Is Oswaldo Arcia the Ultimate Buy Low Opportunity?

A bit more than twenty four hours ago, former IIATMS blogger and current law student Michael Eder brought the name Oswaldo Arcia to my attention. The 25-year-old outfielder was designated for assignment by the Padres a couple of weeks ago, and is currently a free agent (and, so far as I can tell, the only Major League free agent born in the 1990s). This move came on the heels of Arcia spending time with the Twins (his original organization), Rays, Marlins, and Padres in 2016, just three and a half years removed from being the 41st best prospect in baseball.

How the heck did we get here?

Heading into the 2013 season, Arcia was widely regarded as a top prospect. Jason Parks (then of Baseball Prospectus, now of the Chicago Cups scouting department) gave him plus grades in his hit and raw power tools, and John Manuel of Baseball America wrote that Arcia could "combine the best of both worlds" as a hitter for both average and power. It was no surprise to see him receive such praise, given that he hit .320/.388/.539 with 36 2B, 8 3B, and 17 HR between High-A and Double-A in 2012.

He earned his first call-up on April 15, 2013, and he spent the majority of the season suiting up for the Twins. Arcia held his own as a 22-year-old, batting .251/.304/.430, with 14 HR and a 101 wRC+ in 378 PA. He followed that up by batting .231/.300/.452 with 20 HR and a 108 wRC+ in 410 PA in 2014, increasing his walk rate by 1.5 percentage points to a league-average rate.

In many ways, he seemed like a building block for the Twins. He had an above-average bat and demonstrated signs of improvement, which is a fantastic sign for a 23-year-old (as he was at the end of 2014). There were warning signs, though - most notably a 31.0% strikeout rate, and horrible defensive metrics (he cost the team about a win by both DRS and UZR in 2013 and 2014). The aforementioned scouting reports praised his right field defense, though, and his age was a beacon of hope in and of itself, so he couldn't be written off.

And then the wheels fell off.

Arcia struggled mightily in the Majors, posting an 82 wRC+ over the first month of the season, and then heading to the disabled list with a hip injury. The Twins sent him down to Triple-A as soon as he was activated from the DL, based upon questionable reasoning, where he ended up spending the rest of the season (putting up a paltry 79 wRC+). One could argue that this is indicative of a young player dealing with an injury and resenting his demotion to a level that he had dominated, rather than a lack of talent - but hindsight might just tell us otherwise.

Coming full circle, Arcia hit just .203/.270/.366 this year, suiting up for 222 PA between four different teams. He seemed to find himself with the Rays last summer, hitting .259/.328/.444 in 61 PA, but was cut as he was out of options, and they had no room on the 25-man roster. And he's a free agent once more, and comes with three years of team control (meaning that a team could sign him to a one-year deal, and get two years of arbitration eligibility).

Despite there being no genuine evidence of an attitude problem, one can't help but wonder if there is something going on beyond the numbers. Arcia is a young player with an impressive pedigree, as well as a not insignificant track record at the big league level. It's not unreasonable to say that he probably shouldn't play the outfield at this point (given a lengthy injury history and more subpar defensive metrics) - but is his bat worth a flier?

Arcia is a career .239/.309/.462 hitter against RHP (110 wRC+), with 38 HR and an average walk rate in 750 PA. Most of that production was in 2013 and 2014, to be sure, and we have two years in between that cannot be readily dismissed. However, Arcia was injured throughout 2015 and 2016, and the Twins organization hasn't exactly capitalized on its slew of top prospects over the last half dozen years or so. And a left-handed hitter with plus power and significant pull tendencies (his 45.3% pull rate ranks 36th among 297 qualified batters since 2013) sounds wonderful in Yankee Stadium.

The title to this post may seem hyperbolic and ... well ... it probably is. Arcia has been bad for two years, in both Triple-A and the Majors, and four separate teams gave up on him over the last six months. That's never a good sign. That being said, the Yankees are a rebuilding team, and Arcia is still young enough that you can see the promise of prospect lists and two partial seasons of production. And, with a vacant DH slot begging for a left-handed power hitter, a potential fit exists. If Arcia is awful, he could be cut without incident - but if he's good, they have three years of team control (and a trade chip). 

In short, after far too many words, Arcia is the type of guy that a team in this position should take a chance on. A minor league deal would be for the best, but the downside to an MLB deal is basically nil.