Oakland A's Notes From The Winter Meetings

At midnight on Monday, it appeared that the Oakland A's were on the verge of making a big move for an outfielder. By Tuesday, it seemed that a trade was no sure thing. However, there were a few other developments around the meetings that may have an impact on future dealings for the A's. We review Tuesday's developments and news from the Winter Meetings.

On Monday evening, the Internet world was aflutter with the news that both a Sacramento and a Las Vegas television station were reporting that the A's and Los Angeles Dodgers had completed a trade that was to send outfielder Milton Bradley to Oakland for fifth starter Kirk Saarloos and minor league left-hander Mario Ramos. For many A's fans, the news seemed to good to be true that Oakland could be acquiring a talent on the magnitude of Bradley for a fifth starter with a poor K/9 ratio and a minor league pitcher who had been a free agent only a few weeks earlier.

As it turned out, the trade was too good to be true, as it ended up not being true at all. Come Tuesday evening, and many outlets were reporting that the Chicago Cubs were now the front-runners for Bradley's services and that the A's and Dodgers were no longer in negotiations. So where does the truth lie? It's hard to say. One thing is certainly true about the Winter Meetings and that is that trades and signings can be as fluid as the Mississippi River after a wet winter. What seems close at one moment can fall apart the next. And an abandoned trade or signing could re-emerge in just a moment's time.

So while it looks unlikely from the outside that the A's will acquire Bradley, I'd still put the odds of the A's acquiring Bradley at 50/50. It appears that the Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates are the two other teams most interested in Bradley. However, the Pirates made a big acquisition on Tuesday, nabbing first baseman Sean Casey from the Cincinnati Reds. Although the Pirates will get roughly $2 million to help off-set Casey's salary, it isn't clear how much more money they will be looking to spend this off-season.

The Cubs appear to be chasing both Bradley and Marlins' outfielder Juan Pierre, although it is unclear whether the Cubs are interested in having both players or just one. There were rumors much of Tuesday that Pierre was headed to Chicago, but as of late Tuesday evening, it appeared that rumor had as much truth as the "Bradley to Oakland" rumor from the night before.

Leaving the Bradley-chase aside, there were some other rumblings about the A's emanating from Dallas. ESPN reporter Peter Gammons was reporting all day that the A's were aggressively pursuing free agent and future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Gammons went so far as to say that Thomas would be signing with the A's once the arbitration deadline passed on Wednesday evening. In fact, GM Billy Beane did confirm that the A's met with Thomas and his agent and were impressed with what they saw. While it remains to be seen if the A's do actually get Thomas to sign on the dotted line, the signing would make a lot of sense for Oakland.

Although Thomas is a health risk, he would greatly improve the A's offense even if he was to appear in as few as 100 games. Thomas would likely assume the role on the roster that Scott Hatteberg held once first baseman Dan Johnson emerged as the everyday first baseman and Jay Payton was acquired, pushing Bobby Kielty into part-time DH duty. Thomas also shouldn't be much more expensive then Hatteberg was in 2005 since his health is such a question mark. One would assume that the A's would not stop at Thomas to improve their offense, but it is hard to see what direction the A's are headed in sometimes.

Which leads us to the next A's rumor of the day, which was, without question, the head-scratcher of the afternoon. Around noon Pacific Time, Gammons also reported that the A's were the front-runners in the "race" for the services of Boston Red Sox left-hander David Wells, who has asked Boston to send him back to California, preferably to his home, San Diego. Gammons indicated that the deal might involve Oakland sending bullpen ace Justin Duchscherer to Beantown for Wells. This rumor really came out of leftfield, especially considering the A's obvious "over-abundance" of starting pitching. This rumor hasn't gone anywhere since Gammons' report, so we can assume that it is a red herring from someone's camp at this point.

At the end of the day, Beane departed the meetings, leaving the A's under the charge of Assistant GM David Forst. Although Beane's absence doesn't guarantee that the A's will remain idle for the remainder of the meetings, it does lessen the possibility that the A's will make a move. It also appears more and more likely that Barry Zito will return to Oakland in 2006. The A's won't deal the ace unless they get a big bounty for him, but most teams are unwilling to give up great players for a one-year rental. Zito's free agency price tag has sky-rocketed with the recent signing of A.J. Burnett and the purported deals being offered to Kevin Millwood and Matt Morris. Consequently, Zito will likely not be in the price range for the majority of the teams, which will discourage them from making an aggressive bid for the lefty. Desperation could change the mind of a few teams pushing to win in 2006, but, for now, it appears the Zito talk is cooling.

In other, non-trade related news, ESPNews reported that A's great Rickey Henderson has officially decided to hang up his cleats at the age of 46. Henderson, who in the all-time leader in stolen bases for a career and a single season and the all-time leader in runs scored, will be a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. Arguably the greatest lead-off hitter in baseball history, Henderson finished his Major League career with 3,081 games played, 3,055 hits, 297 homers, a .401 on-base percentage, 1,115 runs batted in and 1,406 stolen bases. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2008 since he last played in the majors in 2003 for the Dodgers. Henderson spent the last two seasons playing in the Independent Leagues, hoping for one more shot at the bigs. Instead, he ends his career with an even quarter-century in the majors.

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