Oakland A's Off-Season Q&A: Farhan Zaidi, P.2

In part two of our off-season conversation with Oakland A's Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, we get Farhan's take on the Brett Wallace-Michael Taylor trade, including his opinion on Wallace's defense and his "comp" for Taylor. We also discuss the A's third base situation in-depth.

For part one of this interview, please click here.

OaklandClubhouse: I wanted to ask you about the biggest trade the team has made this off-season: the Michael Taylor for Brett Wallace swap. How did that trade come together? Was it a deal that you had discussed with Philadelphia before the Roy Halladay trade was consummated or was it something that only came together once the Halladay trade started to unfold?

Farhan Zaidi: Philadelphia knew about our interest in Taylor. I think he is a guy who pretty much any team in baseball would be interested in. They knew about it but we never really got very far with them. There wasn't a really obvious match there. I think Billy [Beane] through the course of his conversations with Alex [Anthopoulos] after he became the Blue Jays' GM and in hearing how the Halladay talks were coming along, it was really through those channels that the conversations started on Taylor. I would say a good amount of time before that deal actually came to fruition, Alex asked Billy if we were willing to talk about Wallace in a Taylor-for-Wallace swap.

They are both terrific prospects and both have their strengths. I think there are some obvious parallels certainly in their careers. It was a pretty tough decision for us because Wallace is a guy, as we have talked about before, that we have a lot of history with and liked a lot and were really excited to get in the Matt Holliday deal. I think it ultimately came down to who ultimately fit in our plan going forward a little bit better. Taylor being right-handed and being a corner outfielder, as opposed to Wallace who we ultimately saw as a first-baseman, it was more of a question of fit than anything else. It certainly wasn't a bet against Brett Wallace. We think he is going to be great, which is why we took him as the principle return in the Holliday deal to being with.

That was kind of the process of how the deal came about. It was one that definitely was a subject of a lot of internal debate before we came to the consensus that we would go ahead with it.

OC: You mentioned that the team saw Wallace ultimately as a first-baseman. Was that a conclusion that you came to after evaluating his time in Sacramento, or was that something that you felt was likely even before the trade was made?

FZ: Again, this is a kid with an incredible work ethic. A lot of it was just that, our belief that he is such a good worker, such a hard worker that if he put his mind to it, he could certainly pull it [playing third base] off. That still may be the case. It sounds like Toronto is going to move him back to first base because they have more of a long-term need there. We feel like he is going to be an above-average defender there. As far as third base goes, he is really more of a natural first-baseman. He moved over to third base at ASU to accommodate Ike Davis. Then he was drafted by the Cardinals and it didn't make sense for them to move him back to first base with Albert Pujols on his deal, so they kept him at third. When we got Brett, it was the same sort of decision where we felt like we were better covered at first base and we had a long-term need there, so we kept him there.

Really, he has been playing at third with his last few teams more out of necessity than anything else. This might be the best thing for him to go to an organization that really needs a first-baseman of the future. He has a chance to be really good over there.

OC: What kind of player is Michael Taylor in your estimation? Do you have any comparables that you use to describe what kind of player you think he will ultimately be in the big leagues?

FZ: This is going to sound a little bit unusual, and I don't think I have heard anyone make this comparison yet, but in terms of the production you'd like to see from him in a perfect world, I could see him being a little bit like a Matt Holliday. I think he is a guy who can hit for average and who can hit his share of homeruns, but who isn't a pure homerun hitter. I think Matt is a guy who is really more of a 25-30 homerun guy. He hit more homers than that in a pretty good hitting environment at Coors, but generally he is a guy who is going to hit better than .300 and give you 25-30 homers and will steal bases. Matt is a guy who doesn't always get the most glowing scouting reports on his play in left field, but actually by all defensive metrics, he is well above-average there. I think that is also the case with Taylor. He grades out as above-average defensively.

That is obviously the perfect world scenario in terms of Taylor's production. They are different physically. Taylor has a little bit of size on Holliday and probably has a little bit more speed at this stage than Matt had when he was coming up. But that, in a perfect world, is the kind of production we would hope for.

You sort of hear comparisons to Frank Thomas and Jermaine Dye, but I don't really think that is how Taylor profiles. He certainly has more speed than Frank ever had and isn't really as pure of a power hitter than either of those guys were. I think Taylor has a chance to hit for better average than Jermaine, but, again, these are perfect-world projections. If he becomes comparable to any of those guys, we'd be thrilled.

