Inbox: A's thinking long term with outfielders?
Beat reporter Jane Lee fields questions from fans
I'm excited about the A's new additions this offseason and really think the team could win the American League West. However, the A's entire starting outfield, designated hitter and second baseman will all be free agents after next season. Any chance some of these guys stay around long-term?
-- Matt A., Chico, Calif.
It doesn't appear that way at the moment, though general manager Billy Beane has mentioned being open to the possibility of teaming with David DeJesus and Josh Willingham for more than just a year. It seems it would have made sense to lock up at least one of them for at least two seasons when they were acquired, but Beane and Co. may already be picturing a 2012 outfield that boasts Chris Carter, Michael Taylor and Ryan Sweeney. As for the other outfielder to whom you're referring, Coco Crisp could stand to be a little too expensive for Oakland's liking by season's end.
It's also important to remember that all three of these guys endured lengthy stints on the disabled list last year, and health is one of the key assets of inking a long-term deal. Second baseman Mark Ellis, meanwhile, may in fact be preparing for his final season in green and gold if Oakland decides to go younger, though I know he'd love to finish his career with the A's. And Hideki Matsui, no matter how potent of a year he puts together, is likely headed for the open market once again next winter.
The A's are rather picky when it comes to long-term contracts, and they appear to be in favor of locking up their young pitching talent at the moment. Brett Anderson and battery mate Kurt Suzuki got their four-year deals last season, and Trevor Cahill is likely next in line. Pitching is what has this team primed for playoff contention, so the A's aren't about to sacrifice their future on the mound by handing away cash to higher-priced older players whose benefits are only of the short-term type.
Everyone seems to be writing off Ryan Sweeney for the right-field position. He has put in his time and proven himself at this level, and neither outfield acquisition has proven to be better or have more potential. Is there any reason for this other than not knowing if he will return to form after his knee surgery?
-- Mike S., Sacramento, Calif.
It's not really fair to categorize Willingham and DeJesus that way when they have a combined 12 years of Major League experience, compared to Sweeney's three. In no way am I attempting to downplay Sweeney's talent, because it's definitely there. But his high-average swing comes without power, something the A's desperately needed last year.
DeJesus doesn't exactly exude much power, either, but he's an all-around player with some speed who hit .318 with five homers and 37 RBIs in 91 games for the Royals before missing the final two months of the 2010 campaign. He was highly coveted around the Trade Deadline before the onset of a thumb injury because of those numbers, and he is well respected around the league.
Willingham, meanwhile, can provide the club with some right-handed pop, having averaged 20 home runs and 66 RBIs over the past five seasons. Both have potential to be impact players, and Sweeney could benefit greatly from learning from them while at the same time offering a quality bat and glove off the bench.
Have a question about the A's?
E-mail your query to MLB.com A's beat reporter Jane Lee for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
With all of these relievers coming in, is there any reason to believe that Beane might be working to trade away Andrew Bailey? I know you've mentioned how important bullpen depth is, given the team's recent injury history, but might they have enough depth now to use to land another hitter?
-- Greg D., Westlake Village, Calif.
I'm guessing you're not the only one who has given thought to this idea, Greg. It's well-known by now that Beane essentially creates his closers rather than shop for them, a notion which definitely makes Bailey expendable. The righty represents pretty decent trade bait, possibly for another offensive addition in the form of an infielder. That being said, I think there's reason to believe it's a possibility -- but nothing more at this point. I'm still sold on the fact the A's are simply trying to stock up on bullpen depth after watching the 2010 domino effect on which injured arms had on healthy ones.
It seems like we haven't heard much about Carter this offseason. Wasn't he supposed to play winter ball? If he starts the year at Triple-A, which seems likely, when do you think he'll get another chance in Oakland?
-- Ben G., Phoenix, Ariz.
Carter was supposed to play winter ball, but a sore left thumb kept him away from baseball action for much of the offseason. However, I'm told he was deemed 100 percent in December, leaving him plenty of time to prepare for what should be a telling Spring Training. Carter's currently destined for the Minors in April because of Oakland's heavy outfield crop, but the A's might have to get creative to keep him on board should he have a stellar spring. There's no telling when he'll join The Show if he starts the season in Sacramento, though it might not be too long If Oakland's injury-prone ways continue.
Am I the only one who thinks the A's need to pick up the phone and call the Rangers to see what they want for Michael Young? He would slide into third base, and we would have a great team. Just marinate on that for a minute.
-- Angel D., Texas
It's not a bad thought, whether marinated for one minute or 15, but Texas is intent on keeping Young around despite snagging Adrian Beltre. The veteran infielder is entering his 11th season with the Rangers, with whom he's signed through 2013, and he's already openly expressed his willingness to move from the hot corner to accommodate Beltre. Even if Texas was to make him expendable, I doubt the A's would show serious interest. Young's got a great amount of pop, but he's a below-average defender.