December 2010

Wimberly headed to Pirates

I just confirmed that speedy infield prospect Corey Wimberly has been dealt to the Pirates in exchange for Minor League right-handed pitcher Ryan Kelly. 

Kelly, a 26th-round Draft pick by the Pirates in 2006, has compiled a 4.74 ERA with 43 walks and 171 strikeouts through 184 innings in 81 games (11 starts) spanning four professional seasons. Most recently, the 23-year-old righty posted a 4.20 ERA while averaging nine strikeouts and 1.7 walks per nine innings through 75 frames in Class-A ball.

Back in action

Rich Harden isn’t the only one making a return. I’ve been on vacation for the past week, a time span which has seemingly felt like several weeks thanks to a multitude of signings while I was gone. I step away from the world of Twitter and blogging for a handful of days, and the A’s proceed to bring in Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, Brandon McCarthy, Philip Humber and Harden. And while I know many of you were hoping I’d stay away until an Adrian Beltre signing got done, I have to say that one’s looking unlikely. Impossible? Not necessarily. I’m not ruling him out until he signs elsewhere, but at this point it appears the A’s have focused their attention elsewhere – hence the ultra-busy week I managed to miss out on.

There’s no doubt Beltre would complete the 2011 A’s package, so to say, but even if Santa ultimately drops him somewhere other than Oakland for Christmas, it’s important to note that this A’s team has improved this winter. They’ve been active from the start, and not all of their division rivals (Texas? Los Angeles?) can say the same. Matsui may be past his prime, but he still poses as a threat and commands the respect of opposing pitchers — something no member of the 2010 A’s team could really do. He’s an on-base machine and has proven himself countless times (several times against the A’s) in clutch situations. Willingham, meanwhile, adds the perfect amount of pop to a much better outfield than the one (well, there were multiple) the A’s threw out last season. He may not have a perfect health record, but who does in Oakland? The A’s may now have the best outfield bench in the league, and Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson offer the club options from both sides of the plate. Any team can have depth, but this one’s got above-average depth.

McCarthy and Harden likely don’t have you jumping for joy, especially given their injury history, but they give the club options — both in the rotation and in the bullpen. It should make for an interesting Spring Training and yet another intriguing fifth starter competition.

Despite last week’s madness, I doubt the A’s are done from adding and subtracting from their roster, even though the addition of Harden puts them at the 40-man mark.

I know I’m late to the party, but I’m still open to your thoughts on the newest green and gold members…  

Rule 5 results

A total of
19 clubs participated in the Major League phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, none of which
decided to take players within the A’s organization. There was thinking that
speedy outfielder Corey Wimberly could represent a possible choice for other
teams, but he proved safe by morning’s end.

The A’s, meanwhile, chose not to participate in the Major League portion. But in the Minor
League phase, they gained right-hander Jeiler Castillo from the Houston
Astros’ organization. Castillo owns a career 10-12 record with a 3.89 ERA in 82
games — 13 starts — over 201.1 innings in five professional seasons.

Oakland also lost two of their own hurlers in the Minor League portion, as they
watched the Angels take righty Daniel Sattler and the Phillies choose right-hander
Justin Friend.

The Rule 5 Draft signals an ending to the Winter Meetings here in Florida. Most A’s officials, including assistant general manager David Forst, have already left. Unlike other clubs such as the Red Sox, the A’s didn’t make any splashes here this week. However, they were involved in numerous talks and I would imagine a deal to take place in the next week or so.

A’s, Iwakuma fail to reach deal

Oakland’s unsuccessful attempts at luring in available players has officially extended to the international realm.

Having already watched targets Lance Berkman and Adam Dunn head elsewhere, not to mention Adrian Beltre spurn a hefty offer to come to Oakland for a second straight year, the A”s on Monday announced that they did not reach a deal with Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who will return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Pacific League.

Thus, Oakland will get back its $19.1 million posting fee, which gave the club a 30-day negotiating period with the hurler. The result of Monday’s deadline day, which came in the midst of the annual Winter Meetings, was more or less expected. Talks between the two sides stalled midway through the process by way of large financial differences, and they never appeared to amount to anything close to a done deal.

