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.
The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.
Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.
The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.
In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.