It’s been a few months since I wrote a blog article, but as I did last year, I’d like to bring you up to date on the roster moves that Billy Beane and Co. made during the offseason.
Comings – New Faces Abound for 2011:
OF David DeJesus came over in a trade with the Kansas City Royals on Nov 10th for RHP Vin Mazzaro and LHP Justin Marks. DeJesus, 30, batted .318 with 5 HRs and 37 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals in 2010, but missed the last two months of the season after surgery on his right thumb. He played primarily in right field and has a 241-game errorless streak dating baci to Sept 15th, 2008.
RHP Brandon McCarthy signed as a free
agent on Dec 14th, (Texas Rangers),
recurring shoulder problems, $1Million 1-yr deal laden with performance incentives.
DH Hideki Matsui signed as a free agent on Dec 14th (LA Angels), $1.25M 1-yr deal, a pure hitter with 20-25 HRs/season potential and a career batting average of .290, should hit 3rd or 4th in lineup (a HUGE upgrade from Jack Cust!).
OF Josh Willingham came to the A’s in a trade with the Washington Nationals on Dec 16th for RHP Henry Rodriguez (100+mph) and OF prospect Corey Brown. Willingham, 32 in Feb, has 7 years in the majors, averaging 20 home runs and 66 RBIs over the past 5 seasons, and is another middle-of-the-order hitter.
He had surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee last August, but says he’s fully recovered. He made $4.5M last year and is going to arbitration unless a deal is made today (Jan 17th), and will probably earn more than $4.5M in 2011.
RHP Rich Harden signed as a free agent on Dec 21st (Texas Rangers), a 1-yr deal worth $1.5M+incentives. No stranger to the A’s (2003-08), he has been plagued by injuries most of his career, but has lights out stuff when he’s healthy. He’ll be vying for the 5th starter slot with Brandon McCarthy.
RHP Grant Balfour signed as a free agent on Jan 14th (Tampa Bay Rays), a 2-yr $8.1M deal with a club option for 2013, to bolster the bullpen.
LHP Brian Fuentes (Minnesota Twins) signed as a free agent on Jan 16th, a 2-yr deal expected to yield him $5M+/year (details not yet announced). Fuentes is a 4-time All-Star, who has averaged 31 saves over the past 6 seasons with the Rockies, Angels and the Twins. Last year he recorded 24 saves, a 2.81 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP*.
He will also have to pass a physical, most likely today or tomorrow. If Andrew Bailey is healthy, Bailey will probably still be the closer, but Fuentes gives Manager Bob Geren the option of going with a left-hander to close out a game.
Stayings: Some Familiar Faces Re-signed:
2B Mark Ellis: The club exercised it’s option for 2011 and will pay Mark $6M for the year. Ellie led the A’s in batting in 2010, hitting .291 in 124 games. He also has the 2nd-best fielding percentage (.990) among 2nd basemen with over 750 or more games. Always a fan favorite, he’ll be back in the lineup for one more year.
OF Coco Crisp: The A’s also excercised their club option for 2011, and will pay Coco $6M. When Coco was healthy in 2010, he hit .279 with 8 HR and 38 RBIs in 75 games, and stole a career-high 32 bases. To put it in perspective, he finished 2nd on the A’s in steals (to Rajai Davis), 3rd in triples (4), and 5th in homeruns, despite missing over half the season!
Goings: Chavez’ Option not Picked Up:
3B Eric Chavez, who spent his whole career in the Athletics organization, including 13 seasons with the A’s. He is a .267 career hitter with 230 HRs and 787 RBIs in 1,320 games, and holds numerous A’s records, ranking in the top 10 in nearly every category. He also won 6 consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 2001-06. He is reported to be working out with teams (Dodgers, for one) in hopes he can find a place to play in the majors in 2011.Contracts Not Tendered or Players Released: DH Jack Cust (now with the Mariners), OF Gabe Gross (still unsigned), OF Travis Buck (Indians), P Justin Duchscherrer (still unsigned, but Yankees showing interest), OF Jeremy Hermida (Reds), P Russ Wolf (Pirates), OF Jeff Larish (Phillies), P Boof Bonser (Mets), P Justin James (Brewers), P Brett Tomko (still unsigned), IF Dallas McPherson (White Sox), IF Corey Wimberly (Pirates), and 3B Akinori Iwamura (Rakuten, Japan).
Traded: OF Rajai Davis (Blue Jays for 2 pitching prospects), P Vin Mazzaro (Royals, in the DeJesus trade), P Henry Rodriguez (Nationals, in the Willingham trade). We will miss his hustle and that great smile. I hope he has the opportunity to play everyday in Toronto. He deserves it.
