General manager Billy Beane and agent Matt Sosnick both agree that free agent Josh Willingham is unlikely to re-sign with the A’s.
Sosnick told Joe Stiglich of the San Jose Mercury News that Willingham will probably be looking for a three-year contract and “I just don’t think that’s the position the A’s are in right now.”
Beane described the A’s as being “in wait-and-see mode” regarding Willingham and their other free agents, in part because he’s waiting to hear back from MLB regarding a potential new ballpark in San Jose. However, because Willingham is a Type A free agent and the A’s want draft picks if he signs elsewhere Beane will definitely offer him arbitration.
Willingham stands out as one of the few impact bats in a weak year for free agent corner outfielders, posting an OPS above .800 for the sixth straight season despite a modest .246 batting average. Many teams would love to add Willingham’s right-handed bat coming off a 29-homer season, but at age 33 a three-year contract from a team that also has to give up a draft pick might be wishful thinking.
Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.
Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.
To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.