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A’s tied to Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero in speculation

Can we expect the A’s to make as big an offseason splash as they did last winter? That might be hard to top. But with the World Series wrapped up, the Hot Stove speculation can officially begin. The MLB Network’s Jon Heyman discussed this winter’s crop of free agents, and he mentioned the A’s as potential suitors for third baseman Chone Figgins and outfielder/DH Vladimir Guerrero.

Juicy names, indeed. But I don’t see the A’s making a push for Figgins. Clearly, they need to sign someone at third. The odds are stacked against Eric Chavez remaining healthy, and it’s asking a lot of prospect Brett Wallace to be ready Opening Day. That’s why making the call on whether to re-sign Adam Kennedy is the A’s first crucial decision of the winter.

Figgins would cost a bundle, with some speculating he could command $10 million per season on a multi-year deal. Look at the A’s offensive strength right now – it’s tied to their speed and athleticism with guys like Rajai Davis and Cliff Pennington. They don’t need another burner such as Figgins. They need someone who can drive in those speedy guys once they get on base.

Guerrero is intriguing, if only because his injury struggles in 2009 should drive his price down. But he’s a huge gamble even at a bargain cost. I’m more intrigued by the A’s pursuing someone like Jermaine Dye. His 2010 option was declined by the White Sox on Friday, making him a free agent. He’ll turn 36 in January (making him a year older than Vlad), but he’s coming off a far more healthy and productive season. Dye plays right field, where the A’s have a terrific defender and still-developing hitter in Ryan Sweeney. But remember, Billy Beane acknowledged that the A’s need more offense from the corner outfield spots, and that they could look to upgrade in left or right.

Team owner Lew Wolff wants the A’s to abandon the philosophy of signing aging sluggers. But let’s face it – the A’s aren’t going to outspend the big-budget teams to sign any superstars. And trading for an impact hitter in his prime will cost the A’s some of their elite pitching prospects. I don’t see them easily parting with those players (then again, I didn’t see them trading for Matt Holliday last winter, either).

Just a few thoughts for you to ponder as the Hot Stove season starts heating up. Let’s here what some of you think …

0

First base is Daric Barton’s — for now

Didn’t the A’s roster activity seem unusually quiet in recent days? That ended today, as first baseman Tommy Everidge was optioned to Triple-A and outfielder/second baseman Eric Patterson was recalled.

It’s a bit of a surprise considering indications were that Everidge and Daric Barton would split time as the A’s evaluated both first base prospects. But Bob Geren pointed out that Patterson provides a versatile option off the bench, especially w/left fielder Scott Hairston nursing a sore quad and center fielder Rajai Davis playing with a fractured thumb.

The big-picture impact is that the A’s want Barton to get the majority of at-bats at first. Asked if Barton is the primary guy at first base for the rest of the season, Geren responded, “Yeah.” He left the door open to Everidge returning when rosters expand, but it’s clear the A’s want to give Barton a hard look. … I wouldn’t read too much into this as far as the A’s plans for next season, because you figure Chris Carter, Sean Doolittle and possibly Brett Wallace will all be in the first base mix in spring training. But Barton gets his chance to leave a strong imprint heading into the offseason, much like Cliff Pennington at shortstop.

Patterson split his latest stint in Sacramento between center field, left field and second base. I see center being his best chance for playing time up here, as Davis could probably use a little rest for his thumb.

–Other newsie bits: Bobby Crosby said his calf feels good after running sprints yesterday. He’s taking today off from running but looks like he could be ready Wednesday, when he’s eligible to come off the DL. … Geren reiterated that Edgar Gonzalez is his preference to start Tuesday at Kansas City, which would set into motion a six-man rotation.

