Scratch Randy Johnson off the A’s list

It doesn’t look like Randy Johnson will be collecting that 300th win in an A’s uniform. At least that’s what one of his agents, Barry Meister, told me this afternoon. “I don’t expect Oakland to be in the mix” for the free-agent lefty, Meister said.

It seemed the A’s interest had been growing lukewarm. But are you bummed about this? Or did the idea of signing a 45-year-old pitcher not light your fire in the first place? I think it’s obvious the A’s rotation needs another veteran besides Justin Duchscherer. During the winter meetings, Billy Beane said if he signed any starter, he wanted it to be an impact guy who could fit anywhere in the rotation. Define that however you wish. I don’t expect them to get in a bidding war for Derek Lowe, but Randy Wolf and Jon Garland are a couple of names that stand out in my mind among other free agents.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays! Feel free to chime in …


Where does he fit?

So let’s say the A’s do lure free agent Jason Giambi back to Oakland. I’m debating what role fits him (and the team) best: First base or DH? Plug him in at first base, where Giambi played primarily in ’08 for the Yankees, and Daric Barton’s at-bats get taken away. If you use him at DH, what does that mean for Jack Cust? All three players hit left-handed, which doesn’t simplify things.

I’m sure this will be discussed in detail if Giambi’s agent does talk with the A’s this week. All things considered, I’d hand Giambi his first-base glove and hold my breath he gets the job done. The A’s offense, even after adding Matt Holliday and possibly Giambi, would still need Cust’s power in the lineup. Putting him at DH and Giambi at 1B leaves Barton as odd man out. But giving the kid some more minor-league seasoning might benefit him in the long run. And what if the A’s want to stick with Barton but also play Giambi and Cust? How would Cust playing right field grab you? I bet I know that answer, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.

How would you use Giambi if he gets signed?


Catching up on A’s-related news

If you’ve been too busy with your holiday shopping to keep track of some A’s-related items, here’s a quick update:

  • No one thought Billy Beane’s free-agent chase would end with the failed Rafael Furcal negotiations, and word came down Friday that the A’s general manager is now targeting a familiar face. A tip of the cap to Susan Slusser, who reported that the A’s are going to reach out to free-agent Jason Giambi.
  • There’s a nightmare after Christmas in store for A’s fans, thanks to MLB.com/Live, which will begin showing some classic games online. Look at which game is among those they’re showing first.
  • Another former A’s first baseman, Dan Johnson, is now headed to Japan. Does anyone still miss him?
  • A former A’s farmhand in the ’80s is now passing on lessons he learned in spring training from Billy Martin to the high school team he’s coaching in Las Vegas.
  • Minorleagueball.com’s John Sickels recently released his list of the Top 20 Oakland A’s prospects for 2009. No surprises at the top, but some of the grades may raise an eyebrow or two. Sickels also serves to torment A’s fans by displaying the Baseball America cover with Oakland’s “Four Aces” adorning it. Can you remember all of their names?
  • ¬†And, finally, take this for what it’s worth. In trying to figure out who the mystery team is that supposedly made a huge offer to free-agent Mark Teixeira, Bleacher Report includes the A’s as one of the possible teams who secretly reached out to Scott Boras.
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    Who remembers Dock Ellis with the A’s?

    While our regular blogger Joe Stiglich tries to enjoy his well-earned vacation time, we thought we’d toss a (useless?) nugget or two your way:

    Former major league pitcher Dock Ellis, who died at age 63 on Friday, spent two forgettable months with the Oakland A’s in 1977.

    For a man who once boasted of throwing a no-hitter while on LSD, Ellis didn’t seem to have much “help” while pitching for an A’s team that would eventually finish in last place in the A.L. West. Ellis went 1-5 with a 9.69 ERA in seven starts for Oakland. Charlie Finley had apparently seen enough of Ellis and sold him to Texas two months later.

    The A’s had acquired Ellis from the Yankees in a four-player deal in late April that sent Mike Torrez to New York. And, one-time Pirate seemingly would feel at home in Oakland since he was one of eight ex-Pirates on the A’s roster (Manny Sanguillen, Doc Medich, Dave Giusti, Doug Bair, Rick Langford, Tony Armas and Mitchell Page were the others).

    Who knows, maybe Ellis didn’t appreciate the Pittsburgh influence. One thing was clear: Dock Ellis still had something left when he departed Oakland. He spent the rest of the ’77 season going 10-6 with a 2.90 ERA for the Rangers.


