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The Willingham Extension/Stadium Situation

September 26, 2011


Susan Slusser yesterday had an article about the re-signing of Josh Willingham. On this blog we have discussed whether or not the A’s should re-sign their left fielder. Slusser’s article highlights that the organization has interest in Willingham and also the interesting situation for the A’s with respect to the stadium issue with a quote from his agent Matt Sosnick where he says,

“We gave the A’s an idea of where we were, and we were told they have interest in bringing Josh back, but before they did anything, they want to see what happens with the stadium. Josh and I both made it clear he’d like to stay, but at this point, I’m pretty sure he’ll test the free-agent market.

We talked about a time frame, given that Billy [Beane] would like Josh back, but it seems like Billy is sort of hamstrung right now…

…Josh does feel loyalty to Oakland and to the front office. He absolutely loves the manager, he loves the team. But Billy said they weren’t even in a position to talk about it, and I take that at face value because Billy is so honest – if I’ve had 25 interactions with him, he’s been totally forthright 25 times.

It seems to me like Willingham is the one guy on the team who would be the most difficult to replace, so I’ve got to imagine it’s a pretty serious situation. Guys aren’t beating down doors to hit in Oakland, and we said let’s do something fair, but they really are in wait-and-see-mode.”

It seems that the A’s brass is now suddenly somewhat assured that a decision is nearing, perhaps it was the shake up in the Giants head office, or perhaps it is the impending collective bargaining agreement that gives them hope. Assuming some sort of finality comes to fruition – which I still am not entirely convinced of – the article went on to say this, which I found quite interesting.

“According to one person familiar with the team’s thinking, the A’s would be likely to cut back on spending should they get the OK to go to San Jose, rather than increasing payroll. Were San Jose approved, the club would go into all-out rebuilding mode to put together a potential up-and-coming contender.

If the A’s do not get the all-clear for San Jose, they’d be more likely to spend money in the short term to try to increase the gate – and, possibly, to make the club more attractive for potential buyers.”

I don’t necessarily follow this logic. Why the all-out rebuilding mode? Is that really necessary? The starting pitching seems quite solid, the lineup is weak but with extra dollars that seems much easier to fill than would starting pitching holes. This whole situation is interesting for a multitude of reasons, the fact that ownership seems to anticipate a decision – and are being forthright and open about it, along with the playing out of the possible ramifications involved with a potential relocation.

One thing does seem certain, Josh Willingham will be able to test the open market and if he tests the open market he is as good as gone. Because while he has been far from a perfect player, this free-agent class is full of far from perfect players and after Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Carlos Beltran, Willingham has to be in that next tier along with David Ortiz and Carlos Pena. With Willingham destined to become a Type-A free-agent I’ve said it a million times over but will say it again, regardless the A’s must offer him arbitration and I expect that they will.

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