I haven’t mentioned that the A’s won the right to negotiate with Hisashi Iwakuma, for which they had to pay $19.1M. They had 30 days to negotiate with his current team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles (the same team that Akinori Iwamura will play for in 2011). Negotiations broke down over the salary that the A’s would pay him (in addition to the $19.1M!) and Iwakuma will return to Rakuten to finish out his contract year there. The $19.1M was returned to the A’s, under the Japanese negotiating rules.
Also, I didn’t mention that the A’s claimed Edwin Encarnacion on waivers from the Blue Jays in November, but released him back to the Jays in December.
That’s it for now. It looks like this will be an exiting year for the A’s and their fans. The new aquisitions, re-signings, and the players no longer on the team, have put the A’s in position to compete creditably for the AL West Division Title in 2011, if the injury bug doesn’t take a huge toll. Nevertheless, there is so much depth on this roster that very capable guys can step up and fill any holes if players go down. I can’t wait!
Upcoming Blog Post Topics:
A’s Coaching Staff Changes
A’s New Minor League Affiliates
Come back and visit often!
*Walks + Hits divided by Innings Pitched (anything close to 1.0 is very good)
Wouldn’t you know it? A couple of days after my last post, the A’s made another move! In a deal with their new BFF trading partner, the San Diego Padres, the A’s acquired third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and sent them Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston,
whom the A’s obtained from the Padres last July. The A’s also received minor-league second baseman Eric Sogard in this deal.
It appears, according to Rick Hurd of the Oakland Tribune, that Kouz will get the bulk of playing time at 3rd, and Eric Chavez will move over to 1st base. Chavvy is recovering from his second back surgery in as many years. Rick reports that Assistant GM, David Forst, said that Eric “has been throwing and taking grounders in Arizona,” and he “feels great.” We’ll see how he does in spring training when he has to play in game situations.
Kouz seems a good solution to the A’s 3rd base dilemma. He had a great year in 2009 with the Padres, hitting .255 with 18 home runs and a career-high 88 RBI’s. He posted a .990 fielding percentage at the hot corner, committing just 3 errors, a National League record.
Kevin and Eric will have some competition at 3rd from Jake Fox who was part of the deal that brough Kevin Miles over from the Cubs for Jeff Gray et al. There is some question about Fox’s defensive skills, but he had 11 homers and 44 RBI’s in 82 games with the Cubs last season.
Scott Hairston, on hearing the trade rumors, said, “I hope I’m coming there for sure. If this is true, it’s a dream come true…unbelievable!”
Scott will play alongside his brother Jerry Hairston Jr. when he reports for Spring Training with the Padres in Phoenix (Peoria, actually).
I am really looking forward to the upcoming season. Join me here for the ride.
A’s Hope Opener: Well, last night was certainly a disappointment (the A’s lost 5-4) but the game was overshadowed by the pregame ceremonies memorializing the four slain Oakland police officers gunned down a couple of weeks ago. I had a tear in my eye as four OPD officers, each representing one of the families of the slain cops, placed police caps and baseballs on the pitcher’s mound to stand sentinel as the audience lowered their heads for a moment of silence. Nick Adenhart was also honored–a mention that was appropriately brief so as not to detract from the local tribute. The jet fighters’ fly-over and fireworks, the latter choreographed with the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air, capped off the moving tribute.
Chavy’s Back: It is great to see Eric Chavez making gold glove plays at third base like the Chavy of old and to have his bat back in the lineup. He’s such a classy guy and had every right to complain during the two plus years he was playing hurt or sidelined, but he never joined the pity party. Hat’s off to you, Eric.
Bobby Bobbles: Crosby just booted a routine play at third base (Chavez is getting the day off, and there’s no TV so I am listening on the radio). I want Jack Hannahan back, lousy bat and all. He is a proven utility infielder. Bobby is anything but, and keeps demonstrating it on the field. It’s his $5+ million salary that’s keeping him in the majors, not his bat, and certainly not his fielding at any position other than shortstop. Please, can I have Jack back, Billy?
A’s Lose Again to the Mariners: The game’s now over. Let’s hope that the A’s can salvage a win tomorrow after blowing another one. The A’s had the lead or were tied for most of the game. Jack Cust’s homer in the fifth was a bright spot–the A’s first homer of the season–making it 5-3, A’s. But the M’s went ahead for good in a disastrous eighth inning off Santiago Casilla and Brad Ziegler, giving Casilla the loss.
Maybe the collective thinking about where the Mariners will wind up at the end of the season could be wrong–last place in the AL West, according to Baseball America and others. The M’s can flat out hit. However, the A’s young pitching staff is showing rookie nerves, which will disappear in the coming weeks, so I guess we can’t be too concerned yet. An A’s win tomorrow would sure be good for the guys’ (and the fans’) morale.