–I’ve mentioned this before about Brett Tomko, who starts tonight: It’s unusual to see a starter, on the day he’s pitching, hang out on the field w/the rest of the team when it comes out to stretch. Starting pitchers typically hole up in the clubhouse until they’re ready to start their pregame throwing. But Tomko seems to enjoy being w/the team. I’ll have to ask him about it …

The lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Cust DH
Hairston LF
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B
Barton 1B
Pennington SS

Tomko RHP

Angels
Figgins 3B
Abreu RF
Hunter CF
Guerrero DH
Rivera LF
Morales 1B
Aybar SS
Kendrick 2B
Mathis C

Bell RHP

0

Eric Chavez addresses the media

Eric Chavez popped onto the field today during batting practice at Safeco Field and chatted w/reporters for a few minutes. He looked good and was in good spirits. His wife, Alex, gave birth to their third child — a boy, Cruz — three weeks ago. So no wonder he’s in a good mood. He’s about two months removed from microdiscectomy surgery on his back, and he began rehab about three weeks ago. Among the highlights from his media chat:

–Chavez has every intention of trying to return to third base, but acknowledged that if it turns out he can only DH, maybe that could extend his career a couple of years. Asked about the possibility of playing first base: “Either way (playing third or first), I’d still be bending over fielding ground balls.”

–He joked that he felt old knowing recently acquired third baseman Brett Wallace considers Chavez his favorite player. He also was very pleased to know Wallace has been hitting well, and said he would offer any defensive tips he could to Wallace.

–Chavez said recovery from this microdiscectomy procedure, his second, was more painful the first few weeks out of surgery than the first one. After his first back surgery — in October 2007 — Chavez said he came into the next season w/too many expectations. This time around, “I’ll try to take advantage of the eight-month recovery” period, which would take him right up to spring training.

–His surgically repaired right shoulder still aches every now and then, and he continues doing rehab for that. But the back is still his main physical concern.

–Asked for his thoughts on how the A’s are playing, Chavez said: “It’s fun to watch. … At least now we’re stealing bases and trying to make things happen.”

There’ll be more to read on Chavez in tomorrow’s notebook …

As for other A’s news:

–Bob Geren said Dallas Braden saw a neurologist, and it was found that a nerve in his left foot is “traumatized.” Rest is the only remedy for it, and there’s no timetable for him to get on a mound. It seems even more likely to me now that Braden may have pitched his last game of 2009, although Geren hopes to get him back, even if it’s only for an appearance or two. He didn’t rule out Braden pitching in relief, if that’s what it took to get him some work. That seems odd to me. I’d think that if it got to that late in the season before Braden was ready, it’d make sense to just shut him down for the winter and make sure he’s fully healed for next season.

–Geren said that, no matter what, he plans to incorporate a six-man rotation after rosters expand. Edgar Gonzalez is a possibility to join the rotation as the sixth guy, but that would probably only happen after some relievers are called up to fortify the bullpen.

Tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Cust DH
Ellis 2B
Sweeney RF
Everidge 1B
Pennington SS

Gonzalez LHP

Mariners
Gutierrez CF
Hannahan 3B
Lopez 2B
Sweeney DH
Hall RF
Branyan 1B
Johnson C
Wilson SS
Saunders LF

French LHP

0

What’s the future hold for A’s offense?

The weather here at the Coliseum was unusually warm last night. Different story tonight, as the wind is already kicking up. It’ll definitely be more chilly. And speaking of chilly, the A’s have certainly cooled off at the plate. What happened to that offensive revival? They’ve scored just 13 runs over the past six games, and haven’t topped three runs in any one of them. Adam Kennedy, who’s been such a catalyst for this team since he was acquired, is hitting just .176 (6-for-34) over his last eight games. And remember, five of those hits came in one game last week against the White Sox.

As encouraging as it’s been recently to see the A’s run wild on the bases, and see players like Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis and Kurt Suzuki take turns getting key hits, let’s not forget that this is still a pretty flawed team offensively when you look ahead to next season. As things stand, I don’t see the A’s being good enough offensively in 2010 to support the young pitchers that are obviously going to be the team’s strength. And as team owner Lew Wolff told Bay Area News Group in this story, he’s not crazy about the A’s bringing in more power hitters from the outside as they tried this year with Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday. Problem is, I don’t know if their best hitting prospects (Chris Carter, Adrian Cardenas, Brett Wallace and Co.) will be ready by next season.

My question for you, A’s fans: When it comes to improving this offense, would you rather see the A’s go out and try to obtain another slugger or two as they tried to do this season, or should they abandon the search for power and build a more speed and run-oriented offense, as they’ve shown signs of doing since the All-Star break?

