Power moves: A's target big bat in free agency
Acquisitions of DeJesus, Encarnacion also provide trade bait
The A's last week jump-started the Hot Stove season by moving quickly in directions unforeseen. As a result, they're suddenly -- and surprisingly -- equipped with an additional outfielder and an extra third baseman. Oh, and they're in the process of negotiating with a starting pitcher.
Yet none of these moves -- involving David DeJesus, Edwin Encarnacion and Hisashi Iwakuma, respectively -- fit the blueprint for an offseason map many assumed would be drawn out in Oakland this winter. This is a team loaded with glamorous pitching and defense, seemingly lacking nothing more than a couple big bats, after all. So has general manager Billy Beane simply started a game of dominoes?
When the A's won bidding rights to negotiate with Iwakuma, a righty from Japan, the thought was that the hurler would lend the team a surplus of pitching that would allow it flexibility when trading for a needed power bat. Two days later, the A's shipped some of that pitching (Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks) for DeJesus, who is a quality outfielder but lacks that mentioned power.
Fast-forward another two days, and the A's decided to pick up Encarnacion off waivers from Toronto. He surely can hit, but his glove is susceptible to error, and his presence means above-average defender Kevin Kouzmanoff's status is in limbo. There's a chance Encarnacion could DH or at least share those duties with a player to be named later, but there's also a chance Oakland is just a pit stop for him this winter.
The same can be said of DeJesus, as both new acquisitions could merely represent nothing more than upgraded trade bait and subsequently be flipped. So what does this all mean for the A's? Offseason maneuvering has just begun, and it's far from done.
Beane is set to add run producers, and it's a safe bet he'll be chatting up trade possibilities and ponder free-agent signings with his peers at the annual General Managers Meetings in Orlando this week in an effort to do so. The A's GM has a long-standing policy of not discussing free agents, but it's no secret there are a handful that would be attractive to the A's. Here's a look at possible targets:
Lance Berkman, DH: Berkman's name has already been linked to the A's, who are on the hunt for a productive DH. He's a switch-hitter with obvious power, and he's expected to come at a reasonable price. But he's also shown struggles from the right side in recent years and has battled consistency. The A's won't be able to be as picky as high-earning teams, meaning Berkman may be a real possibility. But can he bounce back from a forgettable 2010 season?
Hideki Matsui, DH: Matsui will be advertised as is -- a veteran who can help a team in need of a left-handed DH with power. He's a selective hitter who can still drive in runs with the best of 'em, and he can also play some left field if need be. Sounds like an upgrade to Jack Cust, which wouldn't be a bad thing for this team. Iwakuma's pending presence could also help lure him to Oakland.
Vladimir Guerrero, DH: How sweet it would be if Guerrero decided to continue his tour with the American League West in Oakland next year? He proved last season he still represents a true power threat, and the A's would gladly put his bat to use. But Texas wants him back, and it's hard to imagine either party going in a different direction.
Adam Dunn, 1B/DH: Dunn would prefer to play first base or even the outfield, but his shaky defense would likely lead the A's to use him in the DH spot and keep Daric Barton on the bag. Then again, if the A's are given any shot with Dunn, who is expected to get several hefty offers, they'd have to at least entertain the idea of playing him on the field. Money talks, and the A's might not have enough of it for this one.
Adrian Beltre, 3B: Never mind that the A's attempts at bringing Beltre to Oakland failed last year. Expect them to try again, even if nearly a dozen other teams will be making bids as well. Beltre, with help from another bat -- likely in the DH form -- has the power, by many definitions, to help the A's become a serious contender. He's pricey but considered to be worth every penny.
Outfielder Jayson Werth and first baseman Paul Konerko are also dreamy options, but considering each player's wish list of years and salaries, both fall under the long-shot category. Nevertheless, stay tuned.