A's Front Office Q&A: Farhan Zaidi, P.3

In the final portion of our three-part interview with Oakland A's Baseball Operations Analyst Farhan Zaidi, we discuss the competition for the 2008 starting rotation, the possibility of trading Joe Blanton, the projections for Chris Denorfia, the health of Mark Kotsay and more...

For part one of this interview, please click here. For part two, please click here.

OaklandClubhouse: How do you see that rotation battle working out? Will Dana Eveland and Greg Smith be competing with Dallas Braden, Dan Meyer and Lenny DiNardo for those final couple of spots?

Farhan Zaidi: Yeah, and it could be even more wide-open than that when you consider that [Justin] Duchscherer is coming back from a fairly serious hip injury – he's doing very well from all of our reports, but you never know. And [Chad] Gaudin, it just recently came out that he had hip surgery as well. His timetable for recovery is three months, so he could be ready [by Opening Day], but you just never know with these things. It could be pretty wide-open and guys will have the opportunity to really step up, especially early in the year.

OC: With Joe Blanton, I know that the team has said that there is no pressure to trade him, but do you view him as the guy you'd like to see as the A's Opening Day starter this year or are you looking at the opportunity to move him in an effort to get even younger than Joe?

FZ: We like Joe Blanton a lot. There is sort of this perception of him as being sort of an innings-eater type starter. We think he's a lot better than that. He's a guy who has had a sub-4.00 ERA in the AL in two of the past three years. He doesn't walk anybody and he doesn't give up any homeruns. His groundball tendencies have improved and he's a guy who goes deep into ballgames. In fact, he goes deep into ballgames more than Haren did over the past year.

We see him as a guy who could be a part of the long-term solution here and there is no desire and certainly no urgency to move him. Again, going back to what I said about Haren, the organizational depth and health that we are looking at, we have to look at everything. There is certainly no sense that because we traded Haren, we have to trade Blanton. That is absolutely not the thinking at all. Beyond that, we view Blanton as much more than an innings-eater and if other clubs out there just view him as an innings-eater, there won't be a trade to be made. We are comfortable with that. We are comfortable with our evaluation of him and we are willing to consider anything, but we certainly don't feel any urgency.

OC: The team has signed a number of minor league free agents this off-season such as Justin Knoedler, Todd Linden and Brooks Conrad. How does the team decide what minor league free agents to go after?

FZ: Over the last couple of months of the season, we keep an eye on guys who might become minor league free agents in the off-season. Certainly once the season ends and we see that list, we put a lot of thought into what guys we want to target. This year, with our health issues and with the possibility that we might be making some moves, we wanted to go out and make sure that we had organizational depth in terms of position players and pitchers.

For us, there are guys out there like Linden and Casey Rogowski and Brooks Conrad we've liked for a long time and we've never had the opportunity to acquire. This is a chance to get them in the organization and if the opportunity opens up, to give them an extended big league opportunity which is a lot of times the only thing that stands between these guys and having a big league career is having the opportunity. It's definitely something we pay a lot of attention to and we also are looking to improve the competitiveness of our minor league clubs, which is important to us. You never know when one of those guys winds up being a contributor to the big league team.

OC: What do you see Chris Denorfia bringing to the club this season?

FZ: We like him a lot. We view him as an everyday player. He's a lot older, but I think he falls into that same category as [Aaron] Cunningham. He doesn't have one real standout tool, but he is a guy who can just do everything. He can run and he can play a good centerfield. He can play a very good corner outfield. He has some extra-base power and he will hit some homers for you. Just the overall package is very enticing. He is recovering very well from his arm surgery. We've been keeping close tabs on him. He's going to be ready for spring training. He'll have every opportunity to earn a lot of even regular playing time in the outfield.

OC: Is Mark Kotsay looking like he'll be healthy at the start of the season or is he being delayed?

FZ: He is. In fact, when we had the recent health summit in Phoenix, our trainers noted that he looked really good. He had actually lost quite a bit of weight and muscle mass over the past year because of his back surgery and the limitations that that entailed in terms of physical activity. He's been able to hit the weights a lot harder this off-season and built his body back up. They said he looks great and we fully expect him to be healthy and ready to go in the spring.

OC: Was that an interesting atmosphere to get everyone together in one room in the middle of the off-season for the health summit?

FZ: Actually David [Forst] and myself ultimately wound-up staying here because we were engaged in trade talks with Arizona at the time. In hindsight, I think you can look back and say what was unusual is that we hadn't done this in the past. It's so important to keep track of these guys and even with the average team with average health issues, but especially in our case with all of the health issues that we have had with guys who have had off-season surgeries, with guys who are coming off of surgeries like Denorfia and Kotsay, in hindsight it seems like an obvious move. We are definitely happy that we did it.

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