Trade Analysis: A's Acquire Sizemore

With Andrew Bailey's return from the DL expected this weekend, the Oakland A's were facing a dilemma of who to remove from their bullpen to make room for Bailey. The A's dealt with that question early, trading reliever David Purcey to Detroit for infielder Scott Sizemore. Sizemore was sent to Triple-A and Bobby Cramer was brought up to Oakland, at least for now. We analyze the moves inside…

The Trade: The Oakland A's acquired infielder Scott Sizemore from the Detroit Tigers for left-handed reliever David Purcey.

The Roster Implications: Purcey's spot on the 25-man roster is being taken by left-handed pitcher Bobby Cramer, who was activated from the Triple-A Sacramento disabled list on Friday. Whether Cramer remains in Oakland beyond this weekend is an open question, as he is the most likely candidate to be sent back down to Triple-A if A's closer Andrew Bailey returns from the DL as expected this weekend. Sizemore has been optioned to Triple-A Sacramento, where he will be worked into a crowded infield mix that includes prospects Jemile Weeks, Eric Sogard, Steven Tolleson, Josh Horton (when he's healthy) and Adrian Cardenas (although he has been mostly in left recently), as well as veteran Wes Timmons.


Overview

When the Oakland A's acquired David Purcey on April 18, the trade was out-of-the-blue. Oakland didn't appear to have a need for a reliever, especially a left-handed one given the fact that the team was carrying four left-handed relievers at the start of the season. Purcey was out of options when the A's acquired him, as well, making him somewhat of an awkward fit on a roster already filled with players with no option years remaining. However, the A's have historically not always let need dictate their player personnel decisions. Many times, the A's front office is willing to acquire a player the team has admired for awhile, even if that player isn't a natural fit in the current roster.

Much the same logic can be used when evaluating Purcey's exit from the club. Although Sizemore (a second baseman by trade) would seem like a redundant asset given the sheer number of second base prospects in Sacramento, the A's have liked Sizemore, who was one of the Tigers' top prospects coming into the 2010 season, for some time. How Sizemore fits into the A's big picture remains to be seen.

What The A's Received: Introducing Scott Sizemore

Although the name Scott Sizemore may be a new one for some A's fans, his profile should be very familiar to those who have followed the Oakland organization for the past 10 years.

Sizemore was a fifth round pick of the Tigers in 2006 out of Virginia Commonwealth University. He came to the pros with the reputation for being a polished hitter with a professional approach, and that reputation played itself out immediately in the minor leagues. He posted an 829 OPS in the short-season New York-Penn League. Sizemore then put up decent numbers in the pitcher-friendly Midwest and Florida State Leagues in 2007 and 2008 before posting a break-through season in 2009 at Double-A and Triple-A. He had an 889 OPS with 17 homers in 130 games for Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo.

After the season, the Tigers sent Sizemore to the Arizona Fall League. They also let go incumbent second baseman Placido Polanco and all but handed Sizemore the starting job for 2010 even before spring training. Unfortunately for Sizemore, he didn't have much time to prepare for the 2010 season. During the first week of Arizona Fall League action, Sizemore was badly injured by a take-out slide at second base. The slide fractured his tibia and severely sprained tendons in his ankle.

Although healthy by the spring, Sizemore didn't show the same form he had in 2009 at the start of the 2010 campaign. He hit only .206/.297/.289 through May 15 for Detroit and was sent back to Triple-A. Sizemore would return to the Tigers in two separate stints during the 2010 season and he hit better during each of those stints.

Going into spring training this year, Sizemore was in the mix for the Tigers' starting second base job, but he eventually lost out on the position to Will Rhymes. However, after hitting .408 with a 1100 OPS in 23 games for Toledo, Sizemore was brought back to Detroit as the Tigers' starting second baseman in early May. He got off to a good start for the Tigers, but his bat had cooled considerably in recent days and he was batting only .222/.329/.238 at the time of the trade.

Based on his minor league track record, Sizemore projects as an above-average offensive second baseman. He has an excellent eye at the plate, some pop and the ability to hit for average. In 667 career at-bats at the Triple-A level, Sizemore has hit .315 with 19 homers. Defensively, Sizemore ranks average to below-average at second base. He has also played some third base in his career, but his arm strength is questionable for that position and he was having trouble playing the angles at third during the times the Tigers tried him there.

Our Tigers' sister site on the Scout.com network, Tigstown.com, had this to say about Sizemore's outlook going into the 2011 season.