“We would like to express our appreciation to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for the opportunity to negotiate with Mr. Iwakuma, and we regret that an agreement could not be reached by today’s deadline,” A’s general manager Billy Beane said in a statement. “In this instance, the player was in a unique situation, being only one year away from free agency, and we fully respect and understand his position.”

Iwakuma and his agent, Don Nomura, were reportedly asking for a contract that would average $12 million per season over three years — numbers that reflect the earnings of fellow Japanese pitchers Hiroki Kuroda (three years, $35.3 million) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (six years, $52 million).

However, the A’s were said to have offered $15.25 million over four years — factoring in the posting fee cost — as a “take it or leave it” approach. By leaving it, Iwakuma will stay in Japan and become a free agent at the end of the 2011 season.

Now, the A’s could potentially reach out to the open market for a fifth starter, likely of the middle-aged veteran type. They also already have several in-house candidates for the final rotation spot, including Tyson Ross, Josh Outman and Bobby Cramer.

The club is also presumably primed to use its remaining funds to bring in free agents in an ongoing effort to bolster the offense. With Beltre out of the picture, the A’s are destined to turn their focus toward other available hitters — a group that could potentially include Hideki Matsui, Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee and Nick Johnson.

Iwakuma update: 11th hour deal?

If a deal between the A’s and Iwakuma does go through, it would indeed be an 11th hour deal. The two parties have yet to speak today, though it’s important to note that the day just started in Japan, so it’s not out of question that the pitcher and his agent could suddenly change their minds and come to an agreement. Is that likely? No. Even Billy Beane said “it would be a surprise” if, between now and 12 a.m. ET, a deal was reached. It sounds as if the A’s would like to take matters into their own hands and officially call things off, but they hadn’t done so as of 6 p.m. ET, when Beane met with local reporters in his suite. Thus, he is still not commenting on the matter. But, I think we can all come to our own conclusions and deem this a dead issue. Beane did say that, if Iwakuma chooses to stay in Japan, the team could be primed for adding an outside starter to the mix — more of a second-tier guy.

Stay tuned.

Iwakuma update: Talks reportedly still ongoing

Greetings from Orlando. The A’s have until 9 p.m. PT — 12 a.m. ET here at the Winter Meetings — to sign Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. Talks are reportedly still ongoing, but there is no indication that the two sides are close to finalizing a contract. My understanding is that Iwakuma does need to have a physical done by the time of the deadline (which has yet to happen) if a deal is reached, a notion that was confirmed by a Major League source. That ruling could be lenient, though — I’m not entirely sure. The A’s are still not commenting on the situation and don’t plan to until negotiations are complete. I wouldn’t be surprised if the club uses every possible minute up until that deadline, though an announcement could seemingly come as early as 6 p.m. ET, when Billy Beane is scheduled to meet with reporters. I believe both sides are focused on getting a deal done, but money seems to be talking here — and Iwakuma’s agent wants lots of it.

Updated: According to the Mainchini Daily News, Iwakuma is scheduled to give a press conference Wednesday in Japan announcing his return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. “Oakland put a four-year, $15.25 million offer on the table for Iwakuma
on Nov. 19 and basically told him to take it or leave it,” the Daily News said. “Iwakuma’s
camp believed that the terms were below the pitcher’s worth and showed
a lack of sincerity, leading to a breakdown in talks.” However, the report did note that talks are still ongoing.

More updates to come as the day continues…  

Watching the clock …

The A’s now have less than five hours to decide whether to tender contracts to their 10 arbitration-eligible players. The top non-tender candidates: Jack Cust, Travis Buck, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Edwin Encarnacion. Much of these decisions will depend on the club’s attitude toward their ability to sign Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman, both of whom are strongly being pursued by the A’s. Adam Dunn was said to be in that mix at the beginning of the day, but his name has been wiped off the board with several reports confirming he’s headed to the Chicago White Sox. That takes away the offseason’s biggest power threat, but Dunn’s contract is expected to be near the total amount of the cost of Beltre and Berkman combined — the latter who is looking for a one- or two-year deal that could be worth around $12-14 million total. If the A’s happen to land both players, which would be quite the feat, they are all but guaranteed to nontender Cust and either Kouzmanoff or Encarnacion. The official deadline for these decisions is 9 p.m. PT.

Stay tuned.