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Not a dead issue

Just finished our daily chat with Billy Beane, we also got Bob Geren today. They shared some thoughts about the 2009 club, which you can read about in tomorrow’s A’s notebook. Surprisingly, Beane did surrender a bit of news regarding Rafael Furcal. The A’s are likely to talk with the shortstop’s agent, Paul Kinzer, at some point before leaving Vegas. “I’m sure we’ll talk to him at some point. It’s still an open issue,” Beane said.

I wouldn’t get too excited over that statement. Kinzer said all along he planned to have a follow-up discussion after Furcal rejected the A’s four-year offer. Teams haven’t beaten down Furcal’s door, so he better keep the lines of communication open! But the Dodgers are starting to make a push to bring Furcal back in 2009. It’s known they’ve extended him an offer. But we now know the A’s haven’t completely shut the door. In related news, a report surfaced Tuesday that the A’s met with the agent for fellow free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera on Monday night. That’s also not a surprise, but remember that the A’s are reluctant to sign somebody who would cost a high draft pick. And Cabrera is a “Type A” free agent, meaning the A’s would surrender a second-round pick in June’s draft if they signed him (their first-round pick is protected).

That’s all for now. Talk at ya more tomorrow …

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RJ update

Alan Nero, one of the agents for Randy Johnson, took a few minutes this morning to address the market for the Big Unit. It doesn’t sound like Johnson will be signing anytime soon. “There’s a lot of interest. At this point, there’s so many other things that have to happen, such as trades, other free agent signings. But there’s more than enough interest,” Nero said. “There’s an old theory called supply and demand. I believe Randy will be in very big demand.”

Nero reiterated that both the A’s and Giants have shown “preliminary” interest in Johnson. So far, no meetings are planned with either team here in Las Vegas. Expect Johnson’s situation to clear up a little after C.C. Sabathia signs. Whoever doesn’t get him figures to give Johnson some attention (Brewers? Dodgers?)

As for the competition within the AL West for Johnson, I’m told it’s highly unlikely he would consider signing with Seattle, one of his former clubs. The Angels? Their interest is “peripheral,” according to Nero. One day, somebody needs to publish a dictionary that helps clarify these terms agents throw out there when talking about their players …

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Leftover thoughts …

Billy Beane kept things shrouded in mystery, as he prefers it, during his briefing with reporters Monday at the winter meetings. But I found his comments about the types of hitters the A’s seek very interesting. “I don’t know about position, but there’s a few select players that might fit maybe at different positions that we might have some interest in,” he said. Translation: If the A’s sign a guy and he hits, they’ll find a spot for him. I think of a player like Adam Dunn when I hear this: A power hitter who is known as a pretty poor defensive outfielder. He has played some first base, and maybe that’s what the A’s would have in mind for a player like that. Just my own thoughts, but it’s worth keeping an eye on …

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Lobby watch

The developments have been slow on the first day of these meetings, folks. The GMs typically don’t meet with their team’s beat reporters until the evening, and dialogue has been slow between teams, from all indications. We’ve got all the usual ingredients here of the winter meetings — reporters and random team officials gathered in a herd in one wide open area of the Bellagio lobby, just not a lot of fireworks yet. It must be puzzling for non-baseball fans trying to get to the elevators to go to their rooms — this huge cluster of people just taking up space in this one area.

One note A’s fans might find interesting: The Dodgers appear close to re-signing free agent third baseman Casey Blake to a deal, possibly for three years. I ‘ve had Blake on my list of free agents I think would fit for the A’s. He’s got a little pop (21 HRs last year) and could fill a need because he can play first or third, even the outfield if needed. The A’s could use some insurance at third with Eric Chavez’s shoulder concerns, but Billy Beane has said he isn’t going to overspend for an insurance policy. When I checked in with Blake’s agent earlier this offseason, there hadn’t been any contact from the A’s.

Besides, we know the A’s might be targeting free agent Jason Giambi, and have shown interest in trading for the Nationals’ Nick Johnson at first base. I’m told the Nats would want a major league-ready starting pitcher in exchange for Johnson if the A’s ever got serious about things. After unloading Greg Smith already, it’d be interesting to see if they would deal another young arm.

