Susan Slusser’s report on Josh Willingham’s status makes my last post look downright prophetic (I swear I had no idea). According to Willingham’s agent, Matt Sosnick, any kind of multiyear deal is completely dependent on whether or not the A’s get the green light to move to San Jose.
“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,” Sosnick said. “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 would like Josh back, but it seems like Billy is sort of hamstrung right now.”
Now if you haven’t read the last post on the Moneyball script, read it now. And enjoy the symmetry.
Slusser also notes that if the A’s get that green light, they’ll reduce payroll and go into a full rebuilding mode. That would make sense, since Beane and Wolff/Fisher would probably want to time the opening of Cisco Field with a fully resurgent team, one that could maximize revenue. That probably means trading any or all of the cost-controlled young starters, Kurt Suzuki if he has any value left, and maybe even *gulp* Jemile Weeks. The moves wouldn’t have to happen right away, though I figure that Beane will spend some time trying to find a sucker to take Brian Fuentes’ $5 million for 2012. The moves are one more reason for the pro-Oakland folks to hate ownership, though I have to point out that if they were to build in Oakland they’d go through the same phase. If they were to stay in the Coliseum indefinitely, they’d have to keep payroll at the $70 million level in hopes of attracting more fans at the gate, though $70 million doesn’t get you more than scraps as we’ve seen over the last few years. Want to see how Taylor and Carter look with 500+ PAs? We might finally find out.
Thing is, such a hardline stance may not be necessary since several players may not be expected to re-sign with the A’s, and will have their money come off the books in the offseason. That includes $5.75 million for David DeJesus (despite the strange love affair with the guy) and $4.25 million for Hideki Matsui. Plus there’s the dead money of Kevin Kouzmanoff ($4.75 million) and Conor Jackson ($3.2 million). So even if they re-sign both Willingham and Coco Crisp, they can keep their payroll under $55 million while giving the kids precious playing time.
Without Willingham and Crisp, the payroll would be around $40 million, roughly the same amount as the 2002 Moneyball A’s. It would seem that signing both of those players might make sense in that both of them might yield something better in trade near next season’s trading deadline than the first round/sandwich picks the team would get for letting them walk. Beane’s argument is that without a resolution of the stadium situation, there can be no effective long-range planning, since there would be an endless cycle of building up and selling off. As more of the youngsters hit arbitration eligible years, Beane has to keep that in mind and plan accordingly. It’s a tough spot to be in.