Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oakland A's Acquire Hitter Who Used to be Decent

The Oakland A's acquire OF/1B Conor Jackson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league reliever Sam Demel.

Mrs. Bootleg -- of all people -- was the first to text me about this latest A's trade. Initially, my reaction was close to a 6 or 7 on the 10-point "acquisition reaction scale" (for the sake of reference:
getting Matt Holliday from the Rockies was a 2... getting Rickey Henderson from the Yankees was a 200).

It didn't take long for me to realize I'd confused Jackson with slugging Arizona 3B Mark Reynolds. Accordingly, I've lowered my reaction score to 4.

In Jackson's first three seasons as a full-time player (2006-08) he posted a .292/.371/.451 slash line and averaged 14 home runs per season. He missed most of 2009 after contracting a bizarre disease called Valley Fever (severe fatigue; pain in the muscles and joints) and this year -- over 172 plate appearances -- Jackson's hitting .238/.326/.331.

Within minutes of the deal's completion, the A's publicly declared Jackson to be their everyday LF going forward. And, that's where things get a little screwy.

DH Jack Cust is immediately impacted. With the A's in the middle of a nine-game road trip through the National League, Cust has been forced into the outfield. He becomes a spectator/pinch-hitter until the A's return home next Monday -- despite hitting .309/.387/.407 since his return from the minors in mid-May.

(This also marks the third time in a little over six months that Cust has been ostensibly "replaced". In December, the A's acquired Jake Fox from the Cubs prior to non-tendering Cust a few weeks later. While Cust was re-signed in January, he lost the everyday DH job to Eric Chavez two days before Opening Day. For those scoring at home: Fox (.214/.264/.327) was designated for assignment this past Sunday, while Chavez (.234/.276/.333) has been almost identically awful.)

The impending return of OF Coco Crisp probably spells the short-term end for Rajai Davis' run as an everyday player. I'm not complaining, since Davis' "Willie Mays Hayes" plate approach (swinging for the fences when he should be hitting the ball on the ground to utilize his speed) has already worn thin.

So, should A's fans be excited about Conor Jackson? Well, he HAS spent his entire career in one of the best hitters' parks in either league (career home OPS: .811, career road OPS: .750 -- and the difference is almost entirely slugging percentage). The right-handed Jackson also shows a heavy platoon split (career OPS vs. LHP: .864, career OPS vs. RHP: .747).

Jackson's unusual medical history married up with Oakland's sketchy medical staff doesn't fill me with confidence and last year's overexposure of the equally platoony OF
Scott Hairston in an Oakland uniform leads me to believe my A's are already behind the 8-ball when it comes to "fixing" whatever's been wrong with Jackson since last season.

I think I've talked myself down from a "4" to a "3".


Kristen said...

D-backs fan here! I will miss Jackson's eyebrows and 2 o'clock shadow. Should I be exited about our new pitcher?

Aaron C. said...

Demel is a career minor leaguer who throws hard, but struggles with command. He was closing for the A's top minor league team and is capable of piling up the strikeouts, but he'll walk his fair share.

His numbers remind me a little bit of former A's and D-back reliever Juan Cruz. Sometimes great, sometimes unwatchable. Hopefully more of the "great" for your boys.