I’m hearing a variety of fan reaction to the A’s possible trade for Chone Figgins, but the majority of people seem to be against it. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Times and mlb.com that he plans to start the season with Figgins as his third baseman. I still wouldn’t close the door on a deal, but money could be a major hang-up. Would the A’s demand a boatload of cash in return to help offset Figgins’ hefty contract? And would the Mariners be willing to fork it over? Consider that Seattle is still on the hook for $6.5 million this season for former players Carlos Silva and Yunieski Betancourt, who they’ve traded away. Zduriencik may not want to blow any more on players no longer with his team.
Here’s a few other A’s tidbits, some left over from Thursday’s media day:
–The A’s outrighted infielder Steve Tolleson to Triple-A Sacramento after he cleared waivers. Retaining Tolleson is important for the team’s depth at shortstop, as Adam Rosales will miss lots of spring training recovering from foot surgery. The good news for the A’s is that starter Cliff Pennington, recovering from left shoulder surgery, told me he feels very confident he’ll be ready for Opening Day, though he’ll likely take it easy early in camp. In Rosales’ absence, the depth chart at shortstop likely reads Pennington, Tolleson and Eric Sogard, who is more of a second baseman. The fact that Tolleson didn’t get claimed on waivers could make the A’s less inclined to acquire another shortstop.
Three of the five candidates for Oakland’s fifth starter’s spot attended media day — Josh Outman, Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy (Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer are the other two). Outman, who’s been out since June 2009 because of Tommy John elbow surgery, said he’s physically ready to compete for the No. 5 job. He gained confidence while facing hitters in the fall instructional league. Outman prefers starting but said he’d be comfortable in a relief role too. “I think I’m comfortable doing what I’ve gotta do for the team,” he said. “I just have to go in and hopefully make their decision (on choosing a fifth starter) hard.” Outman’s wife gave birth to daughter Sawyer, the couple’s first child, on Dec. 22.
Harden said he’s been spending lots of time working with pitching coach Ron Romanick on mechanics. Health is always the most important key for Harden, and he said he feels good right now. “I feel like I can go out there and make 30-plus starts.” Like Outman, he added that he could adjust to a relief role, and the A’s consider that an option.
McCarthy has been plagued by shoulder problems over his career. Last year with Texas, a stress fracture limited him to 11 appearances at Triple-A. But he caught the A’s attention with an impressive stint in the Dominican Winter League. “I came back for the last month (of 2010) and pitched well, but I didn’t feel like I was done,” he said. “Going down to the Dominican to get another five starts or so allowed me to refine things I wanted to refine.”
Prediction: The fifth spot will come down to a competition between Outman and Harden. Outman pitched well in a starting role in ’09 before getting hurt, and Harden’s experience gives him an edge over the others.
–Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins, coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, said he’ll be full strength when pitchers and catchers report Feb. 15. The addition of Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour could squeeze Blevins out of a spot in the A’s seven-man bullpen to start the season, especially if Joey Devine is healthy. But Blevins remains optimistic. “I feel I’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”