    A’s put Crosby on outright waivers, says report

    Does anybody think Bobby Crosby is worth $5.25 million? We’re about to find out.
    Foxsports.com reported this morning that the A’s placed Crosby on outright waivers. That means any team can claim Crosby, if they’re willing to pay his 2009 salary of $5.25 million. The deadline for the outright waivers was 10 a.m. today, so we’ll soon learn if Crosby will remain in green and gold.
    Chances are that Crosby will remain the A’s property. Aside from Crosby, the A’s only other in-house options at shortstop are Cliff Pennington and Gregorio Petit.
    Perhaps a motivated Crosby will perform much better than his 2008 numbers (OK, it’s hard to fathon him performing much worse) while in the final year of his contract. He’ll turn 29 in January and this season may be his last to prove he’s a quality, everyday shortstop.
    If you’re the A’s, do you make shortstop an open competition between Pennington and Crosby? Include Petit as well? Do you eat Crosby’s salary and release him?
    Do you pursue Orlando Cabrera, even though he’ll cost you a second-round pick in next year’s draft? What about David Eckstein as a stopgap until they can determine if Pennington or Adrian Cardenas are shortstop-worthy?


    In closing …

    I think I reverse-jinxed the winter meetings. In yesterday’s story, I wrote all about how the winter meetings no longer produce the big trades they used to. Then the Mets go out and land reliever J.J. Putz in a three-team, 12-player deal Wednesday night. Beautiful …

    **As Las Vegas gets left in the rear-view mirror, here’s a few remaining A’s tidbits: Billy Beane downplayed the possibility of either of his top pitching prospects, left-hander Brett Anderson or right-hander Trevor Cahill, joining the A’s rotation out of spring training. “Our idea is for them to continue finishing out the development process in Triple-A,” he said. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t jump from Sacramento to Oakland very, very soon, right? And even though Beane won’t say it, either one could probably force their way into the rotation with a sensational spring.

    Speaking of Anderson and Cahill, Beane said that opposing teams know those two are pretty much untouchable in potential trades. But the GM did hold some low-key trade talks during the winter meetings that may or may not develop into something more. Depending on what kind of offers they receive, the A’s have to decide which of their other pitching prospects (and they’ve got many) they might be willing to give up. That’s definitely where they have a surplus.

    **If the A’s don’t sign Rafael Furcal, identifying an everyday leadoff hitter has to be one of the team’s big missions come spring training. When asked about the top leadoff candidates on his current roster earlier this week, the first names Bob Geren mentioned were Travis Buck and Ryan Sweeney. But before Buck can be considered for the top spot in the order, the A’s have to be convinced he’s ready to play every day in the majors, period.

    **Just as they did last winter, the A’s recently invited the bulk of their roster to Phoenix for an offseason health check-up of sorts. But this winter there was a different wrinkle, as new strength and conditioning coach Bob Alejo ran players through some conditioning drills. Geren said some of his key players coming off injuries — including Eric Chavez, Justin Duchscherer and Daric Barton (he had right hip surgery in October, remember) — all looked good in Phoenix and are recovering well.

    That’s all for now …


    Another RJ update

    According to Barry Meister, Randy Johnson’s co-agent along with Alan Nero, interest in the Big Unit is ramping up now that C.C. Sabathia is no longer available. “There’s been a more urgent edge now that C.C. Sabathia (is off the market) in terms of a left-handed guy,” Meister said. He wouldn’t get specific about the number of teams or whether any offers have been extended. But it’s been reported that the Giants, Milwaukee, Texas and the Angels, among others, are in the hunt for Johnson. What does this mean for the A’s? Meister is friends with Billy Beane and said they keep in contact frequently. They’ve discussed Johnson but haven’t sat down formally. “They have another issue they’re working on that’s a little more pressing,” Meister said. Hmmm, could that be a certain switch-hitting shortstop? Espn.com reported the A’s met with Rafael Furcal’s camp Tuesday night. He’s also being pursued by the Dodgers, Royals and Blue Jays, according to his agent.

    If the A’s are focusing on Furcal right now, that apparently doesn’t damage their chances of getting Johnson. “Teams are more aggressive (on Johnson) but not to the point that me and Billy have lost ground by not meeting,” Meister said.

    So that’s where we stand …



    Failed to mention that Alan Embree’s days with the A’s look finished. The Denver Post is reporting that the lefty reliever has agreed to a one-year deal with the Rockies, which has been talked about for some time. I’d expect the A’s to pursue a lefty reliever to complement Jerry Blevins, although Billy Beane mentioned Josh Outman as a possible relief candidate for 2009. But you figure Outman will get every chance to win a back-end rotation spot as well …


    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 …