David DeJesus signs with Chicago Cubs

Scratch one outfield option off the A’s list for 2012. … David DeJesus signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Cubs that guarantees him $10 million, with a club option for 2014.

It’s no secret that DeJesus’ first (and only) season with Oakland was a disappointment — he hit .240 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs, and his struggles contributed greatly to a poor offensive first half that buried the A’s in the AL West. The team offered him arbitration last week, and being that DeJesus is a Type B free agent and declined arbitration, the A’s get a sandwich draft pick between the first and second rounds as compensation.

It’s a great deal for DeJesus, who lives in the Chicago area and reportedly will be the Cubs’ starting right fielder. There seemed little chance he would return to Oakland even after being offered arbitration. But now that he’s officially gone, it sheds more light on the A’s uncertain outfield situation. Left fielder Josh Willingham appears all but gone to free agency, and though Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal has reported the A’s are interested in retaining free agent center fielder Coco Crisp, they clearly have holes to fill. The A’s could lean on a combination of Ryan Sweeney, Michael Taylor, Jai Miller, Jermaine Mitchell and recently acquired Cedric Hunter for their outfield. But all are unknown quantities other than Sweeney, and how comfortable would you feel plugging in any combination of those players and counting on them to produce?

The outfield is definitely an area to watch as this offseason unfolds. I’d be surprised if the A’s don’t make more moves to address that area one way or another …


A’s negotiating to move spring training home from Phoenix to Mesa

There is talk of an A’s move … and it has nothing to do with Oakland or San Jose.

The team announced Monday morning that it will begin an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city of Mesa, AZ, to possibly move its spring training home there from Phoenix. The negotiating period runs through May 15, 2012 but can be extended through mutual agreement and approval by the Mesa City Council. The A’s current contract with Phoenix ends after the 2014 season. It’s unclear if they could wiggle out of that contract early, or if they would even want to. The team plans to make no further comment beyond Monday’s press release.

The A’s would play their games at Hohokam Park and train at Fitch Park — currently used by the Chicago Cubs — were they to move to Mesa. There’s been talk in the past about the Cubs moving their spring training home to Florida, but as of now, there’s no indication of how a potential A’s move to Mesa would affect the Cubs.

A’s officials have talked about the need to improve the facilities both at Phoenix Municipal Stadium — where they play their spring games — and at Papago Park, where they hold some workouts and house their minor league operations. Phoenix Muni holds just 8,775 fans, the second-smallest in the Cactus League, and is the oldest Cactus League ballpark still used. It was built in 1964. Hohokam Park has a capacity of 12,500.

In all honesty, Phoenix Muni is beginning to look antique compared to the new stadiums that have sprouted up around the Cactus League. But I’d hate to see the A’s leave that park. It’s very small and offers one of the best fan experiences as far as being close to the action and seeing players up close. Plus, there’s a terrific view of the Papago Park mountain range over the left field fence. No stadium has more of a “desert feel” to it than Phoenix Muni.

**Second baseman Jemile Weeks and pitcher Tyson Ross will make an appearance at the Alameda County Food Bank on Wednesday at 2 p.m. as part of a food and fund drive. The first 150 people to bring a minimum of 10 non-perishable food items or donate $20 cash will receive an autographed photo.

That’s all for now …


Catching up on a quiet (so far) A’s offseason

Hello everybody … long time, no blog.

I’ve been doubling up lately with Cal football coverage and that’s taken the lion’s share of my time. But “Inside the A’s” has been neglected long enough, so I wanted to drop in. Not that there’s been a ton of A’s news to report anyway this offseason. By now you’ve caught the drift that the A’s won’t be as aggressive going after players as they were last winter (unless those acquisitions come in the form of prospects via trade). You might have seen this story from ESPN’s Buster Olney regarding the A’s being sellers, largely because their stadium situation remains unsettled. If the A’s get approval to build a ballpark in San Jose, we know that GM Billy Beane plans to rebuild with younger players, hoping to have a nucleus ready to blossom when that ballpark opens for business. If they were to be denied, it’s possible they might open the checkbook a little more. And what if the issue continues to drag through the winter with no word from MLB? The indications I’ve gotten are that the A’s won’t spend aggressively as long as they remain in limbo.

Olney wrote that he could see the A’s trading starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey. Of the two, I see Bailey as the stronger possibility to go. If the A’s don’t see themselves contending in 2012, then a dominant closer becomes less of a necessity. And Bailey could fetch a nice haul given he’s just 27 and under team control for the next three seasons. A front-of-the-rotation starter such as Gonzalez is more of a foundation piece and much tougher for a team to replace. Having said that, if a team knocks Beane’s socks off with an offer for Gonzalez, I think he would certainly pull the trigger. The Marlins are looking for starting pitching as they move into their new ballpark in Miami, and this report out of Florida says they’re eyeing Gonzalez, who is from the Miami area and would be a great addition from a baseball and marketing standpoint. The question is whether the Marlins (or any team) have the pieces to pry Gonzalez away.

Here’s some key dates to keep an eye on:

Nov. 23: This is the last day for teams to offer salary arbitration to a Type “A” or “B” free agent in order to get compensation should that player sign elsewhere. The A’s have decisions to make on outfielders Josh Willingham and David DeJesus. Willingham is a Type A, meaning the A’s stand to get a first-round pick and a sandwich pick (between the first and second rounds) should he be offered arbitration and sign elsewhere. DeJesus is Type B, meaning the A’s would get a sandwich pick if he’s offered arb and signs elsewhere. The risk for teams, of course, is that a player unexpectedly accepts arbitration, and the team is stuck paying a large salary to a player it didn’t expect to have around. I see no such risk with Willingham. He’s likely to land a multi-year deal somewhere and would seemingly want to keep his options open. DeJesus might be more willing to accept arbitration, so unless the A’s feel good about him returning, they have a decision on whether to offer it. Sometimes a team and player will reach a gentleman’s agreement that the player won’t accept arbitration if offered. I’m not sure if that’s being discussed with DeJesus.

Dec. 5-8: The four-day event known as the winter meetings, where reporters bump into each other as they walk with noses buried in cell phones, monitoring Twitter. The A’s are often subject of rumors at the meetings, but usually this period is a time for them to lay the groundwork for future moves. Now that I’ve said that, they’re bound to pull a blockbuster there. Just you watch …

Dec. 12: The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It’s an important day because any arb-eligible player not offered a contract is cut loose and becomes a free agent. The A’s have 10 players eligible for arbitration – Gonzalez, Bailey, relievers Craig Breslow and Joey Devine, starters Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy, first baseman Daric Barton, outfielder Ryan Sweeney, infielder Adam Rosales and catcher Landon Powell. Beane said at his season-ending press conference he expects all will be tendered contracts, but we won’t know until deadline day.