22

Leftover thoughts as A’s trade Gio Gonzalez to Nationals

Two weeks to the day after the A’s traded Trevor Cahill to the Arizona Diamondbacks, they dealt Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals. What does that mean for closer Andrew Bailey? Something tells me it won’t take him two more weeks to be traded. Here’s a few tidbits from today’s news about the Gonzalez trade. Some of it’s in my story for tomorrow, some isn’t …

–Late on Friday the A’s announced that outfielder Jai Miller and backup catcher Landon Powell were designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for some of the players obtained in the Gonzalez deal. Miller shocked me more than Powell, just because Miller seemed to be squarely in the plans for this season’s outfield. But this also signals that the A’s plan to sign a free agent outfielder, in my opinion. GM Billy Beane said Friday that the team has been in talks with free agents, and during the winter meetings, he identified center field as a particular area where additions were needed. Collin Cowgill, obtained in the Cahill trade, will get a crack in center, but he hardly has the credentials to just be handed the job.

Powell signed a one-year contract with the A’s earlier this month, but Josh Donaldson and Anthony Recker also wait in the wings as potential backups to Kurt Suzuki. Remember: When a player gets designated for assignment, teams have 10 days to trade them, release them or send them to the minors (provided the player doesn’t get claimed by another team on waivers.) Powell said he’s hopeful of a trade. Beane said he hopes both players clear waivers and that they remain with Oakland. Both Powell and Miller are really solid dudes, the kind of guys you root for.

–I caught Gio Gonzalez on the phone after he’d finished taking his physical in Washington D.C. He had gotten a chance to talk with Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and was impressed with Rizzo’s enthusiasm. Gonzalez also likes the Nationals’ chances to compete this season, though he was surprised they wound up trading for him. “I thought it was between Toronto, the Tigers and Boston,” he said. “I didn’t think in my wildest dreams the Nationals would be the main one. It was like ‘Whoa, where did you guys come out of?’”

–Beane says the A’s have simply been targeting the best overall prospects available in potential trades, but you’ll notice how pitching-heavy their returns were for Cahill and Gonzalez. I’d expect them to target hitters as they explore trading Bailey. Beane acknowledged that outfielders have come up in recent trade talk.

–The A’s are very encouraged with how Dallas Braden is progressing in his recovery from shoulder surgery. But it’s best not to get too excited about December updates on any pitcher coming off a long-term injury and rehab. Braden is crucial for the A’s rotation this season, and I still wouldn’t be surprised if he requires a few minor league starts in April to knock off some rust.

–Just 57 days until A’s pitchers and catchers report … Happy Holidays to everyone!!!

10

A’s hosting FanFest at Oracle Arena on Jan. 29

After three years of holding their FanFest in conjunction with a Bay Bridge Series home game against the Giants, the A’s will host FanFest at Oracle Arena on Jan. 29, the team announced Tuesday.

Here’s the official release from the team:

Presented by Comcast SportsNet California, Event to Feature Free Autograph and Q & A Sessions with Manager Bob Melvin, Jemile Weeks, Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace and Vida Blue

OAKLAND, Calif. — Free autographs and question-and-answer sessions with Manager Bob Melvin, rising stars such as Jemile Weeks, former legends like 1972 World Series MVP Gene Tenace and 20-game winning streak hero Scott Hatteberg, will be among the up-close-and-personal features at next month’s Oakland A’s FanFest 2012, which will be staged at Oracle Arena from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29.

The event will be sponsored by Comcast SportsNet California, the team’s local television partner.

“Fans will have unique access to their favorite A’s players and the chance to meet some of the new additions to the 2012 club,” said Jim Leahey, A’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re excited to be holding the event in the Oracle Arena for the first time, which will provide a wonderful environment for interacting with our players and legends as we kick off a season in which we will be celebrating some of the greatest moments in A’s history.”

