All’s quiet

Checked in this afternoon with Rafael Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer, who is getting as much ink as his star clients lately. Kinzer also represents free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez, so Kinzer’s phone has been buzzing off the hook, no doubt. Anyway, Kinzer doesn’t expect much to happen with the A’s or any other team regarding Furcal in the next few days. Dialogue has been slow with the Thanksgiving holiday. “It will probably be the middle of next week before I know anything,” Kinzer said. He had told mlb.com that Furcal might narrow his choice to two teams by the end of the weekend, but it doesn’t appear that will happen. If it seems the timetables keep changing with this story, that’s because they do. I still think the A’s are front runners for Furcal, but the longer things drag out, the more chance for a team like the Braves (who could trade Yunel Escobar) to throw their hat in the ring.

Some other A’s-related tidbits:

–Teams aren’t usually looking for coaches in late November, but the A’s may need to hire for two key spots on Bob Geren’s staff. They already need a bench coach after Don Wakamatsu left to be Seattle’s manager. They may also be hiring a new hitting coach with Ty Van Burkleo considered a strong bet to become Wakamatsu’s bench coach with the M’s. Based on the A’s dismal offensive showing over the past two seasons, I can imagine many fans would gladly show Van Burkleo the nearest exit out of Oakland. But several A’s players have spoken highly of the work Van Burkleo has done with them individually, and let’s be honest, you can only expect so much from the lineups the A’s have trotted out the past two seasons.

— Monday is the deadline for teams to offer their own free agents arbitration if they want to be compensated should those players sign with other teams. The only decisions the A’s have to make regard reliever Alan Embree and DH Frank Thomas. Both are ranked as “Type B” free agents, meaning the A’s would receive a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 2009 draft if those players were offered arbitration and signed elsewhere. The risk: If one of them unexpectedly accepted the arbitration offer. Then the A’s could be stuck with a player they don’t really want (and paying him a large chunk of cash, depending on how the arbitration case played out).

Embree is said to be getting interest on the open market from the Colorado Rockies. Though neither he nor the A’s have ruled out him returning to Oakland on a low-cost, one-year deal, Embree knows there wouldn’t be many innings for him in the A’s bullpen. Thomas, after an injury-plagued ’08, could retire even though he said last season he’d like to play in ’09.

— Last but not least: A tip of the cap to the fundraising effort of A’s radio play-by-play man Ken Korach. His “Winning for the Community” charity raised $26,000 throughout the ’08 season to benefit the high school baseball programs of the Oakland Athletic League. That’s $2,000 more than Ken had set as a goal in the charity’s first season. Ken is a very humble guy who would never seek out a pat on the back over this, so we’ll do it for him. Read more about how Ken started the charity …


The latest from Lew

When Lew Wolff talks, he’s never boring, that’s for sure. In case you didn’t see it, the A’s owner told the AP that he’d like to see the first round of the MLB playoffs be a one-game winner-take-all affair. That’s what grabbed the headlines. But what should interest A’s fans even more was his statement that he prefers to keep Matt Holliday for the entire 2009 season, even if it means losing him to free agency.

I wouldn’t expect him to take any other stance right now. No doubt that the Holliday trade is boosting hope among A’s fans for 2009, and no need deflating those hopes by suggesting he might be traded midseason. But I think the decision to trade or keep Holliday needs to be based solely on where the A’s are in the AL West standings (and the AL wild card race) as the deadline approaches. If they appear in contention, you have to keep the team together (maybe even swing another deal for the stretch run). If they flounder through the first half, the chance to score a big return by trading Holliday should be exploited.

Getting two draft picks (as compensation for losing Holliday to free agency) is all well and good. But there’s no guarantee how draft picks will develop, even high picks. But the bidding would be fierce if you dangle Holliday near the July 31 deadline. You could demand an established major leaguer in return, along with a prospect or two. The way I see it, Holliday is just too valuable. And if you’re convinced you can’t keep him in Oakland past 2009, then maximize that value for all it’s worth.

What would you like to see the A’s do?



The A’s may be looking for a new bench coach soon. Don Wakamatsu, manager Bob Geren’s right-hand man, is the front-runner to be named the Seattle Mariners’ new manager according to this story. As of now, the Mariners are denying an offer has been made to anybody. Wakamatsu interviewed for the job last week and reportedly is one of seven finalists. ESPN’s Peter Gammons named Wakamatsu as one of two finalists along with Boston Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills.

Wakamatsu, who is from Hayward, just completed his first season with the A’s after five years on Texas’ staff. If he doesn’t get this managerial job, you can bet he’ll be calling the shots somewhere very soon. He’s a bright guy, he’s meticulously organized and is well-respected around the game. Should the Mariners hire him, Wakamatsu (who is half-Japanese) would become the first Asian-American manager in major league history.


a little insight …

Just finished up a conference call w/Billy Beane and Matt Holliday. Thought I’d share a few tidbits:

–Beane’s response when asked about retaining Holliday beyond the 2009 season: “Matt’s a premium player. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. It’s no secret he’s going to command a significant contract. The best thing I can say is when we get to that point we’ll deal with it.” He also mentioned that being compensated with two draft picks if Holliday left via free agency would dove-tail nicely with the A’s rebuilding plan.

