****TO UPDATE: The players going to the Washington Nationals are reliever Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown. Rodriguez, gifted with a 100 mph fastball but erratic command, always struck me as a good trading chip. Some baseball people have thought he’s got the stuff to be a closer down the road. But he’s had trouble with walks and controlling the running game. The A’s always thought Brown, 25, had good tools — nice combo of power and base-stealing ability. But his strikeout numbers have been high in the minors, and he wasn’t exactly flying through the system. Very nice kid. I got to know him in spring training a bit … The bullpen depth takes a hit with Rodriguez gone. I could see the A’s looking for relief help in free agency, even with the impending signing of Rich Harden.
The A’s roster continues to change by the day. A major league source confirmed for me that the A’s have acquired outfielder Josh Willingham from the Washington Nationals in exchange for two players. Those players aren’t known yet, but at least one has major league experience. It’s my understanding that neither will be a name that makes your jaw drop. Some medical details are still being exchanged between the teams, but this trade could be announced this afternoon. I was busy cranking out a news story on the trade for our Web site, which is why I’m just now getting to the blog.
Willingham turns 32 in February. He’s a seven-year major league vet with three 20-homer seasons under his belt. Last season, he hit .268 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. Fifteen of those homers came before the All-Star break, but his season ended in August after he needed left knee surgery. Willingham played strictly left field last season, so I’m seeing an A’s starting outfield of Willingham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus, left to right. That would push Ryan Sweeney to the bench. Sweeney is a terrific defender and one of the A’s all-around best players, but this move doesn’t surprise me based on the A’s need for power from their outfield. Let’s remember that Crisp, DeJesus, Willingham and Conor Jackson (who would presumably be the fifth outfielder) all missed significant time with injuries last season. Sweeney is likely to get playing time off the bench as the aforementioned players are going to need breaks (Sweeney, of course, has to rebound from knee surgery himself).
The A’s have been linked to Willingham going back to last season’s trade deadline. He’s not the biggest name out there (I thought Magglio Ordonez made a lot of sense as a free agent target, but he re-signed with Detroit today). Honestly, Willingham’s name didn’t thrill me when I first heard rumors that the A’s liked him. But if he produces his typical output in 2011, it will be an upgrade over the power production the A’s have gotten from their outfielders. Is Willingham better than other options they could have explored? Let’s see who the A’s gave up in this trade first.
A question to now consider: Where does this trade leave Chris Carter? On Tuesday, GM Billy Beane told us media types that he could envision Carter, the A’s top power-hitting prospect, possibly acting as the fifth outfielder/backup first baseman. But there’s no room for that as this roster is shaping up. The five outfielders look to be Willingham, Crisp, DeJesus, Sweeney and Jackson. Daric Barton is handling first base and, assuming the A’s carry 12 pitchers, the only extra infielder they’ll have is Adam Rosales. This points to Carter starting the season in Triple-A. Of course, unforeseen injuries can alter things. And if Carter rips the cover off the ball in spring training, who knows? Might he leapfrog Barton at first? Or would he bump DeJesus or Willingham from the lineup?
All things to consider … Feel free to sound off on anything I’ve rambled about …