Athletics

A's looking to Japan for their next shortstop?

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A's looking to Japan for their next shortstop?

UPDATE at 3:10 p.m. -- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting the A's and shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima are close to an agreement. The A's have scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Tuesday. Stay logged on for more soon from Insider Casey Pratt. 

OAKLAND -- Another shortstop option is slipping away. Stephen Drew and the Red Sox have reportedly agreed to sign a one-year deal according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

Drew would have been a good fit in Oakland where the defending American League West Champions currently have a hole at shortstop. The A's met with Drew's agent Scott Boras several times and were interested in a short-term deal, which he eventually signed with Boston. The belief was that Drew could take a deal like this to prove he can have a full and productive season and potentially cash in next offseason.

Drew, 29, only played 79 games in 2012, and missed a total of 137 games with Arizona from July 21, 2011 through June 26 due to a fractured right ankle. After being acquired by the A's on August 20, he seemed to finally get back into the swing of things. He played solid defense and hit .250 with five homers, 16 RBI, and 18 walks in 39 games with the A's.

The deal is reportedly for $9.5 million, or $500,000 less than the A's could have had him for in 2013 with the mutual option on Drew's previous contract. That's a good chunk of change for a career .265 hitter that has only played more than 150 games once in his seven-year MLB career.

Let's explain the mutual option Drew and the A's had. If they decided to stay together in 2013, then Oakland would have paid Drew $10 million. The A's declined the mutual option and Drew became a free agent. Drew and his agent Scott Boras would have been wise to want to test free agency, and the A's were wise not to agree to pay Drew $10 million for a one-year deal. This gave the A's a chance to try and work on signing the shortstop to a multiyear contract at a more reasonable annual rate.

Drew was a good fit in Oakland because he was well-liked by manager Bob Melvin and bench coach Chip Hale. They both coached him when he was with Arizona. The familiarity Drew has with Melvin, Hale, and the A's returning roster seemed like it could have made Oakland an appealing destination, but money talks.

Any solution the A's turn to at shortstop will likely be a short-term option. The A's have 2012 first round pick Addison Russell in the farm system. He could possibly be ready to take over in a couple years.

Oakland has expressed interest in Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seibu Lions' shortstop from the Japanese Pacific League is an intriguing option. He hit .311 with 13 home runs, 74 RBI, 52 walks, and a .382 on-base percentage in 2012 in the Japan Pacific League. It is hard to project how those numbers would translate in Oakland. At the Winter Meetings in Nashville, A's manager Bob Melvin said of Nakajima, "He's a hitter, he looks like a hitter."

Initially it appeared the A's were confident in being able to bring back Drew. They traded Cliff Pennington -- who represented their best in-house plan -- to the Diamondbacks for outfielder Chris Young. Without Pennington, the A's internal options are limited.

On November 16, Oakland acquired infielder Andy Perrino from the Padres. Perrino, 27, played 26 games at shortstop for San Diego in 2012. The switch hitter provides some much needed depth for the A's infield. Adam Rosales played 15 games at shortstop last season, and Eric Sogard played 11 games there.

Grant Green could be an emergency option, but the organization made it pretty clear they don't consider his defense at shortstop adequate. They moved the first round pick to the outfield in 2011, and he played five different positions last season. He would have remained at shortstop if they thought he could succeed there.

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.