Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Athletics Seek Joey Votto to Replace Emil Brown

Oakland GM Billy Beane has set Cincinnati abuzz with his reported interest in Reds first base prospect Joey Votto, whom Beane would move to left field as a replacement for 33-year-old A's journeyman Emil Brown.

Brown can play a little -- having hit a combined .287 with 32 homers in '05 and '06 before missing much of last year with injuries. But Brown always gets a bit of a bad rap after being buried for the better part of a decade in Pittsburgh and Kansas City, and perhaps being better suited as a fourth or fifth outfielder as Brown faces inevitable health concerns toward end of his career.

Though Votto is cherished in Cincinnati, he is in some senses expendable because the Reds still control former Athletics first baseman/catcher Scott Hatteburg, who hit .310 last year as the left half of a first base platoon for the Reds. Moreover, Hatteburg, 38, might be preferred by new Reds manager Dusty Baker, who likes to play experienced players over rookies.

But the main thing is that Votto -- who projects as .300 hitter with 30-homer power -- would bring a major prize to Cincinnati in the person of Oakland No. 3 starting pitcher Joe Blanton, 27, whom Beane is committed to trade.

Though Votto is a first baseman by trade, he has outfield experience and relatively good speed for a corner infielder. He would fit nicely in Oakland's no-name outfield alongside Chris Denorfia and Travis Buck, becoming the cornerstone of a high potential, small market trio that potentially would play together for many years, and do so cheaply.