number 16 on MLB Pipeline’s list of A’s top 30 prospects, is the only outfield prospect with an ETA before 2020, outside of Fowler, who’s already being counted as part of the lineup.
So why Cordero anyway? Because he has speed. According to Baseball Savant (or Statcast), Cordero’s sprint speed is among the game’s elite players at 29.5 feet per second. For reference, the A’s fastest player last season was Boog Powell at 28.7 ft/sec. The three center fielders with a faster sprint speed are Byron Buxton (30.2 ft/sec), who is also the fastest player in baseball, Billy Hamilton (30.1) and Bradley Zimmer (29.9). Dee Gordon, who has stolen at least 58 bags in three of the last four seasons, has a sprint speed of 29.7 ft/sec, so there is plenty that could be done with a player that has that much quickness.
The downside for Cordero is that in the minors he has had a success rate of just 70.8% in six seasons, though he swiped 21 bags in 28 chances last season. One person that could help the 23-year-old refine that skill is Rickey. And therein lies my optimism with Franchy Cordero. Add him to a lineup that will soon include Jorge Mateo, arguably the fastest player in the minors (80 grade speed on the scout’s scale and 52 stolen bases in 2017) and the A’s could have the best speed duo in the majors. [insert line about market inefficiencies here].
Defensively, Cordero recorded four OAA (Outs Above Average) in the field in just 192 innings played. That’s the same total as Josh Reddick last year in 1,070 innings. Those four OAA rank him in the top 30 of all big league outfielders last season, which isn’t nothing considering how little he played.
An outfield of Cordero, Fowler (or Fowler, Cordero) and Piscotty from left to right sounds like it could be pretty sound defensively in 2019. This coming season Cordero would likely be a fourth outfield option but would likely see his playing time increase as the season moves along.
The big question here is obviously what would it take to acquire either of these players, and to a lesser extent, would the A’s also be able to squeeze Renato Nunez onto their 25-man roster at the start of the year?
If the A’s were to add Renfroe, Nunez would likely be traded or placed on waivers. With both Renfroe and Krush in the lineup, it would be hard to keep another guy with power on the roster and limited versatility. Unless of course, the front office decided to trade Davis in order to get a couple more years of control (both Renfroe and Cordero reach free agency after 2023), which is not outside the realm of possibility. They’d take a step back this season in doing so, presumably, but they could be set up better for after the 2019 season when Davis hits the free agent market.
With Cordero, the asking price could be someone on the 25-man roster (like Chad Pinder) or it could be a low level prospect or two, depending on the quality of the prospect. While losing a player like Pinder would be a tough blow since he is so versatile, the A’s have a number of infield prospects that could fill that role before long. Cordero’s ability to play each position in the outfield would allow Fowler to ease into this season a bit while adding legitimate depth to the roster.
Neither addition would be perfect, and being a fan of the Oakland Athletics for so many years, I’m resigned to losing Khris Davis at some point in the next year and a half. I’m also hopeful that the front office’s recent stance of keeping players rings true before long, though I suspect that means after one final round of moves. Jed Lowrie, Matt Joyce, and yes, Davis, would be the players most likely to be dangled in any upcoming trades. If losing Davis now means that they can retain Nunez and his six years of club control, I’m for it. I love Khris Davis, but being an A’s fan has also trained you to think like the front office at times, and a player approaching 30 and due for a big payday just isn’t something that’s necessarily their M.O.
Placing Renfroe or Nunez at DH, and occasionally in the field, while saving money for tinkering with the roster later on is almost certainly the right move, especially before the team starts challenging for a wild card spot. I’m personally more on board with adding Cordero and retaining Nunez somehow, because that could lead to an interesting team that can run, mash and pick it. Once the pitching staff comes around, that would be a real contender.
Featured Image: 2018 Topps Baseball