A's Still Mulling Next Steps

Most of the Oakland A's major league players convened at the team's minor league facility in Phoenix on Dec. 12 so that the medical and training staffs could get an accurate picture of the team's health.

The unusual get-together, the first-ever for the A's during the offseason months, could help determine what general manager Billy Beane does next.

Beane continues to be plied with offers for right-hander Dan Haren, with numerous clubs calling and Arizona and Cleveland considered among the top potential trade partners. Arizona is dangling packages of either four prospects or five prospects for the A's to choose from, while Cleveland's proposal is believed to include fewer players but potentially slightly better pitching prospects. The Indians are highly unlikely to move second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, however.

The Reds are among the other teams that have called, but the A's aren't all that interested in Cincinnati pitcher Homer Bailey, and indications are that the Reds won't part with top young outfielder Jay Bruce. Oakland also has considered offers for Joe Blanton, and the price tag for the right-handed starter might have dipped a bit after the response to the A's demands for Blanton was tepid at best during the winter meetings in Nashville.

If Beane is convinced that his club will enter 2008 at essentially full strength, however, he might be tempted to keep the core group together. That means, as it does annually, that Rich Harden's health is a major consideration. The talented starter has missed much of the past three seasons with various injuries, but he has been working out at the team's Phoenix facility, and he said he "feels good." He sees Oakland trainers Steve Sayles and Walt Horn every day.

Harden said he will start throwing in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, he's concentrating on his shoulder exercises and his core work. (Harden said he has seen third baseman Eric Chavez at the complex and he said that Chavez, who is coming off two shoulder surgeries and a lower-back surgery since the end of the season, is "looking really good.")

Blanton and shortstop Bobby Crosby were excused from the Phoenix confab -- which included fitness tests as well as physicals -- because of their December weddings. Both will check in with the medical staff at later dates.

Initial reports from the gathering were good, according to assistant GM David Forst, but the front office was waiting for the comprehensive results from the medical staff. The A's used the disabled list 22 times last season, and injuries to many of their regulars decimated their hopes of contending.

Stewart and Piazza Decline Arbitration
Oakland's major free agents, OF Shannon Stewart and DH Mike Piazza, both declined arbitration, as expected. The A's have some interest in bringing Stewart back; he was an excellent fit for the team both on the field and in the clubhouse, but the outfielder is likely to get a better offer elsewhere after demonstrating that he was healthy all year. There was no interest shown in Piazza at the recent winter meetings, and a source close to him said he is unlikely to play in Japan, despite reports that Piazza might do so. The best bet at this point is retirement, barring a late offer from an attractive team before spring training.

Halsey Waiting For Grievance To Be Heard
LHP Brad Halsey said that his grievance against the A's, which is based on the injury he believed he incurred during big-league camp last spring before being sent to the minors, has not yet been heard. Halsey believes that the A's sent him down while injured in order to avoid paying his big-league salary, a decision that also cost him major league service time. Halsey was taken off the A's roster after the season but went unclaimed, so he is still the team's property. He had season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder and began throwing again recently but had a setback. He plans to resume throwing on Dec. 17.

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