Oakland A's Front Office Q&A: Farhan Zaidi P2

In part two of our interview with Oakland A's Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, we discuss the A's bullpen, the acquisition of David Purcey, the defensive futures of Chris Carter and Adrian Cardenas, the outlook for Jemile Weeks and more...

For part one of this interview, please click here.


OaklandClubhouse: Turning to the bullpen, David Purcey joined the team and the bullpen this week. What kind of role do you envision for him? Is he a lefty specialist? A longman?

Farhan Zaidi: A lot of times, the role gets dictated by performance. He's a guy who had a pretty decent year out of the bullpen last year. He isn't really a lefty specialist if you look at his splits. Certainly from a stuff standpoint, he has enough fastball and he can get into righties. I think his role is going to be dictated partly by need and partly by performance. The better he pitches, the more confidence the manager will have to use him in key situations.

He certainly throws hard enough and has the stuff that you hope he can eventually creep towards the end of games. We have a number of other guys obviously who can fill those roles, but that was the thinking in going out and getting him is that he is a guy who we always liked who made a decent transition to the bullpen. We weren't really spooked by the bad start he had this year. When we got Craig Breslow off of waivers [in 2009], he was off to a really poor start. Sometimes those bad starts are kind of flukish and can create an opportunity.

OC: Purcey pitched well against the A's when you were in Toronto. Was that part of the evaluation?

FZ: I think it sort of got the coaches excited because that is what they tend to go on, if they have seen the guy recently and he pitched well. For [the front office], this type of decision is more based on the guy's track record and that sort of stuff. I think, if anything, seeing him throw well got the coaches excited because it was a guy they had some familiarity with.

OC: I guess he lasted longer than Ryan Langerhans, but Daniel Farquhar didn't last long with the organization. What was that conversation like when you guys had to tell him he was headed back to Toronto?

FZ: I honestly don't know because I wasn't part of that conversation, but I think if it were another team it would be pretty hard to take. My sense is that when players get traded, you can spin it both ways – ‘those guys didn't want me' or ‘there is another team out there that wanted me.' Sometimes guys take it harder. I think we can lose sight of as front office people – and even as fans – that it's tough when you have to go to a new place and learn a whole new set of people and have a whole new set of teammates. Just from a personal standpoint, getting traded is tough. For him, going back to a place where he is going to know the guys he's playing with and he knows the organization, there is already some comfort level there. The big part of the trauma probably isn't there for him.

OC: Was trading Farquhar a case of not liking what you saw with him or was it that that was what the Blue Jays required to get Purcey?

FZ: Not at all. For us to trade a player, the player has to be asked for. We don't get to dictate who we trade. We can't say ‘we want this player and this is who we will give you for him.' It just doesn't work that way. They asked about him because they knew him and they liked him when they traded him to us last winter. He was obviously off to a very good start this season with Sacramento, but Purcey is a guy who we thought of as being already somewhat established in the big leagues as a reliever and stuff-wise, it was comparable. It was no slight on what we had seen from Farquhar. If anything, it sort of speaks to what the Blue Jays thought of him that he was the guy they were looking to re-acquire.

OC: How would you assess the bullpen thus far? They've had some rough outings, but have looked good in other instances, especially when considering they have been without Andrew Bailey. Have they given you what you expected of them?

FZ: Losing your closer is really tough because it has a cascading effect on everybody. Brian Fuentes was really brought in to be a set-up man. Our vision was to have Grant Balfour and Fuentes as match-up set-up guys and Breslow, Brad Ziegler and Jerry Blevins as guys who you could mix-and-match in the sixth and seventh innings, and certainly Michael Wuertz was a guy who could fit into that group, as well.

Without Bailey, everyone has sort of moved up. Fuentes has been the closer, for the most part, and at times you don't get to use the closer in a match-up way like you would use him if he was pitching in the eighth. Balfour has been extended in a couple of outings, trying to bridge between the sixth and eighth innings to get to the closer. I think these guys, because of the injuries to Bailey and to Wuertz, have been a little bit over-extended.

I think they are capable of better when we put them in their roles. Some of the other guys [have been impacted], too. Breslow is off to somewhat of a slow start. Blevins has been good, but he had a little bit of a struggle with his command a couple of outings ago. I don't think we are seeing any of these guys in peak form yet, even though the results have actually been okay.

