Houston, the Oakland A’s have a problem. The A’s, as most of you probably already know, are in a bit of a rut when it comes to filling the void left by Eric Chavez at third base. Oakland has been paper thin at the position that once belonged to the six-time Gold Glover Chavez, and filling those shoes hasn’t been an easy task for the green-and-gold.
Chavez didn’t produce much during the latter part of his Oakland career, though, as the veteran third baseman was limited to a total of 154 games from 2007-10. During that time he hit just .233/.290/.399 with 18 HR and 71 RBIs. He didn’t spend much time on the field due to various injuries and served as Oakland’s designated-hitter during his final season with the A’s.
From 1999-2006, however, Chavez was an above average player and a powerful presence in Oakland’s lineup. He appeared in 1150 games during that period and hit .271/.350/.490 with 212 HR and 710 RBIs as well. From 2001-06 he collected six-consecutive Gold Gloves for his work at the hot corner.
His career was derailed, though, by various shoulder and back injuries. After signing a contract extension in 2004 worth $66 million over six seasons, Chavez’s production began to drop due to an unlucky streak of bad injuries. His work ethic and demeanor never fade, though.
Since Chavez’s departure, which in my mind, at least, started back in ’07, the A’s haven’t found a good replacement and successor. The A’s tried to answer their problems by acquiring 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, but Billy Beane didn’t exactly strike gold with Kouzmanoff.
Kouzmanoff, or “Kouz” as most people refer to him as, didn’t exactly enjoy a successful career with Oakland. He arrived in 2010, coincidentally Chavez’s final season in Oakland, and took over the everyday duties at third base.
He hit .247/.283/.396 with 16 HR and 71 RBIs. He was the team leader in home runs and RBIs, but his total numbers were down from his previous year in San Diego. The year before in 2009, Kouzmanoff hit .255/.302/.420 with 18 HR and 88 RBIs.
Oakland had hoped Kouzmanoff would be the answer to their problems, but as time went on, it became apparent that “Kouz” wasn’t quite at home in Oakland. His defense dwindled this year as did his offense. In 46 games with the A’s this year, Kouzmanoff hit a paltry .221/.262/.353 with four home runs and 17 RBIs.
Judging by his WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Kouzmanoff wasn’t even good enough to be considered a starting third baseman this year. He posted a 1.2 WAR during the ’10 season with Oakland, but that number fell to -0.6 during his time in Oakland this year. After being sent down to Triple-A Sacramento, he never returned to Oakland and later found work with the Rockies.
Oakland did get a little relief over at third base after Kouzmanoff’s departure, though. The A’s acquired Scott Sizemore from the Detroit Tigers and the middle infielder made the transition to the hot corner in admirable fashion.
In 96 games with Oakland, Sizemore hit .249/.345/.433 with 11 HR and 52 RBIs this season. He did struggle a bit on defense, posting a -0.9 dWAR and committing a total of 13 errors at third base. Give the guy a little more time and he might turn out to be alright.
He provided a little pop in Oakland’s lineup this year and had an overall decent outing in 2011. He’s definitely an option for Oakland at third base. The A’s would be smart, however, if the Sizemore project fails, to have several alternate options lined up. MLB.com currently projects Renato Nunez and Stephen Parker as the #6 and #8 prospects respectively in Oakland’s system.
Both players are suited to play third base.
But let’s hope Scott Sizemore pans out because we definitely could use a third baseman next season.