By the way, I witnessed a scene that would have turned the stomachs of A’s fans still stinging from the 1990 World Series: Eric Davis and Rob Dibble exchanging a hug and high-five as they bumped into each other in the lobby. As I said folks, it’s been a slow news day …

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And we’re underway

Things are just getting started here at the winter meetings, where I managed to wind my way through the Bellagio’s luxurious casino to find the media workroom ($10 blackjack tables!!! Surprisingly reasonable for this joint). Greg Maddux just finished his retirement press conference. All else is relatively slow, though the Tigers have acquired catcher Gerald Laird from the Rangers. …

The A’s announced their non-roster invitees to spring training — 17 in all. Most of the blue-chip prospects will be there: Pitchers Brett Anderson (their top-ranked prospect by Baseball America) and Trevor Cahill (No. 2), middle infielder Adrian Cardenas (No. 5), first baseman Chris Carter (No. 6), pitchers Vincent Mazzaro (No. 8 ) and James Simmons (No. 10), and second baseman Jemile Weeks (No. 9), among others.

Drumming up the most attention, of course, will be Anderson and Cahill, who both pitched in the Olympics. Both have an outside shot at landing a rotation spot right out of camp, though they would have to be pretty spectacular. Anderson and Cahill split 2008 between Single-A and Double-A (where they were dominant), with Anderson getting a taste of Triple-A in Sacramento’s postseason and pitching well. But keep in mind they’re young. Neither turns 21 until shortly before the start of the 2009 season.

The A’s also signed right-hander Jerome Williams to a minor league contract. Bay Area fans will remember him from his Giants days. Hard to believe he’s just 27. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2007 and spent last season between Single-A and Triple-A in the Dodgers’ system.

I’ll be blogging occasionally throughout each day here. It’ll keep me away from those $10 tables …

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No Furcal? What next for A’s?

Now that Rafael Furcal and his agent have declined the A’s reported four-year, $35-40 million deal, Oakland has apparently moved on to other free-agent targets. Our A’s beat writer, Joe Stiglich, has a recap of what transpired in the past 24 hours of the A’s-Furcal negotiations.

p.s., Joe is headed to Vegas for the Winter Meetings and he’ll keep you updated here on the latest A’s news and rumors.

Jon Becker
BANG-EB Online Sports Editor

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Take it or leave it?

We may be close to learning if Rafael Furcal ends up in an A’s uniform or not. Raise your hand if you’re ready for this to be resolved one way or another. … According to Buster Olney’s blog on espn.com, the A’s have made a multi-year offer to Furcal and are giving him a 48-72 hour window to accept or not. No word from either side yet on how true this is. But let’s look at what we know: The A’s have shown serious interest and, from all indications, are willing to give him a multi-year deal despite his recent back problems. Furcal enjoyed a visit to Oakland, and no other teams have emerged (publicly) as serious contenders. Maybe the winter meetings begin Monday and the interest in Furcal suddenly spikes. Or maybe he rekindles his relationship w/the Dodgers. But as it stands, I can see if the A’s are waiting for his decision and their patience is thinning. There are lots of areas around the diamond they can re-direct that free-agent cash, wouldn’t you say?

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A’s eyeing Big Unit

You may have seen a piece from Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal,  saying the A’s are interested in free agent lefty Randy Johnson. I got in touch with one of Johnson’s agents, Alan Nero, who confirmed the two sides have spoken as recently as this week. “The calls have been quite informal right now,” Nero said. “Barry (Meister, who represents Johnson along with Nero) and I are going to the winter meetings. Hopefully we’ll sit down (with the A’s) and see if there’s something more substantive.” He added that the A’s are one of about five or six teams showing the same degree of interest at this point.

Going after Johnson makes a lot of sense to me. With all the attention paid to the A’s efforts to add hitters (and Rosenthal thinks they’re still front runners for Rafael Furcal), don’t forget that their starting rotation needs some shoring up. Right now I’d pencil in Justin Duchscherer, Sean Gallagher, Dana Eveland and Gio Gonzalez as starters, but all come with question marks because of health concerns and/or inexperience. There’s some young studs knocking on the major league door, but how soon will they be ready?

The Big Unit would certainly fill a need as a reliable veteran starter. Yes he’s 45, but his numbers from last season were very solid. … He’s a local guy — born in Walnut Creek, graduated from Livermore High — which could make the A’s a nice place for him to finish his career. He’s just five wins shy of 300 and would give the team some marketing muscle as well.

I’ll be interested to see what kind of salary Johnson commands. He made $15.1 million last season with Arizona, and was willing to play for half of that to stay with the D-backs in ’09. No agreement was reached. If he makes himself available on a one-year deal in the $6-10 million range, I’d expect some Big Interest in the Big Unit …

As for Furcal, the Giants’ signing of Edgar Renteria bodes well in the A’s chase for him. The Giants were considered one of the main players for Furcal, so that eliminates one competing team. Furcal’s agent has said he doesn’t expect any deal to get done before the winter meetings, which begin Monday.