–With Holliday likely to take over left field and Carlos Gonzalez gone, Ryan Sweeney looks like your new A’s center fielder. Beane said he has confidence Sweeney can handle the position on an everyday basis. Travis Buck would appear to have the inside track on the right field job.

–Although Greg Smith’s departure leaves a hole in the rotation, the A’s aren’t likely to pursue a premier free agent starting pitcher. And Beane said he’d rather go with a young, in-house pitcher who’s ready to start rather than a veteran re-tread.

Hope this holds you over for a while …


Holliday deal official

Matt Holliday is finally an Athletic, as the A’s announced they’ve completed the trade for the Colorado Rockies left fielder. The Rockies receive Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez.

By now you know the deal. The A’s get one of the game’s top hitters, but it could just be a one-year rental. Holliday makes $13.5 million in 2009 and then can become a free agent. Regardless, he’s a huge addition for this offense as Eric Chavez and Mark Ellis have both declared.

Holliday is scheduled to talk with Bay Area reporters later in the morning.


All but done …

Still nothing official coming from the A’s or Rockies, but there’s absolutely nothing that suggests this trade won’t happen: Matt Holliday going to the A’s in exchange for Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith. The announcement is likely to come tomorrow. No use making the announcement today anyway, when Tim Lincecum’s Cy Young win would have stolen some of the thunder. If you’re over your voting hangover from last week’s presidential election, then give your opinion on whether you like this trade or not. Our poll is up on this blog right now …


a few thoughts …

As we wait for official word on this Matt Holliday-to-the-A’s madness, I’m sure imaginations are running wild among A’s fans. Here’s a few of my observations:

**My initial reaction was shock — shock at writing a story about the A’s possibly obtaining a big-name player in a blockbuster trade rather than dealing him away. And considering the state of this franchise — two straight losing seasons; a frustrated and demoralized fan base; the uncertainty involving the Fremont move — I think some sort of bold manuever is needed. And this certainly ranks as one if it goes through.

**I assume the biggest concern among A’s fans is seeing a prospect like Gonzalez potentially leave, especially considering Holliday could bolt for free agency after one season. My guess is the Rockies weren’t going to give up a player like Holliday unless they received at least one prospect of Gonzalez’s caliber. The path that Gonzalez’s career takes may determine how good of a trade this is for the A’s (again, if it goes through). We could be looking at a 2009 A’s outfield of Holliday, Ryan Sweeney and Travis Buck, left to right. Curious to get your thoughts on that …

**The A’s feel very good about their organizational pitching depth, one reason they would feel OK including Smith in the deal. But it would leave a hole for next year’s rotation. And let’s remember that a healthy return from Justin Duchscherer and Sean Gallagher can’t be taken for granted. As it stands, I have a hard time coming up with five starters. Duchscherer, Gallagher and Dana Eveland are in, and then you need two more starters to emerge from the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden and Josh Outman. If Brett Anderson or Trevor Cahill can make a quick adjustment to the bigs during the spring, they could easily claim one of these spots. Or perhaps Billy Beane will change his mind and pursue a free-agent starting pitcher after all …

**The wild card in this deal: Would Holliday be as dangerous a hitter if he called Oakland Coliseum home, rather than the hitters’ haven that is Coors Field? His OPS last season was .997 at home and .891 on the road. Not a drastic difference. But it stands to reason he would suffer a bit playing half of his games at the Coliseum, where hitters are amazed at how poorly the ball carries much of the time.

Feel free to sound off on any of these topics, or let me know what you think about the trade in general …


Holliday update …

Looks like left-hander Greg Smith will definitely be part of this deal. Just talked to him. He’s spoken with A’s assistant GM David Forst and Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, and Smith is awaiting plans to fly to Denver to take a physical. In October, Smith had a bone chip removed from his left elbow. He expects to be fine for spring training, but it’s no surprise the Rockies would want to be sure. Smith hadn’t heard of any other players involved. But adding Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street to the package seems very reasonable. I can’t see the A’s getting Holliday without including a top-shelf prospect for the future, and Gonzalez would fit the bill. Colorado expects to lose Brian Fuentes from its bullpen, so Street would help on that front.


Holliday party?

ESPN and the Denver Post are among the outlets reporting the A’s have agreed in principal to a trade with the Colorado Rockies that would send three-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday to Oakland. It’s unclear who the Rockies would receive in return, but Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, Greg Smith, Ryan Sweeney and blue-chip pitching prospect Brett Anderson all have been mentioned in the speculation (they wouldn’t all be traded together, obviously!!).

David Forst, the A’s assistant general manager, would not address the topic in any form when reached by phone. Asked if he expected any sort of announcement to come down today, Forst replied: “I don’t expect it to.”

Rest assured something is brewing, but nothing concrete yet. Hang tight …