The Oakland Athletics have designated first baseman/outfielder Brandon Allen for assignment to open up a spot for regular first baseman, Daric Barton. Allen, who just turned 26 and bats left-handed, is a former top prospect and Minor League destroyer (his OPS has been near 1.000 since he reached AAA three years ago), who hasn’t been able to find success in a handful of big league opportunities (.205/.291/.375 line over 374 big league plate appearances since 2009).
The designation means that the A’s will have 10 days to trade, release, or waive Allen. Obviously the Cubs would be unlikely to work out a trade for a project, but if Allen is placed on waivers, would the Cubs consider making a claim?
Allen seems like the kind of high upside, younger player that this front office likes to take a chance on. They’ve already claimed Adrian Cardenas and Luis Valbuena – guys in their mid-20s with a very nice Minor League pedigree, who have yet to put it together in the big leagues. That describes Allen perfectly.
But, of course, there are space limitations and other practical concerns.
First, and foremost, while Allen can play in left field, he is primarily a first baseman. There, the Cubs have Bryan LaHair manning the position for the near-term, and Anthony Rizzo waiting in the long-term. In left field, Alfonso Soriano is playing reasonably well this year, and remains under contract through 2014 at $18 million per year. The Cubs could use a big-time bat like Allen’s off the bench (if he reached his potential, that is), but given his limited defensive ability, it’s hard to see the Cubs being able to carry him.
Second, claiming Allen would require the Cubs to bounce yet another player from the 40-man roster, and the Cubs would also have to find a 25-man roster spot for him. The Cubs’ bench isn’t exactly impressive, but I’m not sure who would merit being sent out in favor of Allen, unless the Cubs were going to give Allen starts in left field.
A final practical concern? Even if the Cubs want Allen, they aren’t going to be the only team doing this kind of calculation. If Allen is traded, it’s unlikely the Cubs are going to be one of the highest bidders. If there are no trade bidders, and Allen is placed on waivers, every AL team (and the Astros) will have a chance to claim Allen before the Cubs. That isn’t insignificant, as those AL teams have the luxury of the DH position, where a small market club could view Allen as a cheap, no-risk option there. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a 26-year-old with Allen’s talent going unclaimed.
On the balance, I don’t expect the Cubs to land Allen, but these are the kinds of things that I’m sure this front office is thinking about every day. Opportunities only come up when they come up – and it’s not always when it’s most convenient for your team.