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The competition’s emerging …

A few free agency developments that should be of interest to A’s fans:

*The Tampa Bay Rays have met with first baseman/DH Jason Giambi, and manager Joe Maddon had very complimentary things to say about Giambi, who is expected to be targeted by the A’s this winter. There was even a photo that made its way to the Internet of Giambi posing with Maddon inside a trendy Las Vegas steakhouse. Tampa Bay has to look incredibly attractive to any free agent these days, wouldn’t you say? Any team that’s after a player and is competing with the Rays has its work cut out.

*Yesterday I said the Angels had “peripheral” interest in Randy Johnson and that the Mariners were a distant longshot. Throw the A’s other division rival, the Rangers, into the mix for the Big Unit. Team president Nolan Ryan reportedly has confirmed Texas’ interest in Johnson as well as free agent right-hander Ben Sheets. Looks like the Rangers are getting serious about improving that perpetually bad pitching staff.

*The Royals have emerged as serious contenders for shortstop Rafael Furcal. His agent, Paul Kinzer, told foxsports.com that Furcal is considering four teams: The A’s, Dodgers, Blue Jays and Royals. A knowledgable Royals insider predicts that K.C. would have to knock Furcal’s socks off with their financial offer to win this competition, which makes sense to me. Regarding the A’s, Billy Beane said yesterday that he’d likely meet with Kinzer before leaving the winter meetings.

**On a side note, longtime Bay Area baseball fans will be interested to know that Nick Peters was voted the 2009 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the most prestigious honor for a baseball writer. He’ll be honored during the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions in July. Nick covered the Giants for the Oakland Tribune for many years and has authored five books on the team. He had been under consideration for this award for several years and was justly honored this year. Congrats Nick …

Joe Stiglich