Did the A’s really make that five-year, $64M offer to Beltre?

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It’s still pretty early in the offseason and most top tier free agents won’t sign for another couple of weeks.  Or months. The hot stove, however, is always burning.

Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported two weeks ago that the A’s made a five-year, $64 million offer to free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.  We’ve heard nothing about the proposal since, which has Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wondering whether that report might have been incorrect.

According to Cafardo, A’s GM Billy Beane “supposedly was a little baffled” when news of the offer came out.

The A’s are trying to improve their offense this winter, but they don’t typically shell out long-term deals to high-priced free agents and the timing of the offer seemed odd.  Beane and Co. may be interested in acquiring Beltre, who registered a .321/.365/.553 batting line, 28 homers and 102 RBI in 2010, but it sounds like they’re not being aggressive as previously thought.

If Oakland doesn’t add Beltre, Kevin Kouzmanoff is likely to open the 2011 season at third base.  He hit just .247/.283/.396 over 551 at-bats this past year, though he did find a way to tally 17 home runs and 71 RBI while playing seriously good defense at the hot corner.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