OC: With Taylor and Chris Carter as the team's top-two prospects, it sort of reminds me of last year when Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill were the top-two prospects and they arrived in spring training with little or no experience at Triple-A and then wound-up making the team. Do you see any scenario in which Taylor or Carter could open the year on the A's 25-man roster or are you settled enough in the outfield and first base that it isn't going to happen?

FZ: If the question whether it is possible, the answer would be yes. On the position player-side where these players would fit in, we certainly have some veteran players in front of them, but who's to say what our 40-man roster is going to look like on Opening Day and, as a result, what our Opening Day roster is going to look like. I don't think we would count those scenarios out at this point. Certainly as we sit right here, the likely scenario is for both of those guys to start at Triple-A, where neither of them have a ton of experience. But it would be pointless to rule out those scenarios at this point.

OC: Both Taylor and Carter had to leave the Mexican Winter League early with various ailments. Do you have clean bills of health for both of those guys?

FZ: Yeah, there was no long-term health issues related to them leaving Mexico.

OC: The most complicated question for the team right now seemingly is the third base question. Assuming that Eric Chavez isn't your everyday third-baseman because of health reasons, who do you see as the leading in-house candidates to see the bulk of the time at third?

FZ: That is still a position that we are looking to address. We did have some interest in Adrian Beltre before he signed with the Red Sox and we have continued to monitor the third base market both in terms of free agents and potential trade targets. We are continuing to evaluate. As we sit here right now, the reports on Chavy's health are encouraging, but we don't want to assume that he will be healthy. If he is healthy, that would be great, but we don't want to count on that given all of the injury obstacles he has to overcome. Jake Fox is a guy who can play over there and we signed Dallas McPherson to a minor league contract during the off-season. I think it is fair to say that there is no obvious favorite that I would pencil in right now on Opening Day if Eric isn't healthy. But there is plenty of time left in the off-season and it is a situation that we are continuing to look at.

OC: Would Eric Patterson see time at third base this spring?

FZ: I think so. We had him get some time there in Sacramento. In fairness to these infielders, especially when you take middle infielders and put them over at third base, there is an assumption that that will be a fairly smooth transition. The ball gets on you a lot quicker at third base than it does when you are playing in the middle infield. The example I think back to now in hindsight is Marco Scutaro, who is a guy who in his last year with us played at third base out of necessity. He made three errors in one game. His defensive metrics and rankings that year [at third] were well below average. Then he wound-up playing a lot there with Toronto the next year and playing much better. Regardless of how old a middle infielder is or how much experience he has, the first time you put him over there at third, it is going to be tough. We saw the same thing with Adam Kennedy this year. These guys will tell you that they just aren't used to the ball getting on them that quickly.

We put Eric [Patterson] over there in Sacramento last year and it wasn't the smoothest of transitions, but there are a couple of examples right there in Scutaro and Kennedy of middle infielders who have played many years in the big leagues and it took them a little time to make the transition to play third base. We are definitely going to give Eric the chance to play over there. With a guy like him with his speed and the fact that he is a left-handed bat, the more positions that he can play, the more valuable he is, so I think we definitely give him a look over there. It will be a nice additional look for him to have. I'm not sure we view him as a guy who would be an everyday third-baseman. Then again, I don't think the Angels viewed [Chone] Figgins as a guy who would ultimately be an everyday third-baseman when they first started playing him over there.

OC: Daric Barton saw some time at third base in Sacramento a few years ago. It was sort of a rough experience for him, but has the team given any thought to trying him there again, or has that ship sailed?

FZ: He is a guy who has already gone through one position change when he went from behind the plate to first base. He's gotten comfortable over there and he's gotten really good over there and he's our starting first-baseman, so I don't think we'd move him over to third and create another hole.

OC: I know this name is sort of thrown around whenever he is available because of his connection to the organization: Miguel Tejada. Would he be a guy the team would consider bringing back, or is that something that isn't really being considered given the recent history the team has had with situations like that, such as with Jason Giambi last year?

FZ: We have a team policy of not commenting on free agents, so I am going to go ahead and invoke that. More generally, like I said in relation to third base, we are looking at all of our options to improve our infield depth. That is an obvious need for us. As a general comment, we aren't in any position to rule anything out at this point because we are still looking for solutions on the infield. That is kind of why I'm a little bit hesitant to project what the Opening Day line-up is going to look like or what the left-side of the infield is going to look like. It's sort of an on-going process and doing it at this point – it's fun to speculate, but it is still such an on-going process that it wouldn't even mean anything if I told you what I thought our infield was going to look like at this point.

Stay tuned for the final segment of this interview when we discuss the overall health of the A's system, some of the team's top pitching prospects, including Fautino De Los Santos and Michael Ynoa, and more...

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