A’s acquire outfielder Josh Willingham from Washington Nationals — what are the roster ramifications?

****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 …

Joe Stiglich

  • J Canseco

    Jackson or Sweeney has to go. How can one of those guys not go?

  • cristercrister

    How much is a 32-year-old left fielder who has only one year left of arbitration to go and tops out at 25 home runs or so worth? Jaws dropping? It at first sounded like a salary dump. I’m curious to see who will go back in the trade. Possibly 12 years of cost control for a one year rental? Please say that one of the guys is Barton.

  • Andy K

    I miss Carter already. Hope he kills it in Spring.

  • crister

    So Rosenthal says that it’s Henry Rodriguez and Cory Brown on their way to Washington. I kind of always liked Brown, but alas, he didn’t establish himself enough to really make noise. Rodriguez…he seems like one of those classic cases of golden arm, but… Cant’ say I’m heartbroken with either guy leaving the organization. Suddenly, with one guy just traded, another coming off of a crappy season and yet another splashing holy water left and right the A’s outfield dept looks rather thin. I wonder if any of the numerous infielders may be converted to play the outfield in response.

  • seymour butz

    Obviously Carter is the odd man out. (Even though he did appear to be finding a groove after going 0-30) Keep in mind Barton also appears to finding a power stroke (hitting 6 of his 10 homers in the final 50 games of ’10.)

  • Jay Blaisdell

    Joe Stiglish: You’re apologizing for a “late” blog ? Please. You’re a newspaperman first, THEN a blogger. You don’t put on the blogger’s bathrobe with the oatmeal crusted on the lapels until AFTER you’ve done the news story.
    But the trade: i’d rather have either Carter or Michael Taylor than Willingham. And a Willingham putting either DeJesus or Sweeney on the bench is ridiculous no matter how you slice it.

  • Joe

    In the last five seasons, Willingham’s OPS has been between 827 & 863. Very good numbers and he’s been really consistent too so that’s obviously an upgrade on what the A’s have had. So they’ve upgraded three spots in the lineup with Matsui, DeJesus and Willingham. Is that enough if the pitching staff can do what it did last year? Maybe if say Suzuki plays more like he did in ’09 than ’10, Pennington hits more consistently, the bullpen stays healthy…

    I do wonder what it means for Carter & Taylor though. Just last year it seemed like the plan was for them to be here in 2011…I’m sure if Carter hits like crazy in the spring they’ll find room and I know Taylor was disappointing last year…it’s not like they’ve given up Carlos Gonzalez to get DeJesus or Willingham so there’s not a huge risk here. We’ll see. And yeah everytime I see Gonzalez…ugh. Wouldn’t be making some of these trades if they hadn’t done that one. At least the Ethier one…Bradley was an important part of the ’06 ALCS team so I can live with it.

  • James

    im not a fan of pushing sweeney to the bench at all. this upsets me. and carter should be getting some damn playing time.

  • jclay09

    I’m not worried about the implications on Carter. This at least buys him some time to become a better fielder in left while in the minors and saving service time. But all of Crisp, Sweeney, Jackson, and Willingham have a history of injury and Dejesus has his share of freak injuries. It’s entirely possible Carter could end up starting a significant number of games for Oakland even after starting out as #6 on the depth chart.

    I was a little skeptical about the addition of Willingham at first, but the more I look at it they really didnt give up much to get a potential stud at the plate. I’m very unsure what to make of a career NLer moving to the A-league and playing half his games at the toughest pitcher’s park in baseball, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big upgrade. Not tough to be better than the 7-headed monster that was Gross/Watson/Carson/Jackson/Patteron/Fox last season.

    In the end, this makes the team better in 2011 and Willingham has already said he’s interested in signing an extension here. Another step forward made this offseason by the front office. Good work.

  • The options are much better in 2011, the defense will continue to protect the pitching staff, Harden, Devine
    and Outman could be difference makers in relief, while the other additions will provide additionl chances to score more runs, with reliable help at AAA if needed.