Now even his glove is letting him down: Kevin Kouzmanoff committed his fourth error in four games Tuesday, eclipsing his total from 2009 when he set a record for fielding percentage by a third baseman with three errors in 311 chances.
But while that’s probably a fluke, Kouzmanoff’s atrocious hitting likely isn’t. He’s opened this season at .267/.250/.333 with one RBI in four games. In 147 games since joining the A’s, he’s hit .247/.282/.394 with a dreadful 99/24 K/BB ratio in 566 at-bats. He entered last year as Oakland’s cleanup hitter, only to get dropped steadily as the year went on. This season, he’s batting eighth.
The next move is to simply pull him from the lineup. After an excellent spring in which he hit .333/.388/.583 with four homers and 13 RBI in 60 at-bats, Andy LaRoche made his first start of the season last night. Playing shortstop, he went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. The A’s might as well give him a shot.
Of course, it’s no given than LaRoche would be an upgrade. The 27-year-old has hit .226/.305/.339 in 1,090 at-bats as a major leaguer. Even Kouzmanoff, who also excelled with the bat this spring, has that beat. LaRoche, though, probably has the greater offensive upside, and he does offer more range at third base. He wouldn’t be the first hitter to break through after getting the boot from the Pirates.
Kouzmanoff isn’t worthless. But we do know what he is: he offers just enough power and defense to justify a spot in a starting lineup, but he clearly ranks in the 20-30 range among major league third basemen. LaRoche may not be any better, but it’s worth a shot and the A’s would still have the insurance policy to fall back on.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.