The Oakland Athletics’ newest acquisition brings production beyond his modest statistics.
A healthy Trevor Plouffe does more than add an established right-handed bat to the Oakland’s lineup, his addition provides an otherwise young infield with a veteran presence. Plouffe also allows slugging youngster Ryon Healy to begin his transition to first base, where he will likely stay, and gives up-and-coming third baseman Matt Chapman some much-needed time for Triple-A seasoning.
The 30-year-old veteran is in no way looking to his one-year contract with the A’s as nothing more than a stepping stone to a flourishing future. In a conference call with Bay Area media on Wednesday, Plouffe said he believes his new team is built to compete now:
“I think we have a chance to win the West. … I think we have to pitching to do it, and we’re going to have some thump in our lineup. We’re going to score some runs. Defensively, I think Rajai (Davis) can help us out and hopefully I’ll be able to help us out defensively as well.”
Clinching the division crown is something that the Oakland has not done since 2013, with an 11-7 victory over Plouffe and the Minnesota Twins on Sept. 22. It was the third time that season the Twins were forced to watch their opponent celebrate sealing a postseason berth, and the memory is seared into the new A’s mind.
Plouffe has yearned to be on the other side of that feeling since, and will be able to provide much more significant contributions given his improved health.
Following a career-high in games played (152) in 2015, injuries to his ribs and oblique forced him in to his fewest (84) since 2011. According to Plouffe, though, he has fully recovered from the oblique strain that ended his season in September, and he has done so through the implementation of a new conditioning regimen — yoga.
Along with yoga classes, the A’s new third baseman has been putting in field work with the guy who manned the position the second half of last season.
Plouffe said he first heard of fellow Crespi Carmelite High School product Healy from their former coach Scott Muckey, the same coach who instilled both players with their team-first mentality. The mentality that has them taking grounders together in Southern California, and taking turns at first and third base:
“We’re both ballplayers, we play where Bob (Melvin) pencils us in the lineup. If it’s going to be me at third and him at first, then that’s what it’s going to be; if it’s vice-versa, that’s going to be. We’re doing both — I’m catching balls for him at first, he’s catching balls for me at first — we’re helping each other out, fundamentally.”
Both Plouffe and Healy will be prepared to play on either corner, General Manager David Forst said during Wednesday’s conference call, but that the elder Celt, whom he and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane and himself had scouted as far back as high school, will be the team’s primary third baseman:
“I see him getting the bulk of time at third base. We pursued him with the thought that he would play third base. He can play first and he’s been in the outfield before which are pluses, certainly as far as Bob is concerned.”
The GM also voiced his utmost confidence in Healy’s ability to play first, where he spent the majority of his time in both college and the minor leagues.
Plouffe said solidarity in the clubhouse is what defined the A’s teams of the early 2010s. A tight-knit group is something he hopes to be a part of in the East Bay, and made his decision to wear the Green and Gold an easy one.
And, according to Forst, the A’s growth in both areas may not be complete heading into the 2017 season:
“We still have some conversations going, whether free agent or trade. I think there are still some places on out club that we can improve, both pitching and position players. There’s still some things hopefully to be done.”