A's Lose Out On Johnson; Targeting Offense?

For the second time this off-season, the Oakland A's were spurned by a big name free agent who chose to stay in the National League West. Last week, it was shortstop Rafael Furcal, who re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Friday, it was left-hander Randy Johnson, who signed with the San Francisco Giants. The A's clearly have money to spend. Now it begs the question, who will take it?

Since the end of the season, the A's have been linked to free agent DH Jason Giambi, and the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that Oakland was preparing to begin talks with Giambi. The Chronicle also reported that the A's are looking at DH/OFers Garret Anderson and Bobby Abreu. Thus far, the A's haven't been linked to left-hander Andy Pettitte, although that could change if the Yankees withdraw their offer to the southpaw.

Giambi is looking for a three-year deal, the Chronicle said, citing sources close to Giambi, and the A's are unlikely to commit to that long a deal, but might consider a two-year contract with an option.

However, the former AL MVP might find another AL West suitor with deeper pockets now that Mark Teixeira has left the Angels. Giambi, 38, is from Southern California, and while he's always talked fondly about his days in Oakland, playing in Anaheim also must hold some appeal for him. The question in Anaheim would be whether he could handle first base chores on a regular basis, because Vladimir Guerrero is expected to DH fairly often.

Oakland already has missed out on two free agent targets, left-hander Randy Johnson and shortstop Rafael Furcal. Johnson announced on Friday that he was signing with the San Francisco Giants on a one-year deal. The A's are looking for an extra bat along with a shortstop, as well as possibly a starting pitcher, so the shopping season could extend well into the new year for the A's.

There is little doubt the team is still looking to upgrade at shortstop despite failing to land Furcal. Incumbent Bobby Crosby was recently placed on waivers, major league sources told several media outlets, and while he cleared, the fact that he was made available at all is telling.

Any team could have snagged Crosby in exchange for the waiver price and for taking on his $5.25 million salary for 2009, but there were no takers. Crosby's stock has fallen significantly since the strong second half he put up in his second big-league season, and it appears as if the A's have given up on him altogether.

If Oakland were to get a shortstop, however, it appears that the trade market will be the most likely place for the A's to find one. Orlando Cabrera is the top free agent shortstop available, but he would cost the A's a first-round pick and hasn't been much better offensively than Crosby the past few years. A trade may net the A's a more long-term solution at shortstop, as they could target a younger player.

As for pitching, it is likely that if the A's do sign a free agent starter, it will be on a short-term deal. In addition to incumbent rotation-mates Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez, the A's have top prospects Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Vince Mazzaro nearing the major leagues. Only Duchscherer is close to free agency. The A's could use one veteran arm either in the rotation or their bullpen, at least for next year.

Oakland A's Notes

--RHP Justin Duchscherer began a throwing program on Dec. 18, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The two-time All-Star, who is currently the only projected Oakland starter over the age of 25, had minor hip surgery in September and he is expected to be completely ready for spring training. Duchscherer had major surgery on the same hip, his right, in July 2007.

--1B Daric Barton, the A's biggest offensive question mark after a rough rookie season, will have a new hitting coach to work with. The A's hired Jim Skaalen for the position on Dec. 23. Skaalen had spent the previous two years with Milwaukee, and in 2007, the Brewers hit a franchise-record 231 homers. Ty Van Burkleo, the A's hitting coach in 2007-08, joined Don Wakamatsu's staff in Seattle.

--LHP Gio Gonzalez and other A's players who spent time in Triple-A Sacramento in 2008 will see a familiar face on the Oakland staff this season. The A's promoted River Cats manager Todd Steverson, giving him the first base coaching job. Steverson, 37, led Sacramento to the Class AAA title last season. Steverson has worked with a number of A's players at different levels in the organization. He was Daric Barton, Kurt Suzuki, Dallas Braden and Travis Buck's manager in High-A Stockton and has worked with Gregorio Petit at nearly every level in the A's organization.

--INF Gregorio Petit, who was called up briefly last season, was batting .323 in the Venezuelan winter league with a .394 on-base percentage. With Bobby Crosby on shaky ground with the A's after going unclaimed on waivers, Petit, 24, might get more of an opportunity this spring -- if Oakland does not bring in another shortstop from outside the organization. Petit has fared well in limited big-league time, going 8-for-23 (.348). Cliff Pennington will also be in the mix for the A's shortstop spot if Oakland doesn't make a trade.

BY THE NUMBERS: .239 -- Bobby Crosby's lifetime batting average. The A's shortstop hasn't hit over .237 since his second season in the big leagues. His career on-base percentage is .306.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know there are a lot more skeptics than anything else, and that's extra motivation for me." -- SS Bobby Crosby, after the A's placed him on waivers and he went unclaimed in mid-December.

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