With 2012 representing the 40-year anniversary of the 1972 World Series Championship and the 10-year anniversary of the 20-game winning streak, the A’s have announced in-season celebrations of those historic accomplishments. FanFest will initiate those festivities by featuring some of the icons from those teams. In addition to Tenace, FanFest will include appearances by 1972 team members Vida Blue, former MVP and Cy Young Award winner, and legendary left-fielder Joe Rudi. Hatteberg, recently portrayed in the acclaimed motion picture Moneyball, will also participate.

The A’s 40th anniversary celebration of the ’72 World Series is set for April 21 vs. Cleveland, when 10,000 fans will receive a Rollie Fingers bobblehead, sponsored by Comcast SportsNet California. The 10-year anniversary of the 20-game winning streak will be commemorated in August against Cleveland, when 15,000 fans will receive a Hatteberg bobblehead Aug. 18, and 10,000 fans receive a 20th consecutive win streak t-shirt before the game Aug. 19.

Admission tickets for Oakland A’s FanFest 2012 are priced at $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 14 and under. Admission to the event is free for current 2012 A’s season ticket holders and fans that put a deposit on a 2012 season ticket package. For more information about how to take advantage of this offer by becoming a season ticket holder, fans should visit www.oaklandathletics.com/fanfest. Parking for the event is free to all fans. Admission tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at the A’s Ticket Services Office or online at www.oaklandathletics.com/fanfest.

Oakland A’s FanFest 2012 activities also include free photos with the team’s four World Series Trophies and former A’s legends, a memorabilia sale to benefit the A’s Community Fund, the Comcast SportsNet Sportscaster Experience Booth and other fun offerings to be announced next month. FanFest also serves as the first opportunity for fans to purchase individual game tickets for the upcoming season, including the A’s home opener against the Seattle Mariners April 6.

4

“Moneyball” might clean up at Golden Globes, plus A’s trade updates and free agent news

The Golden Globe nominations are out, and “Moneyball” scored big across the board. Among the movie’s nominations: Best Picture, Drama; Brad Pitt (Best Actor, Drama); Jonah Hill (Best Supporting Actor); Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian (Best Screenplay). Could it be a foreshadowing of things to come at the Academy Awards? The Oscars are handed out Feb. 26. Here’s the full list of Golden Globes nominations

So big things could be in store for the A’s from the Hollywood angle. As for baseball? That’s shaping up as a much gloomier scene, based on the cornerstone players the A’s are likely to continue dealing. Cbssports.com’s Danny Knobler says the Reds are interested in Gio Gonzalez, and that the A’s want first baseman Yonder Alonso as part of any deal. That’s not surprising, considering the A’s needs at first base. Closer Andrew Bailey also remains a strong bet to be dealt.

And it’s open season for signing free agent A’s outfielders. Earlier today the Twins inked Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract. In this mlb.com video clip, the Cubs’ interest in Coco Crisp is discussed. Given the A’s outfield needs, I think they should be taking a harder look at re-signing Crisp. But they’re putting off any free agent pursuits as they await word on their stadium situation. The Dodgers also are reportedly interested in Crisp, a Los Angeles native.

–The A’s released their spring training schedule, which includes just 21 Cactus League games because of the team’s season-opening trip to Japan. The spring opener is March 2 against the Mariners at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The A’s and Giants play just once in Arizona — an A’s split-squad game March 17 in Scottsdale. Oakland’s Cactus League finale is March 21 against the Royals in Surprise, Ariz., and then the A’s fly to Tokyo to open the regular season against the Mariners in a two-game set March 28-29. They’ll return to exhibition play — a strange sequence, just as it was after their 2008 Japan trip — to play a March 31 exhibition against Triple-A Sacramento at Raley Field, and then follow up with the Bay Bridge series against the Giants on April 2-4. The A’s resume the regular season at home April 6 against Seattle.

Here’s the A’s full spring training schedule

6

A’s sign Barton, Powell, Rosales to one-year deals; tender contracts to Bailey, Gonzalez and others

To update, Barton signed for $1.1 million plus incentives.

