Many of you have probably seen the following picture. It was posted here on Wednesday by our own Grant Brisbee, and it's also been posted in countless other places as it makes the rounds on the internet. It is a picture of the Oakland Athletics' current depth chart, as presented at the team's official website:
What can we, as outside observers, take away from what's being presented here? What insights does this reveal about how the team's front office feels about some of its players? Let's examine a few of the positions.
Obviously, the thing you can't help but notice is that Ryan Sweeney is shown as the starter in left field, center field, and right field. This isn't like a few years ago, when the A's started Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Sweeney, and Travis Buck, and so basically had Ryan Sweeney starting everywhere. Here, the A's literally have Ryan Sweeney starting everywhere. The same Ryan Sweeney, assuming the A's have not developed clones while staying under the radar. I don't know how the A's could afford to develop clones when they can't afford the ordering form for a cloning device.
What's interesting is that Sweeney is not shown as the starter at all three positions out of necessity. He is not the only outfielder. There are also Jai Miller and Michael Taylor. Yet, in left field, Miller is behind Sweeney, and in right field, Taylor is behind Sweeney.
The A's would rather have Sweeney cover the entire outfield by himself than start either Miller or Taylor, or - more conventionally - both of them. What this implies is one of two things. One possibility is that the A's think Ryan Sweeney is absolutely amazing. So amazing that he can cover three positions on his own. In this event, the A's must think they have a real superstar.
The other possibility is that the A's think Jai Miller and Michael Taylor are so terrible that it's better to have one outfielder than two or three outfielders, if the extra outfielders are Jai Miller and Michael Taylor. In this possibility, the A's literally think that Jai Miller and Michael Taylor are worse than nothing. In this case I have no idea why Billy Beane would have Miller and Taylor on his roster, but that's genius for you.
Second string at third base? Eric Sogard. Second string at shortstop? Eric Sogard. Third string at second base? Eric Sogard. Eric Sogard posted a 56 OPS+ last season, and he posted a 56 OPS+ last season because he is a software developer, but the A's like him as a utility player more than Adam Rosales because he reminds them of Paul DePodesta and makes them nostalgic.
The starter at first base is Brandon Allen, who has been very bad so far in the major leagues. The backup at first base is Adam Rosales, a utility infielder who is this particular team's reserve utility infielder. Daric Barton shows up as the backup to the backup. Barton was once a highly-touted building block for the future, but then last year he hit .212 with zero home runs and lost support within the organization. Now the A's are so down on him that they list him behind a bad player and a utility infielder at first base. The A's intend to keep Barton on the roster but never use him, leaving him in the dugout to watch everybody else and think about how disappointing he has been. Fortunately, Barton is an expert watcher.
Some versions of the depth chart show a transparent box where the designated hitter should be. Other versions, on different browsers, show a broken image. The message is the same: in place of a designated hitter, the A's have no designated hitter. Among all of the A's players not already starting, the team preference is for none of them to DH, preferring instead to just give all of the at bats away.
The A's, of course, will find a DH before the start of the season. They won't give those at bats away as free outs. But based on the current depth chart, they would prefer free outs to whatever offense would be provided by any of their backups. Miller, Taylor, Rosales, Sogard, Barton, all of them. Especially Barton. They expect that their backups would hit into double or triple plays if they came to bat with men on base, and if they came to bat with the bases empty, they would make outs only after fouling balls into the dugout that injure coaches and players of actual value.
So, more than anything else, what I think we can take away from this is that the A's think a lot of their players are really terrible. It's going to be a busy offseason for Billy Beane, as he searches for available players he doesn't think are worse than nothing.