A's To Go Shopping In Vegas

It hasn't been often over the last 10 years that the Oakland A's have been shoppers at the annual Winter Meetings, but this year, the team is expected to be in pursuit of a few free agents.

Randy Johnson could finish his career close to home -- in Oakland.

The 6-foot-10 left-hander isn't ready to shut it down. In fact, one of his agents, Barry Meister, said 10 teams made contact regarding the Big Unit, who's 45 but won 11 games and posted a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts for the Diamondbacks.

Johnson grew up not far from the Oakland Coliseum. He's from the East Bay -- born in Walnut Creek and a graduate of Livermore High School.

"There definitely would be interest," Meister said of a Johnson-A's match, categorizing talks with the A's as "preliminary."

Meister said the other Bay Area team, the Giants, are interested, too.

The A's lack experience in the rotation. The ace is Justin Duchscherer, who got his first taste of starting in 2008 after relieving for six years. The other starters are Dana Eveland, Gio Gonzalez and Sean Gallagher, all with extremely limited experience.

Johnson has nothing but experience.

He has won five Cy Young awards and has struck out more batters than any pitcher not named Nolan Ryan. He appears affordable, too, after coming off a two-year, $26 million contract. A one-year deal is likely, and so is a pay cut.

In his career at the Coliseum, Johnson is 8-3 with a 3.54 ERA. He is familiar with the AL West, having spent a chunk of his early career with the Seattle Mariners.

Other News and Notes

--SS Rafael Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer, put contract talks on hold in the week before the winter meetings, but he was expected to meet with A's GM Billy Beane during the Dec. 8-11 meetings in Las Vegas. Beane already took the free agent to lunch in Furcal's recent visit to Oakland. Furcal is seeking a four-year deal.

--SS Bobby Crosby could be traded, especially if the A's sign Rafael Furcal. Crosby played 145 games last season, the first time in four years he played more than 100 games. But he hit just .237, one point below his career average, and the A's, with perhaps the weakest offense in the AL, need more people putting up bigger numbers. Crosby's career average after All-Star breaks is .211.

--The A's decided against offering arbitration to any of their free agents, including LHP Alan Embree, RHP Keith Foulke, DH Frank Thomas and OF Emil Brown. The team won't receive compensatory draft picks if or when the players sign elsewhere. The A's had some interest in retaining Embree but chose not to exercise his 2009 option.

--Hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo left the A's and joined the Mariners' staff as third-base coach. He was picked up by new manager Don Wakamatsu, who was Oakland's bench coach in 2008. Whichever coach replaces Van Burkleo has a major challenge. The A's were last in the AL in batting average and runs scored.

--Former LF Rickey Henderson is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. The all-time leader in steals and runs with 3,000-plus hits and a .401 on-base percentage -- who never was linked to steroids, like so many superstars from the end of his era -- seems a lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. With Oakland in 1982, Rickey stole a single-season record 130 bases and he broke the all-time career steals record with the A's, as well.

BY THE NUMBERS: 24-44 -- Oakland's record from July 12, the second-worst record in the AL. Baltimore was 22-47 in that span. The A's used to be known for their second half surges under former managers Art Howe and Ken Macha.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no way Billy is done. This is pretty exciting. It's going to be fun again," -- 3B Eric Chavez, envisioning GM Billy Beane initiating far more off-season activity than the trade for Matt Holliday.

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