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The A’s made some minor news today, agreeing to one-year contracts with first baseman Daric Barton, backup catcher Landon Powell and utility infielder Adam Rosales. They also tendered contracts to their six other players eligible for arbitration: Pitchers Andrew Bailey, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, Brandon McCarthy and Joey Devine, and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

Tonight was the deadline to tender contracts to arb-eligible players, so there are no non-tenders for the A’s this winter (you’ll remember Jack Cust was a notable non-tender each of the past two years. He became a free agent, though he re-signed with Oakland for the 2010 season).

Contract terms weren’t available for Barton, Powell or Rosales. The other six are now under team control, and the A’s will try to negotiate contracts with each of them. If they can’t agree, the sides will go to arbitration sometime in February to determine one-year salaries for those players. But the A’s usually have good success getting players signed and avoiding arbitration.

I’m not surprised by any of these decisions. Powell and Rosales seemed the most possible non-tender candidates, but Powell has been a solid backup catcher and Rosales can fill in at every infield spot when healthy. And neither player was going to be pricey. A’s officials had mentioned Barton as one of four players who will battle for the first base job (along with Brandon Allen, Chris Carter and Kila Ka’aihue), so I’m not surprised he was tendered.

Keep in mind that tendering contracts to Bailey and Gonzalez does nothing to change their status as serious trade candidates. All it means is that if they’re traded in the coming weeks, their new team will need to negotiate their salary or go to an arbitration hearing.

7

Wrapping up a busy A’s news day

After all the talk about whether Gio Gonzalez or Andrew Bailey might be traded, Trevor Cahill wound up being the first prominent A’s player dealt this winter , getting sent to Arizona along with Craig Breslow for starting pitcher Jarrod Parker, reliever Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill. Figure this won’t be the last major A’s trade before spring training. Here’s a few notes and observations, some that made my story for tomorrow’s paper and some that didn’t:

–Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that Cahill was breaking on to the scene, unexpectedly making the A’s rotation as a rookie along with Brett Anderson in 2009? Back then Cahill was so symbolic of an A’s youth movement that came on the heels of the Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton and Rich Harden trades. Now he’s on the other end of a rebuilding effort, making room for a new crop of young players. Cahill took the news hard, that was apparent from talking to him on the phone. “I loved playing for Oakland,” he said. “I knew everybody, I got along with everybody, I liked the club. I liked it from the minor leagues all the way up.”

–A’s assistant GM David Forst said trading Cahill does not make the A’s less inclined to trade another starting pitcher. So Gonzalez’s name will continue to fly in rumors. I still think Bailey will be dealt before Gonzalez, just because it will be easier for another team to offer up a package to the A’s liking.

–And if Bailey isn’t the closer in 2012, who will be? I know we’re all kind of assuming Fautino De Los Santos might be the guy. Perhaps, but Forst speaks very highly of Cook, a right-hander who brings a fastball in the high 90’s. Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes will be options too, but even they might be trade candidates. “It’s too soon to say (if Cook can pitch the ninth),” Forst said. “He closed for (Arizona) in Double-A. It’s not out of the question he could pitch at the end of the bullpen at some point.”

–The A’s have liked Cowgill for a long time. They drafted him back in 2007 out of the University of Kentucky, but he went back to school. Then they wanted him as part of the return package for Brad Ziegler last July (they liked Cook back then too). Cowgill has played lots of center field, though he played the corners last season during his time in the majors because Chris Young was in center for the D-backs. The A’s will give him every chance to win the starting center field job. Cowgill gets high marks from scouts for his competitiveness and the way he goes about playing the game, but one scout told me it’s a “leap of faith” to think he’s an everyday center fielder.

–Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports certainly doesn’t think the A’s are done dealing, as this story reveals.

That’s all for now …

6

Oakland A’s winter meetings update: Day Two

Scratch the Toronto Blue Jays off the list of potential teams targeting closer Andrew Bailey. Toronto acquired Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox and plans to plug him in at closer. I’d heard Tuesday that the A’s and Jays engaged in some pretty serious talks about Bailey.

