Athletics

Five Spring Training storylines for Giants, A's

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Five Spring Training storylines for Giants, A's

With pitchers and catchers set to report to Arizona, it's time to examine five Spring Training storylines for both the Giants and A's.

San Francisco Giants
Is Brian Wilsons arm back to full strength?
All the offseason talk surroundingthe Giants involves Buster Poseys health, offensive improvements, and contracttalks with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. But lets not forget that Brian Wilson did not pitch in agame from Aug. 15 to Sept. 18 with elbow issues. Even when on the mound, Wilson did not have thevelocity or control that made him one of the games most intimidating closersin 2010. While Wilsonclaims he feels fine, the Giants plan to hold him out of early Spring Traininggame action. A healthy Wilsongives the Giants a leg up in all the one-run games that are likely to littertheir N.L. West schedule. But if Wilsonstill isnt one hundred percent healed, the Giants bullpen -- and chances toreturn to the playoffs -- would take a major hit.

Will Buster Posey look like he did in 2010 when he returns? I havent seen Buster Poseyslatest X-rays, but if we are to believe him and the Giants staff, Posey shouldbe ready to start behind the plate on Opening Day. However, the Giants needPosey to do more than just start; they need him to produce like themiddle-of-the-order threat he was in 2010. If Poseys health keeps him out ofthe lineup too often or if his bat speed and core strength isnt yet up to parwith where it once was, the Giants offense will be in trouble. Will Brandon Crawford establish himself as a starting shortstop? While his glove is obviouslybig-league caliber, Brandon Crawfords bat leaves a lot to be desired. Theoffensively starved Giants can hardly afford a hole in the lineup, andCrawford, in all likelihood, is just that. But a strong showing in SpringTraining could give the UCLA product a confidence boost heading into theregular season, which he needs if he expects to avoid a return trip to theminor leagues. Is Aubrey Huff in shape and ready to return to his 2010 form? From MVP candidate in 2010 tolaughing stock in 2011, Aubrey Huff has had an interesting two years in Orange and Black. Whetherits the pilates routine or cutting down on the cigarettes and cheap beer,were already hearing plenty of Best Shape of His Life stories about Huffheading into Spring Training. But even if Huff arrives in Arizona looking like Mr. Universe, there arelegitimate concerns that he is too far past his prime to rebound and producelike he did in 2010. Will Brandon Belt make the 25-man roster? Brandon Belt had a tough rookieseason. He struggled at the plate to start his Major League career and justwhen he started to get hot, an injury derailed his momentum. Huffs SpringTraining performance will help Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy decide what to dowith Belt, who has the potential to start at first base, in left field or in Fresno if things dont gohis way. Oakland AsIs Yoenis Cespedes the real deal? The As turned what looked to be adull team into a must-watch product when they signed Cuban defector YoenisCespedes to a four-year deal. The international spotlight will be on the26-year-old slugger as soon as he reports to Spring Training. While he hasfaced some Major League pitching in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, most ofCespedes monster numbers have come against inferior competition. How he faresagainst MLB starters looking to get their Spring Training work in should givefans a glimpse of what type of player he will be in the big leagues. What will the starting lineup and rotation look like? Before the Cespedes signing, theAs may have started the season with Coco Crisp batting in the middle of theorder. Even with Cespedes on board, there are a lot of questions about who willbat where. Other than speedster Jemile Weeks in the leadoff spot, the rest ofthe lineup remains a mystery. The same goes for the starting rotation. BrandonMcCarthy and Bartolo Colon are scheduled to open the season against theMariners in Japan,but the 3-5 starters are still up in the air. Will Dallas Braden be healthyenough to join the rotation some time in April? Will Tommy Milone, Tyson Rossandor Graham Godfrey stake a claim to a slot? While Spring Training lineupsand rotations will feature a few players unlikely to end up playing in Oakland during theregular season, manager Bob Melvin should provide some hints as to what his 1-9and 1-5 will look like come Opening Day. What can Bob Melvin do with a full season at the helm? Melvin went 47-52 in the final 99games of the 2011 season after taking over for the fired Bob Geren in June oflast season. He took over a team that was decimated by injuries and filled withplayers that had issues with their previous manager. With that in mind, Melvingetting the As to play near-.500 ball is pretty impressive. While he willstart the season with a clean slate, he is also dealing with less talent on theroster with the departures of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, among others. WhileSpring Training won-loss records are meaningless, it will be interesting towatch Melvin work in his first season in Arizonaas the As manager. Is Bartolo Colon capable of repeating his 2011 season? Bartolo Colon cant fill the voidleft by Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill on the mound, but he will surely try toat the clubhouse buffet table. Sorry, pardon the cheap shot. Colon, the 2005 Cy Young award winner withthe Angels, had an impressive season with the Yankees in 2011 after notpitching in the majors in 2010. He went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA against some toughoffenses in the A.L. East. The As dont seem to have an ace for 2011, butthey will need Colon to come into Spring Training as in shape as he possiblycan and put up numbers at least as good as he did last season in pinstripes. Will the As new prospects be ready to contribute immediately? Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, TommyMilone, Derek Norris, Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, Ryan Cook and Josh Reddickare among the plethora of prospects that are now part of the As system aftergeneral manager Billy Beane shipped away players like Gonzalez, Cahill, AndrewBailey, Ryan Sweeney and Craig Breslow. Many of these players need some moreminor league seasoning, putting them in line for major roles with the As in2014 and beyond, when the team hopes to land a new stadium in San Jose. However, some of the acquisitionsmay get a shot to contribute right away. There is no doubt the loss of suchfan-favorites as Cahill and Gonzalez will hurt, but if some of the youngstersput together a strong Spring Training and make the Opening Day roster, it couldhelp fans with their postpartum depression.
Rael Enteen is a web producer with CSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @RaelEnteenCSN.

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

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USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.