UPDATE: Buster Olney of ESPN.com says it’s a done deal, pending physical exams.
UPDATE #2: Rosenthal says the minor leaguers are reliever Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown. Neither are considered top prospects, but Rodriguez has a high-90s fastball and big-time strikeout totals in the minors. It’s a pretty good haul for Willingham.
Earlier this week Oakland signed Hideki Matsui to replace Jack Cust as designated hitter and now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the A’s “are in serious discussions to obtain” Josh Willingham from the Nationals for “two minor leaguers.”
Rosenthal writes that Willingham would play primarily left field for the A’s, who would be taking a big hit defensively in order to add his right-handed bat to the lineup.
Willingham batted .268/.389/.459 with 16 homers in 114 games for the Nationals before undergoing knee surgery in mid-August, basically matching his career averages, and is set to earn about $6 million or so in his final season of arbitration eligibility.
Washington has been linked to nearly every free agent first baseman, so the fact that they’re aggressively shopping Willingham is no surprise, but it’s odd that the Nationals apparently have zero interest in simply playing Willingham at first base. He played there some in the minors and is as good offensively as any free agent they’ll be able to sign, but it’s seemingly never be an option.
Toronto placed Edwin Encarnacion on waivers in mid-November and he was claimed by Oakland only to non-tendered three weeks later. And now he’s back with the Blue Jays, agreeing to a one-year, $2.5 million deal with a 2012 team option worth $3.5 million.
It was an odd little journey for Encarnacion, but basically the moves boiled down to the Blue Jays not wanting to give him a raise on his $4.75 million salary via arbitration. Instead of non-tendering him they placed him on waivers and the A’s essentially let him sit on the 40-man roster for a few weeks while they decided what to do at third base, eventually agreeing that he wasn’t worth $5 million.
Ultimately it looks like a smart series of events for the Blue Jays, as they retain Encarnacion for about half of what he would’ve made through the arbitration process and also get a reasonable 2012 option out of the deal.
Encarnacion has proven to be a pretty awful defensive third baseman, but Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports that the Blue Jays will likely use him mostly as a first baseman and designated hitter. His offense has also been inconsistent, but Encarnacion has averaged 25 homers per 550 at-bats for his career and should be good for an OPS around .800 if healthy. As usual, Jack Black is very excited about the re-signing:
Rich Harden and the A’s have agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million in guaranteed money and another $1.5 million in potential incentives, according to a major league source.
Harden, who was drafted by the A’s in 2000 and pitched in Oakland from 2003 to mid-2008, returns after stints with the Cubs and Rangers.
He hasn’t been injury free for an entire season since way back in 2004 and for the first time this year Harden’s performance suffered even when he was healthy enough to pitch, as he went 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA and 75/62 K/BB ratio in 92 innings for the Rangers, who bumped him from the rotation and then left him off the postseason roster.
His average fastball velocity dropped to a career-low 90.5 miles per hour this year and has gradually declined from his peak of 94.3 and 94.4 mph in 2004 and 2005, so the longstanding belief that Harden is capable of making a huge impact if he can just stay healthy is also now in plenty of doubt. Still, the price is right and Harden was 36-19 with a 3.42 ERA and 523 strikeouts in 542 innings for the A’s the first time around.
In addition to being on the verge of signing Hideki Matsui the A’s are also “closing in on finishing a deal” with Brandon McCarthy, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
McCarthy has a lengthy injury history and was limited to 56 innings this season–all in the minors–because of a stress fracture in his shoulder, but last month there were reports of at least a half-dozen teams scouting him in the Dominican winter league and McCarthy pitched well there.
He’s still just 27 years old and in between all the injuries McCarthy has a 4.56 ERA in 373 career innings despite calling a pair of hitter-friendly ballparks home in Texas and Chicago, so if healthy he should like pitching in Oakland.
UPDATE: The Athletics just announced that they have agreed to terms with McCarthy on a one-year contract. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the deal is worth $1 million guaranteed, plus some additional incentives.
Oakland left the winter meetings empty handed despite several attempts to make a big splash, which has Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle thinking that the A’s will turn their attention to signing Hideki Matsui.
Matsui’s agent, Arn Tellem, told Slusser that he expects to begin fielding offers over the weekend and indicated that Matsui might be ready to sign as soon as early next week.
Whether or not it’ll be with Oakland is unclear, but Matsui has expressed an interest in remaining on the West Coast following a one-year stint with the Angels and the A’s have been linked to him since missing out on their No. 1 designated hitter target, Lance Berkman.
Matsui signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Angels last winter and hit .274/.361/.459 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs in 145 games as their primary DH.