–Not much pregame news today: Dallas Braden’s left ankle is showing no signs of improvement, according to manager Bob Geren, and you have to wonder if we’ll see him on the mound again this season. At this point, it might be better to shut him down and make sure he’s healthy to start spring training.

Tonight’s lineups, featuring Daric Barton playing first for the A’s for the second straight night:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Sweeney RF
Ellis 2B
Cust DH
Barton 1B
Pennington SS

Cahill RHP

Tigers
Granderson CF
Polanco 2B
Guillen LF
Cabrera 1B
Huff DH
Thomas RF
Inge 3B
AVila C
Santiago SS

Galarraga RHP

0

Chad Gaudin — familiar foe for A’s

Not much in the way of pregame updates today. But I’ll be interested to see how Chad Gaudin looks tonight going against his old Oakland teammates. Big night for the right-hander, as this is his first start for the Yankees since they acquired him in a trade from San Diego. I talked to him during the A’s trip to San Diego in June, when he was still a Padre, and he was disappointed he wasn’t on turn to face the A’s down there. Surely he’ll have some extra adrenaline flowing tonight, just as Brett Tomko did facing the Yankees on Monday night.

Check out the first four hitters in the A’s batting order tonight: Adam Kennedy, Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis, Kurt Suzuki. That’s not exactly a 1-4 sequence you expected back in spring training, eh? Things are a little funky tonight because Scott Hairston isn’t starting (his quad still isn’t 100 percent). And there isn’t a hotter hitter on the A’s than Ellis, so might as well plug him into the “3″ hole for a night. Suzuki, the DH, gets his first career start at cleanup.

–Joey Devine is backing up to 45 feet to play catch tonight. He said a couple days ago that there wasn’t a set date for him to get on the mound. It’ll be baby steps for him as he continues strengthening his elbow after Tommy John surgery.

–Bob Geren said the team has begun discussions about possible September roster call-ups, and that “obviously pitching will be at a premium.” Triple-A infielders Adrian Cardenas and Brett Wallace are swinging hot bats, as is Double-A first baseman Chris Carter. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them gets a ticket to Oakland. I’d be surprised if Carter didn’t at least get a promotion to Sacramento.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s lineups:

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Ellis 2B
Suzuki DH
Sweeney LF
Powell C
Cust RF
Everidge 1B
Pennington SS

Anderson LHP

Yanks
Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
A-Rod 3B
Matsui DH
Swisher RF
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Molina C

Gaudin RHP

0

Sunday update: A’s-Jays

Not much news coming out of A’s headquarters leading up to this afternoon’s game. Same lineup as last night’s, with another lefty, Ricky Romero, on the hill for Toronto.

–Check out this item from espn.com’s Keith Law, who says A’s minor league third baseman Brett Wallace was the best prospect dealt at the trade deadline. Reading it should make you feel better as you watch highlights of Matt Holliday bashing the ball for the Cardinals.

–There’s still no information being offered on Justin Duchscherer after he was scratched from Friday’s start for Triple-A Sacramento.

–It’s going to be interesting to see what the A’s do Tuesday when Jason Giambi is eligible to come off the DL. Manager Bob Geren said this morning that it wasn’t a done deal Giambi would be activated Tuesday, nor was he sure if Giambi (strained right quad) would be physically ready to play. Ask Giambi, however, and he definitely thinks he’ll be ready to roll by Tuesday. The A’s current M.O. is to play their young guys and get a good evaluation of them against major league competition. Will they send Tommy Everidge back to Sacramento to make room for Giambi? Does Daric Barton (strained left hamstring) continue getting regular time when he comes off the DL?

I just don’t see Giambi playing much the rest of the season, given what the A’s are trying to accomplish. …

Today’s lineups:
A’s
Kennedy 3B
Davis CF
Suzuki C
Hairston LF
Cust RF
Everidge DH
Crosby 1B
Ellis 2B
Pennington SS

Mazzaro RHP

Jays
Bautista LF
Hill 2B
Lind DH
Overbay 1B
Wells CF
Rios RF
Encarnacion 3B
Barajas C
McDonald SS

Romero LHP