Strengthened with the return of left-hander Brett Anderson and right-hander Brandon McCarthy to what is one of the best starting rotations in baseball, the Oakland A’s bolstered their offense by acquiring shortstop Stephen Drew from the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league infielder Sean Jamieson.
Oakland boasts the second-best starters’ ERA in the American League at 3.77, but the club is dead last in the majors overall in hitting with a .232 average. The A’s have a team OPS of .694 and their 490 runs are 25th in the bigs out of 30 teams.
The A’s are 65-55, 5.5 games behind Texas in the American League West, two games in back of Tampa Bay for the top wild card and deadlocked with Baltimore for the second wild card.
A first round pick (15th overall) out of Florida State University in 2004, the 29-year-old Drew has battled injuries over the last two seasons and has not produced the power numbers he generated from 2007-2010 when he belted 60 home runs, including 21 in 2008.
In 2011, he slipped to .252 with five home runs and 45 RBI in 321 at-bats. This year, he has a .193 average with two home runs, 12 RBI and a .311 slugging percentage in 135 at-bats. Over his last 10 games, Drew is an icy 3-for-32 (.094).
The A’s are hoping that a change of scenery sparks the younger brother of J.D. Drew, who retired from the majors after last season. Cliff Pennington, a career .248 hitter over parts of five Major League seasons with Oakland, has received a bulk of the playing time at shortstop, and he is batting .198 with three home runs, 18 RBI and a .284 slugging percentage in 313 at-bats.
Pennington does have 13 stolen bases and plays solid defense, but Drew represents an upgrade because of his power potential, and he is a plus defensive shortstop.
Though the A’s have exciting young bats like rookie Yoenis Cespedes (.303 average, 16 home runs, 60 RBI, .882 OPS), 26-year-old first baseman Chris Carter (.281 average, 10 home runs, 23 RBI, 1.000 OPS in 121 at-bats) and the surprising Josh Reddick (.251 average, 25 home runs, 61 RBI, .810 OPS), they have trouble consistently scoring runs. Only two hitters on the active roster (Cespedes and Carter) are batting above .252.
As for the Diamondbacks, they planned to part ways after the 2012 season with Drew, who has a mutual option of $10 million for 2013 and a $1.35 million buyout. The deal will allow defensive-minded veteran John McDonald and promising 25-year-old middle infielder Jake Elmore to share time at shortstop.
Elmore hit .344 with one home run, 73 RBI, nine triples and 32 stolen bases at Triple-A Reno. Some scouts believe the Arizona State University product is better suited for second base long term. He is 4-for-13 (.308) in his short stint with the Diamondbacks.
Arizona has the recently acquired Chris Johnson at third base and highly regarded hot corner prospect Matt Davidson at Double-A Mobile. The Diamondbacks also have three of the best starting pitching prospects in the majors with Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley. Their top-rated shortstop in the minors, according to MLB.com, is 21-year-old Chris Owings, who is currently at Mobile and is the organization’s No. 5 prospect but still needs seasoning.