"Sizemore's future has enormous potential, it's just whether or not he'll get the opportunity and take advantage of it, if/when he does. Sizemore hit at every minor league level and take out a rough two week stretch in May [2010] and he posted a .257/.311/.394 line [and] that rough stretch in May was likely more bad luck than a completely overwhelmed hitter giving bad production. Sizemore will never be anything to write home about with his glove, but if he can get close to his offensive production as a minor leaguer (.889 OPS in 2009, .850 OPS in 2010) he can more than make up for it and be a plus hitter at a typically offensively challenged position."

Where Sizemore fits in the A's organization is a bigger question. There is no question that the team has a need for above-average offensive players at every position, but second and third base have been particularly poor areas for production for the A's in 2011. However, the A's have three top second base prospects at Triple-A already in Jemile Weeks, Eric Sogard and Adrian Cardenas, not to mention Steven Tolleson, who posted a 900+ OPS in Triple-A last season and hit well in a brief major league audition.

Thus far this season, Weeks has gotten the everyday work at second, while Sogard has played regularly at short and Cardenas has bounced around between third base, DH and, most recently, left-field. Tolleson has played all over the infield and in left, as well, and catcher Josh Donaldson has also seen time at third base. River Cats' manager Darren Bush will now have to manage to work Sizemore into that rotation of players, unless, of course, the A's are planning another move involving their second or third base positions either in the major leagues or Triple-A in the next few days.

What The A's Gave Up: David Purcey

Much like the man the A's traded to Toronto to get Purcey (reliever Daniel Farquhar), Purcey wasn't a member of the A's organization for very long. The hard-throwing lefty made nine appearances out of the bullpen for the A's after being acquired and pitched well in mostly low-leverage situations. In 12.2 innings, he posted a 2.13 ERA with seven strike-outs and three walks. He gave-up one homer and nine hits.

Unlike fellow A's lefty relievers Craig Breslow, Jerry Blevins, Brian Fuentes and Cramer, Purcey can reach the mid-90s with his fastball. A's Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi described Purcey as a guy who the A's hoped would be able to "eventually creep towards the end of games" in terms of his role in the bullpen because of his plus fastball. However, the A's have plenty of late-inning relievers already in their bullpen (especially with closer Andrew Bailey likely to return this weekend), so Purcey wasn't likely to get an opportunity to fill that kind of a role in Oakland.

A starter for most of his minor league career, Purcey's command was never sharp enough to maintain that role in the major leagues. He could settle into a very solid career as a lefty set-up man and could even slide into a closer role with the right team.

Impact On The A's Organization

When Joey Devine was summoned from Triple-A last week, A's manager Bob Geren indicated that now that the hard-throwing right-hander was in the big leagues, he was likely there to stay. Devine joined a bullpen filled with veterans, most of whom had no option years remaining. In fact, Purcey was one of those pitchers with no option years remaining, meaning that the A's couldn't send him down to Triple-A without first exposing him to waivers. Given that the A's were only able to acquire Purcey because he was exposed to this same waiver process by the Blue Jays, it seems unlikely that he would have cleared waivers should the A's have gone that route.

When Bailey makes his anticipated return from the disabled list this weekend, the A's will have to move a reliever off the roster to make room for their closer. Before the trade, only Devine and Brad Ziegler had options remaining and both were pitching too well to be sent down. Given Purcey's status mostly as a mop-up reliever since coming to the A's, he was likely to be designated for assignment when Bailey returned if he wasn't traded. With that in mind, getting a prospect as well thought of as Sizemore for Purcey is a decent haul.

Still, value alone doesn't fill out line-up cards and unless the A's are planning to try Sizemore at third base, it would seem that this trade has only muddied the second base situation. While Weeks' injury history makes it difficult to assume that he can take over the A's second base job for the next seven years, he is still a more talented player than Sizemore or any other second baseman in the A's organization, for that matter. And while Sogard has been playing mostly at short this season, he is a very good defensive second baseman with similar patience as Sizemore, although he has less power.

Given the presence of Weeks and Sogard in Sacramento, Sizemore is likely to get another crack at third base, but he will need to make dramatic improvements to stick there. The A's were unable to make a similar experiment work when they moved Cardenas from second to third last season and at the beginning of this year. In fact, in many ways, Sizemore is a right-handed version of Cardenas, just a few years older and with more power.

Conclusion

As it currently stands, this would appear to be a solid move for both teams. The Tigers need immediate bullpen help and Purcey should be able to step into a more high-leverage role for them fairly immediately. He fits their organizational model for relievers in that he throws hard. Sizemore may not have an immediate impact for the A's, but if he can turn it around defensively at third, he could present the A's a much better option there than their current situation with Kevin Kouzmanoff, Andy LaRoche and, more recently, Conor Jackson. Sizemore would also make it easier for the A's to part with someone like Weeks if a high-impact veteran bat came available on the trade market. Sizemore himself may be an attractive trade chip as a cost-controlled player with service time and a strong minor league track record, as well.


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