The news was slow to trickle out of A’s headquarters today regarding their non-tender decisions. But the team just announced they have non-tendered DH Jack Cust, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and outfielder Travis Buck. That means all three players become free agents. The A’s tendered contracts to the other seven players eligible for arbitration: pitchers Dallas Braden, Craig Breslow, Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler; outfielders Conor Jackson and Ryan Sweeney; and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Last year, the A’s made the same move with Cust, but the two sides wound up agreeing on a one-year deal later on. Not sure I’d expect either side to want to travel that same road again. Cust’s departure isn’t a surprise, given the A’s are making a big push for Lance Berkman as their DH. Adam Dunn reportedly will sign with the White Sox, so he’s out of the A’s picture, though he was never a strong possibility for Oakland anyway, from what I gathered.
The biggest news was the A’s decision to retain Kouzmanoff over Encarnacion at third base. But the A’s may not be done addressing that position. Multiple reports today claimed the A’s are in serious pursuit of third baseman Adrian Beltre, with ESPN saying a deal could be close to happening. But Beltre told the Boston Globe today that he’s waiting to see what other offers develop, and that his preference is to return to the Red Sox. He added that he could sign a deal “right now if I wanted to.” Is he referring to a deal with Oakland?
As things stand, Kouzmanoff is the A’s starting third baseman. I’m not surprised they retained him over Encarnacion. The A’s brass is placing a heavy emphasis on infield defense, and Kouzmanoff is better defensively than Encarnacion. In all liklihood, he’ll also come a bit cheaper.
The A’s will now try negotiating contracts with all seven players they tendered, and avoid actually going to the arbitration table. The team has had great success avoiding arbitration in the past, usually agreeing to one-year deals with players as the offseason moves along.