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Latest A's trade shifts roles for former White Sox

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Marcus Semien slides down into a super utility role, while Josh Phegley is unchallenged for the backup catcher role at the moment

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Because Billy Beane never really rebuilds, even when his first several moves of the offseason point in that direction, he acqured Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar from the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday for John Jaso, Daniel Robertson and the other Boog Powell.

The Athletics were one of the teams positioned to add to the American League's loss pool in 2015, but after Saturday's deal, FanGraphs' projections say they're still position to take a wild card.

It's hard to see at a glance, because this looks like the closest thing they have to an everyday lineup:

Rk Pos Name Age G PA 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1 C Stephen Vogt
30 84 287 10 2 9 35 16 39 .279 .321 .431 .752 112
2 1B Ike Davis 28 131 397 18 0 10 46 57 74 .235 .343 .378 .721 104
3 2B Ben Zobrist 34 146 654 34 3 10 52 75 84 .272 .354 .395 .749 116
4 SS Yunel Escobar 32 137 529 18 0 7 39 43 60 .258 .324 .340 .664 92
5 3B Brett Lawrie
25 70 282 9 0 12 38 16 49 .247 .301 .741 .722 101
6 LF Sam Fuld 33 113 414 16 4 4 36 43 63 .239 .321 .342 .663 88
7 CF Coco Crisp 35 126 536 21 3 9 47 66 66 .246 .336 .363 .699 100
8 RF Josh Reddick 28 109 396 16 7 12 54 28 63 .264 .316 .446 .763 115
9 DH Billy Butler 29 151 603 32 0 9 66 41 96 .271 .323 .379 .702 95

But there probably be such thing as an everyday Oakland A's lineup in 2014, because platoon matches, switch hitters and defensive versatility will give Bob Melvin the option to play matchups ... TO THE EXTREME:

The A's objective now seems clearer than it was last month. They built a modular roster that should provide a stout defense, and the handedness advantage will help cover for the lack of brand-name hitters. It's also modular in that Beane can scrap it for parts if the guys who had down years (Butler, Escobar) and/or battled injuries (Crisp, Lawrie) do so again in 2015, because there isn't a star hitter who can cover for a flop or two elsewhere.

That's why the Josh Donaldson trade is the only one I really don't understand, because he plays defense like Lawrie does, but he hits homers and stays healthy like Lawrie doesn't. This roster is still good enough for a wild card spot according to FanGraphs' projections, but I'd feel it more with Donaldson in the fold.

The Zobrist-Escobar trade does make it easier to see why the A's wanted the package they received from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade, as it cements the roles for Marcus Semien and Josh Phegley, for better or for worse

With Escobar aboard, Semien shifts from everyday shortstop to a super utility player. While I'm generally more enthusiastic about Semien's starting prospects than others (at least at second base), coming off the bench takes the pressure off his bat. This assumes he grows into the role defensively, anyway. His physical tools didn't translate into playmaking ability at third -- and second to a lesser degree -- with the Sox last season, but more reps should help.

And boy, the change of scenery is doing wonders for Phegley so far. At the moment, Beane has carved out the backup role for him after trading Derek Norris and Jaso. Our familiarity with Phegley's flaws makes it looks like Oakland's asking for trouble there, especially a foot injury limited Vogt's time behind the plate last year. That might be reason enough for the A's to acquire another backup catcher -- somebody like Geovany Soto. That result would be a more sensible arrangement from our perspective.

If they roll with Phegley, though ... well, Athletics Nation is sold on the idea of Phegley as "reportedly a plus defender," so one blog should have the opportunity to laugh at the other this year.