Last offseason the A’s acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff from the Padres in the hopes he’d be their long-term answer at third base, but after a career-worst season that saw him hit just .247 with a measly .679 OPS the team claimed Edwin Encarnacion off waivers and made a big offer to free agent Adrian Beltre.
Oakland eventually non-tendered Encarnacion and Beltre signed an $80 million deal with the Rangers, but the team’s pursuit of other third basemen left Kouzmanoff with a bruised ego and questions about his future with the A’s.
Here’s some of what Kouzmanoff told Jane Lee of MLB.com about the situation:
I knew the A’s had some money to spend. Beltre’s a good ballplayer, and he was in high demand. There I am kind of sitting off to the side thinking, “Where do I fit? Obviously, the A’s don’t really like me that much at third base if they’re trying to get another third baseman.” But at the same time, I’m also realizing it’s just business, and if they can lock someone down for a certain number of years, an All-Star third baseman who can hit 25 to 30 home runs in the Coliseum, then I really have no say in it.
I think if they were happy with me at third base, they wouldn’t consider going out and getting someone else. I knew for sure that if they were going to get Beltre that I was gone. I’m still here, though, and I want to do the best I can. I’ve worked hard this offseason. I’m hitting baseballs, trying to get faster, getting in good shape. I want to prove to them that I can play third base just as good as anybody else. I feel great.
All things considered Kouzmanoff has handled the situation pretty well, and made it clear to Lee that he was as disappointed as anyone with his performance last season. Oakland may have missed out on Beltre and decided against keeping Encarnacion, but if Kouzmanoff doesn’t bounce back significantly this season they’ll likely cut him loose next winter regardless of the other options at third base. He’s due for a raise to $4-5 million via arbitration this year and would be even more expensive in 2012.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.