A’s add Chris Young to a crowded outfield mix

Here’s the full story I wrote on the A’s trade for Chris Young:

By Joe Stiglich

So much for that quiet offseason from the A’s.

They struck early in their preparations for 2013, trading infielder Cliff Pennington to Arizona on Saturday for center fielder Chris Young and cash.

Young, a 2010 All-Star whose numbers have dipped the past two seasons, would seem to be pegged as the A’s new center fielder, though general manager Billy Beane did not get specific on a media conference call.

Beane said he initiated trade talks with Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers on Oct. 12, the day after the A’s were eliminated by Detroit in the American League Divisional Series.

“This is a really good player, we’ve admired his talent for a long, long time,” Beane said of Young. “When these kinds of players are available at (a reasonable) cost, we think it’s necessary to jump all over it.”

The A’s also sent minor league infielder Yordy Cabrera to the Diamondbacks, who then flipped Cabrera to the Miami Marlins in exchange for reliever Heath Bell.

The trade begs the question of what happens to incumbent center fielder Coco Crisp, who is under contract next season at $7 million. The A’s did not acquire Young, a 29-year-old with three 20-homer/20-steal seasons, to sit him on the bench. Center is the only position Young has played in the majors.

Beane sought to squelch trade speculation regarding Crisp, saying he doesn’t plan to move any of his five outfielders under team control – Crisp, Young, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick or Seth Smith. He said he envisions those five rotating and sharing designated hitter duties.

“I’d encourage everybody to not go the route of, ‘Hey, they’re moving this guy, they’re moving that guy,’” Beane said. “First and foremost, Coco. He’s been a personal favorite of mine. There’s no need to go down that road from this point forward.”

But Beane also felt it was necessary to add outfield depth given that Cespedes and Crisp both missed significant time with injuries. Cespedes played in just 129 games and Crisp 120.

“Everybody knows how good we played when both were in the lineup,” Beane said. “Adding this type of player to that equation will help.”

Defense is a strength of Young’s, and if he’s flanked by Reddick and Cespedes, the A’s will have one of the American League’s better defensive outfields. Young had 27 homers and 91 RBIs in 2010, but those numbers dropped to an average of 17 and 56 from 2011-12.

He’s a career .239 hitter and has struck out 130-plus times in five of his seven big league seasons. He missed time with shoulder and quad injuries this season but said he’s now 100 percent. And he’s happy to be reunited with A’s manager Bob Melvin, his first skipper in Arizona.

“It just seems like an exciting team, from watching them on TV,” Young said.

Beane originally said he envisioned the bulk of his roster returning, suggesting a winter of little activity for the A’s. He included outfielder/DH Jonny Gomes in those plans, as did Melvin. Gomes – a valuable clubhouse leader — hit .262 with 18 homers and 47 RBIs. But now it appears the free agent might be out of the plans for the defending American League West champions.

Beane said Young’s addition “will have an impact” on whether Gomes is retained.

However, the team’s most pressing issue entering the winter is whether to bring back shortstop Stephen Drew, and Pennington’s departure underscores that. Drew and the A’s hold a $10 million mutual option for next season, a hefty price tag. The A’s could buy out the option at $1.35 million and attempt to negotiate a new deal with Drew, but the veteran (and agent Scott Boras) might prefer to test the free agent market.

The A’s don’t have a legitimate everyday shortstop on the roster were Drew to leave.

shifted from shortstop to second base when Drew arrived in a trade from Arizona himself Aug. 20. Pennington adjusted well defensively but hit just .215 for the season.

“I’m excited to go to a team that I thought was really good last year when we played them,” said Pennington, who was the A’s longest-tenured position player. “But leaving Oakland, after making it to the postseason and finally getting things in the right direction, that’s the tough part.”

In other news, Beane said Scott Sizemore will switch from third to second base and compete for the starting job there. Sizemore missed this season because of a torn knee ligament. The move validates that the A’s are confident moving forward with Josh Donaldson as their full-time third baseman.

Joe Stiglich