In their defense, because we have played so many close games, things are magnified. No bullpen is perfect, but when these guys make a mistake, it seems like it costs us a game. Just like the starters, they are dealing with little margin for error. Overall, the bullpen has been solid. When we start getting guys back and guys can go back to the roles that we envisioned for them, I think we will have some room for improvement.

OC: Turning to the minor leagues, I saw that Chris Carter left Sacramento's game [on Wednesday] early. Was that because of an injury?

FZ: I heard that he had a little bit of an issue with his thumb on a play when I guess he ran into a wall on. I don't really know any details beyond that.

OC: He's been playing first base lately, I think probably because Wes Timmons is on the DL. Do you still see a future for him out in left field? I know he was off to a rough start defensively out there.

FZ: I think he's more comfortable at first base. With the struggles he had out in the outfield during spring training and then getting off to a slow start with Sacramento, it's probably been a good thing for him confidence-wise to be where he is most comfortable in the field. When we have a fuller roster [in Sacramento] – and at some point Sean Doolittle is going to figure into the mix there too – we may have to revisit having him there. In the long run, if you look at our team in the long term, putting him in the outfield would have a lot of value.

It has sort of worked out because I think it has been to get Chris comfortable in the field and hopefully get him going at the plate. And the team has needed it. I think might behoove us, once we have the roster flexibility on that team and he gets going offensively, it will be worth revisiting given how the big league team projects in the future.

OC: Another guy who hasn't played a whole lot of defense but has been hitting well is Adrian Cardenas. He is sort of a man without a position right now and has been DHing a lot. Where do you see him fitting in down-the-road?

FZ: The positions he has played the last couple of years have been second and third. Part of [why he has been DHing] is that that Sacramento team has so many infielders that are being rotated through that spot. Whether it is Steven Tolleson in there or Josh Horton. Even Adam Heether is actually an infielder by trade and he has been playing a lot of outfield just because there has been that necessity.

Timmons, quite frankly, is another guy who is really more of a second-base, third-base guy who has been playing first out of necessity as well. I don't think I've even mentioned Eric Sogard, who has been playing everyday at short, again out of necessity.

The way that Adrian has been swinging the bat, I don't think that is going to limit him to DH. It's partly been a function of the other guys on the team and needing to get other guys reps at other positions. The other thing I hadn't mentioned is that we tried to get Josh Donaldson a few games at third, as well. And that's a way to get Anthony Recker in the line-up, and he really deserves playing time as well. I think that [Sacramento manager] Darren Bush has his hands full trying to mix and match these guys in the line-up. We are only 13 or 14 games in. He has DH'd a lot so far but I think in the long run he is going to wind-up playing a lot of second and third base.

OC: Are you encouraged by how Cardenas has looked offensively? It's been hard for him to get off to a good start the last two times he has been with Sacramento.

FZ: Yeah. You can talk to yourself both ways on Adrian. On the one hand, you can say ‘this is a guy who has 400 at-bats at Triple-A,' but on the other hand, he's only 23 and he hit a lot better his second go-around in Sacramento last year. The innate hitting ability has always been there with him. It is very encouraging to see him getting off to this good start. It is that kind of hitting ability that is the reason we put him on the [40-man] roster in the first place. Hopefully he keeps it going and keeps those numbers up. When you look at what he did in Double-A as a 22-year-old last year – the focus with him when you talk about him as a prospect is often so much on the fact that he didn't do the same thing at the Triple-A level – but at his age and what he did at Double-A, this performance isn't a surprise. It's really in-line with what he has done at all of the other levels.

OC: Jemile Weeks is off to a good start. He hasn't played that much at any level with all of the injuries. Are you feeling like if he puts together a good year this year and can stay healthy, you are confident that he's had enough experience that he can crack a big league roster next year?

FZ: Absolutely. He's starting this season in Triple-A and anybody who starts a year in Triple-A should have designs on being in the big leagues the next year, if not before that. Jemile has been as good as anybody on that team. He's gotten off to a really good start. He had a terrific camp. He played with a lot of energy. There's just so much ability there that if he plays with that kind of energy and stays healthy, when you watch him play, you have no doubt that you are watching a big leaguer. It's exciting.

It's still early. He has a lot of season left to keep the energy level up and the health. It was a little bit aggressive to move him up to Triple-A because he doesn't have a ton of Double-A time and his numbers at Double-A weren't great, but he's made that look like the right decision thus far.


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