Sigh, groan, complain. Those are all typical reactions when A’s fans hear that Daric Barton is once again being called up. Barton has shuffled between Oakland and Sacramento since 2007, and has only played in 174 big-league games in the last four years. But September is coming up, which means rosters expand, and Barton could be back in an A’s uniform.
Barton is a part of a rare breed of first basemen without power. Even in his only full season with the A’s, he hit only 10 home runs, and has 30 for his career. But even though he lacks power, he has great plate discipline and he is an above-average defender.
This year, Barton was horrendous hitting .158 in 64 at bats before being sent down in late April. He has since compiled a good but not great .258/.357/.395 slash line in Sacramento. However the A’s should not call him up for his bat, but rather for his glove.
Stephen Vogt, Brandon Moss and Nate Freiman have mostly handled first base for the A’s this year, and none of them are considered elite defensively. Barton can provide a defensive upgrade over all of those players, and can be a valuable asset in the late innings. Even if he can’t hit a beach ball, he can still be a productive one-dimensional player, and September is where one-dimensional players go to shine.
Last year, the A’s brought Barton up for the final stretch of the season, and he delivered at the plate as well, hitting .269 in 104 at bats. The A’s shouldn’t expect much offense from Barton down the stretch, as evidenced by his struggles earlier this year, so any offensive production that he gives them should be considered a bonus.
Also, the team has struggled with injuries lately, with Jed Lowrie, John Jaso and Nick Punto on the DL, and Sam Fuld, Josh Donaldson and Vogt dealing with minor ailments. Having another position player on the roster for the stretch run would be wise considering the potential lack of depth.
But how will the A’s make room for Barton? Even with rosters expanding, Barton is not on the 40-man roster. The team would have to designate one of their minor league pitchers, such as Arnold Leon, Deck McGuire or Josh Lindblom, for assignment to make room for Barton. Considering McGuire’s 7.16 ERA in Sacramento, that shouldn’t be too much of a sacrifice to make.
In short, the A’s can use the September call-ups to improve their defense in the late innings, and they can do so without making a big gamble. It’s essentially a no-risk, decent reward scenario, even if it means having to watch number 10 back in the green and gold once again.