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Twins Sign Willingham

December 15, 2011


Josh Willingham‘s tenure with the Oakland A’s, though unofficially over for a long while is now officially complete as he signs a three-year $21M contract to play in the frozen tundra that is Minnesota. The deal includes incentives that can push the total value one million dollars higher. In his one year in the green and gold, participated in 136 games and in his 563 plate appearances managed 29 home runs, a team-leading .350 wOBA and .246/.332/.477 slash line. He was worth 2.1 WAR with all of it being a result of his stick as he was a negative defender both statistically and to the eye. His year featured a career high 26.6% K% (perhaps owing to his switching to the American League some have suggested though, outside of his 15.5% July his numbers didn’t progressively get better as one might expect when acclimatizing to a new league as by month his K% was: 32.0%, 26.5%, 31.0%, 15.5%, 28.9% and 25.7%), and near career low 9.9% BB%. Willingham was unquestionably the scariest hitter in Oakland’s lineup and while I don’t buy into guys being good in the clutch etc, Willingham at least psychologically as an A’s fan felt like a good guy to have up in those situations and frankly the more the game was on the line the more he succeeding with a .331 wOBA in low leverage situations compared to a .348 in medium and .424 in those key high leverage situations.

Regular readers will know I was conflicted about Willingham all year and I have gone back and forth on how I felt about re-signing him, today really there is no difference in that see-sawing of opinion. There is the part of me that says, he is an aging “outfielder” best suited for designated hitter who is bound to drop off, perhaps precipitously and soon, and the A’s going into a rebuild anyhow do not need to have him fill up a roster spot as his trade value will seemingly rapidly erode. Then there is a part of me that says, he wanted to stay in Oakland from all indications and no one wants to do that and he can be valuable as a marketing piece while seeming like an all around good guy and though I want to rebuild right – which means anyone and everyone should be available – he has the potential to make these games more palatable to watch. Today, I fall more into the former group rather than the latter and I think I’ve fallen on that side (the head) over the other (the heart) more often than not, but seeing Willingham sign for less than I anticipated did pull at the heart strings of why didn’t we re-sign him? Willingham’s 2011 campaign only earned him a $1M a year raise which to me was surprising as I had speculated that he might fetch as much as a three-year $36M contract.

Seem as a reasonable enough contract for the punchless Twins – best of luck to Josh Willingham in Minnesota!

For the A’s what this deal means is draft picks secured. As a modified Type-A, Minnesota does not give up any picks the way this works now. The A’s get a supplemental pick at the end of the first round for losing Willingham, and then get to pick ahead of Minnesota in the 2nd round netting them a very high second round pick. Not too shabby, Billy Beane and the A’s need to draft well and recoup some value from losing the services of Corey Brown and Henry Rodriguez to acquire Willingham (not necessarily a difficult proposition as I don’t think particularly highly of either).

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