Sunday, December 30, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Seth Smith

By request we continue the 'In the Cross Hairs' series with a look at Oakland Athletics outfielder Seth Smith.   Unlike most of the other players we have looked at in this series, the former second round selection is not available on the free market and instead would have to be acquired via trade.

Smith has long been viewed as a target for teams looking to improve their outfield. Wwhen the A's acquired former Diamondback outfielder Chris Young at the start of the offseason, they all but ensured the Smith lust would continue for another offseason. After losing Collin Cowgill to the New York Mets, Smith currently slots in as Oakland's fourth or fifth outfielder. Ahead of Smith is Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Young, Josh Reddick, and Coco Crisp.

In 2012, Oakland implemented platoons as good as any team in baseball. More than likely they are looking to take a similar approach in 2013. Yes, the Athletics acquired another outfielder in Chris Young, but as a right handed hitter I don't see his acquisition as giving the A's any extra motivation to move Smith. However, given Smith's likely raise in arbitration, I'm sure the A's would at least listen. Smith currently would be under team control for two additional seasons and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $3.3 million through arbitration for 2013.

If Smith could be had, he would be an ideal platoon partner for Jeff Francoeur. In 2012, Smith hit .259/.353/.454 versus right handed pitching, a line that was actually down from his career marks of .283/.361/.503. He has averaged around 1.5 fWAR per season over the last three years and according to defensive metrics has been a slightly above average defender.

The problems with Smith are as follows. First, the A's don't quite have the surplus of outfielders that is perceived by most. I have no doubt that Smith could be had via trade, but his role is no different today than it was in the season, and the A's are fully aware of his value as a platoon player.

Secondly, the Royals are said to be looking for a low cost option to add to their outfield. Personally, I think that  $3.3 million is pushing "low cost." Not to mention, the Royals would have to part with some sort of cost in terms of talent as well, in order to acquire Smith.

Finally, and this isn't necessarily a big problem, but Seth Smith isn't an everyday guy. He is horrible against left handed pitching. For his career he has hit .191/.264/.307 against south paws and was even worse in 2012 hitting .157/.250/.271. If the Royals were to acquire Smith, they would need to fully commit to a platoon for 2013. If Francoeur doesn't pick it back up against left handers, they would need to search out a right hander to complement Smith, because Smith won't hack it as an everyday guy.

If the platoon was successful, the Royals would then need to spend next offseason finding a right hander to complement Smith for 2014. This isn't too difficult and could provide a nice bridge to Jorge Bonifacio or Orlando Calixte, either of which could be ready to man a corner come Opening Day 2015.

Smith mashes against right handed pitching. Quite frankly, the Royals could do a lot worse than a Smith-Francoeur platoon in right field for 2013. The commentor who suggested Smith is definitely on the right track and he is exactly the kind of player that could be very effective as a platoon partner to Frenchy. Ultimately, I don't think Smith is the guy primarily because of his price tag for 2013.

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