While the buzz continues over which trades Oakland might make, there are other roster-related issues to consider. Here’s a few:

–It’s looking less and less likely that Hideki Matsui will be back in an Oakland uniform. That was the clear impression from manager Bob Melvin and GM Billy Beane in their comments Monday night. As the roster currently stands, Melvin said Chris Carter – who has terrific power but has hit .167 in 39 career big league games – might be the most logical man at DH. But you can toss a couple other first-base candidates – Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue — into the mix as well. “Conceivably, we have a number of guys that can go into that role,” Beane said. “It’s a matter of one of those guys grasping the opportunity and running with it.” Melvin is a huge Matsui fan – the two have dined together twice recently in New York – but he also sounded skeptical about a Godzilla return.

–As I mentioned yesterday, the A’s are very likely to explore the free agent market for outfielders to plug in on a short-term basis. Beane said the team talked with Laynce Nix before he signed with Philadelphia.

–Regarding first base, Melvin said defensive ability would play a factor into who wins that job, given the A’s team-wide struggles with the glove last season. Is that bad news for Carter, who is hardly the slickest fielder? Melvin said he thought Carter looked more comfortable defensively toward the end of last season. But you figure if Brandon Allen – who showed good potential defensively – can hit at all in the spring and cut down on strikeouts, he might have the inside track. He offers the best combo of power and competent defense.

–Something to watch in spring training is whether new (and old) pitching coach Curt Young can help Trevor Cahill return to his All-Star form. “That’s why we targeted Curt and thought he could be an important piece for us here,” Melvin said. Young served as the A’s pitching coach from 2004-10 before spending last season in the same role with Boston.

–Melvin spoke highly of outfielders Michael Choice and Grant Green – the A’s top two hitting prospects – but he suggested that Choice (a 2010 first-round pick) could be on the faster track to the bigs. Choice hit 30 homers last season with Single-A Stockton and the initial thought was that another full season in the minors was needed. But Melvin believes there’s a chance Choice might force his way into the picture next season. “I think Michael Choice is coming along a lot quicker than people would have thought,” he said. While it might be a stretch to expect Choice to make the big league club this spring, Melvin added: “There always seems to be a couple guys that pop up in spring training that do something that you don’t expect.”

Green, the A’s 2009 first-round pick, has more professional experience under his belt, but considering he just converted from shortstop to center field midway through last season, it’s not surprising that Choice might be on the faster track as of now.

In case you missed it, check out my story from the first day of the winter meetings

1

Free agency could bring A’s outfield help — at some point

If the A’s indeed trade a pitcher for offensive help, it makes sense they would try to land an outfielder. That’s a glaring area of need. But don’t entirely disregard the free agent market as a way for the A’s to improve the outfield. General manager Billy Beane told me recently that the A’s will likely wait out the free agent market (no surprise, considering the stadium uncertainty) but that they might eventually shop for an outfielder. “It’s not going to be high-priced guys,” Beane said. “It’s going to have to be on a shorter-term situation, but that’s definitely an area we’re gonna have to fill for the short term.”

For now, it’s all about which A’s players might get traded, and what those players might bring in return …

0

Greetings from the winter meetings

Just settling in here at the winter meetings in Dallas. I’ll be posting periodically over the next four days, and you can also follow me on twitter (@joestiglich) for updates. Will the A’s be active while they’re here? They’ll have plenty of discussions with potential trade partners, at the very least. And that might be the foundation for a trade or two in the near future.

It is very cold here, with one forecast saying the temperature will dip into the 20′s at night. Not exactly the weather I’m used to when I come here for an A’s-Rangers series in July, but then again, it is called the WINTER meetings, right?

–Former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee. He was named on 15 of 16 ballots. Former A’s owner Charlie Finley also was on the ballot but received less than three votes, it was announced.

–A’s spring training single-game tickets go on sale this morning at 10 a.m. (PT). Go to oaklandathletics.com

Check in w/you later …