We're just 24 hours away from the start of the Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, and with many of the top free agents still looking for homes for the 2012 season, it promises to be a busy week.
Just how busy the Giants and A's get this week though is anybodies guess. They have been extremely quiet since their trade for Melky Cabrera in early November, and as the offseason moves along, it's looking more and more like that was their big move of the winter. Their still is an outside chance they bring back Carlos Beltran, but Sabean isn't going to get into any bidding wars for the aging outfielder and that's what it would likely take to get him to return to San Francisco. Instead, Giants beat-writer Andrew Baggerly is speculating the club will look to a 2nd-teire free agent to help round out their starting outfield. The name that I immediately think of if Beltran is indeed off the table is former National and A's left fielder, Josh Willingham. The 32 year-old outfielder put up huge numbers in a spacious Oakland Collesiuem in 2011, with a career high in home runs with 29 and RBI with 98. His batting average didn't exactly shine, as he finished at .248, but he still managed a +.800 OPS due to his slugging and ability to take walks. He really reminds me a lot of Jeff Kent, and I think he would fit very nicely out in left field as a shoe in for 25 HR/90 RBI. He isn't the greatest outfielder defensively, but his career .262/.361/.831 line would currently rank 2nd to only Pablo Sandoval on the entire Giants roster, so there's no doubt he'd be an upgrade. He's younger and healthier than Beltran, and wouldn't cost as much. He'd also slot into left field and keep right open for Nate Schierholtz and possibly Cody Ross... The Giants will also be searching for a utility infielder and backup catcher this week.
As for the A's, they have been quiet all offseason long, and not much figures to change at the Winter Meetings. They have a whole slew of free agents, including Josh Willingham, who likely won't be returning, although they did offer arbitration to Willingham and have expressed interest in bringing him back. The A's brass seems more interested in securing a spot in San Jose for a future ballpark rather than focusing on improving the team. One thing they've considered doing, and something I definitely support, would be dealing away a starter, such as Gio Gonzalez, in order to bring a couple of young hitters in to town. The Marlins have interest in Gonzalez, and have plenty of young pieces to deal should they decide to go that route. If I were Oakland, I'd ask for Gaby Sanchez and Chris Coghlan. Sanchez could fill a big void at first base while Coghlan could play an outfield spot and leadoff. They're pretty set up the middle with Cliff Pennington and Jemile Weeks, and Michael Taylor should be given an oppotrunity in center. A couple of guys I think would fit in well with Oakland, and are realistic targets are first basemen/DH Casey Kotchman, 3B Wilson Betemit and outfielders Raul Ibanez and Ryan Ludwick. None of those guys will likely take more than a 1-year deal and none will break the bank. As much as I respect Billy Beane, I haven't been too impressed with anything he's done in recent years, and it's time for him to mix things up.