A couple of curious moves today in the wake of Dan Johnson's injury. With Johnson out a couple of months with a labrum tear in his hip, the A's signed Todd Walker, and also traded minor league catcher Jeff Baker to the Marlins for Jason Stokes. It's says a couple of things:
They don't trust Erubiel Durazo to play first base. If they did, they'd just live with him for a couple of months, and wait for Johnson to return, or if Johnson can't for some reason, they could call up either Daric Barton to man first base, or bring up Travis Buck and move Nick Swisher to first.
They really, really don't want rush Barton and Buck. They probably want them to get more seasoning in AAA, and then bring them up mid-season, so they'll get to keep them for that extra year.
So instead, there are now not just one, but two new potential first basemen in the A's system. Walker has played all over the infield, but like Durazo, he plays those positions badly. Walker, like Durazo, is a hitter, first and foremost. I try hard not to remember his performance in the 2003 ALDS.
But perhaps it's just a case of the A's seeing an opportunity to grab freely some available talent. Baker wasn't going anywhere with the A's with Suzuki and Powell moving up the system. The A's and Marlins have exchanged Baker before, through waivers: the A's waived him, the Marlins claimed him, then the Marlins waived him, and the A's claimed him back. At least Baker's going somewhere he knows he's wanted.
In exchange, the A's get a former top prospect who has been hampered by injuries over the years. Stokes was on a lot of top prospect lists back in 2003-04, but has fallen after multiple injury-plagued seasons. But he's still only 25, so it's a good risk. There was some talent there, once.