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Note: this question was posed on Saturday, September 11, before Chris Carter was brought back to the big leagues this week.
OaklandClubhouse: Was that a difficult decision to have to send Chris Carter back to the minor leagues before he had even gotten his first major league hit?
Farhan Zaidi: We are at a point now where we are trying to balance winning and, to the extent that we could stay in the race and stay viable in the race, and just have a winning season. We have a lot of goals in terms of the team performance in the last 20-25 games here, so we want to give ourselves the best chance to win. But we do have to balance that with the fact that we have a young team, that we have guys who will probably benefit in the long run to getting some [major league] exposure now. In the case of Chris, that was awhile ago [that he was sent down] and the fact that we are still in the race says that it wasn't necessarily the time and place to let a guy continue to struggle at this level when we thought – and I think people who watched his at-bats would agree – he still had some things to work with.
It's not fair to judge someone based on 20 at-bats, but ultimately if you think he's better served being in an environment where he can have some success, work on things and have that experience of actually being up here. I think that will actually really help him the next time he is up. He hit some balls hard. It's one of those things where if a couple of those balls that he hit hard to the left-side went through the infield then it wouldn't have been quite as dramatic a thing to send him down without a hit. But I think it was more the totality of the 20 at-bats and the quality of those at-bats. We just think he was best served getting more time at Triple-A.
OC: Does Daric Barton's emergence at the major league level change how you feel overall about the first base position within the organization?
FZ: Yeah. The reality is that an organization is dynamic. Guys improve, guys establish themselves. It was the same thing when we were talking about Grant Green. We currently view [Cliff] Pennington as a long-term solution at short. The biggest thing that Grant brings to the table is his bat. Even if he could play short [in the big leagues], he's not a guy whose greatest asset is going to be his glove at short, in any case. I think it is the same thing with Daric. Now that Daric has established himself, if you have a prospect who can play first base, you are not necessarily going to envision him playing that position for your big league club, especially because you have one of your best young players at that position.
In the particular case of Chris, I personally think his best position is the outfield. I think he is better in the outfield than he is at first base. He's athletic enough to play out there. I think he moves around better than people anticipate once he's out there and I actually truly think he's a better outfielder than a first-baseman at this point. I think the ability to play both, like Nick Swisher had for us back a couple of years ago, is an asset, but it wouldn't surprise me if he ultimately settles in a corner outfield spot.
OC: What are you ultimately hoping to see from Michael Taylor in the Arizona Fall League?
FZ: I think just to experience the same level of success that he had the last couple of years before this year. He's had a bit of a challenging year for him. He started off slow and then he got really hot for awhile. Then he cooled off and then he finished off the year well. He hit a big homer [last Saturday in the River Cats' playoff game]. It would be great to see him finish strong in the playoffs and continue that momentum into the Fall League. Ultimately, the Fall League is a good development opportunity. For a guy like him, who is probably going to be one of the more experienced players there, to experience some success and get his confidence level back, would be huge. We are excited that he is going. It will be a chance for us to see him against some high-level competition. I think will be good for his development.
OC: Were you pleased with what you saw from Vince Mazzaro [in his one start for Sacramento after being sent down]? Was that what you were looking for him to do?
FZ: Yeah. We know, as well as anybody, what his game log looks like and we know how many quality starts he's had and all that other stuff. The reality is that our determination of how good a pitcher can be up here and whether he gives us the best opportunity to win isn't just a function of his game log. It's a function of the execution of pitches, the quality of pitches, how reliant that player is on his defense and the ballpark and flat-out good fortune to generate those results. Again, just like with Chris Carter, we felt it was the best thing for his development was to go down and be in an environment where he could work on a couple of things.
It's not easy being a starting pitcher for this team with an offense that doesn't score a lot of runs. Our pitchers have said it themselves when asked about it. They feel like every pitch they make is important. To be in an environment like that [Triple-A] where he feels he is better than the players he is facing and can have success and have a performance like he had [last Friday], that's a good thing. He's still a huge part of what we are trying to do and we are trying to build a team from the pitching rotation out. He's one of the group of five young pitchers that we have, so we are going to do what we think is best for his development. Right now, we think that going down there, having a couple of successful starts – a meaningful start last night, really – is going to be the best thing for him in the long run.
OC: It's got to be a fun thing to be able to call-up a player like Bobby Cramer with his back-story.
FZ: Yeah. I really think that the best and fairest way to run an organization is as a meritocracy. It should be a situation where, if you do well, you get promoted. No matter where we drafted you or how you were acquired, if you perform, you will get a chance to move up. He's a guy who has had a couple of stints with us and he has been terrific at every level, at Stockton, Midland, in Sacramento this year. He was the best starting pitcher in the Mexican League where he pitched on loan this season. It's not the prototypical starting pitching prospect profile, but to get those kind of results, to have the ERA that he does, to get the groundball numbers that he has, and with the walk-and-strike-out ratio being so favorable, we think he's a guy who has a chance to come up here and have success.
I think it sends the right message to everyone in the organization that it doesn't matter, again, how you got into the organization, all that matters is the results that you generate and if you generate results, you have a chance to pitch for us in the big leagues. The same is true of Justin James.
OC: On the international scouting front, you've brought in some big names lately with Renaldo Nunez this year and Wilfredo Solano last year. Zhi-Fang Pan, the Taiwanese shortstop, has had a really nice year in Arizona. Are you feeling like the organization is starting to build some traction in those markets?
FZ: Dan Kantrovitz has been with us for a little over a year now and he's done a really nice job overseeing everything because obviously you've got the Pacific Rim and Latin America and we are pretty active in Mexico, too. Being able to view all of your international alternatives in the same framework, which I think he has accomplished, is terrific. I think when you have that and when you can make apples-to-apples judgments on different players from different parts of the world and be able to allocate your money most efficiently across all of those opportunities, that's how you wind-up with guys like Pan. It's a function of Dan's organization and communication with the scouts in the different areas and good work by the scouts, too.
It's nice to see Pan having that kind of success. That's the kind of thing that can open doors for us in that part of the world with future signings and future success.