Assuming everybody is as healthy as he looks and Matt Holliday doesn't turn an ankle jumping the chasm between his home and road splits, the public introductions of the Oakland Athletics new left fielder and the Colorado Rockies' new – what, future? – is expected any hour.
Holliday was in Oakland on Tuesday afternoon for his physical, then hurried back to his home in Southern California. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, lefty Greg Smith and deposed closer Huston Street were believed to have been cleared as well in Denver.
Leaving only one bit of unexplained business going into the news conferences.
That would be this: The A's? Really?
General manager Billy Beane is back in the game just a few months after he appeared to tap out, meaning he sees something here few others do, meaning standard operating procedure in Oakland.
And here's the thing. It might not be Holliday alone. The A's will make a run at free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal. And they've got a notion about at least one more hitter, depending on how the rest of the winter turns. That hitter could be Jason Giambi, in a return to his roots.
They're going to spend some money, a good portion of $13.5 million just on Holliday, even if he plays the final couple months of the season in New York or L.A. or Tampa. Furcal won't come cheaply either; he's coming off a $13-million-a-year gig in L.A. and is not seeking a pay cut.
So, Beane must see the AL West as competitive again. Or, he believes he can make it competitive again. Or, there is a grander purpose here, a scheme that provides for if-everything-goes-right contending with the longer view of full organizational health.
I'm going for Plan C. It's the Beane/David Forst way.
Their young pitchers – and we haven't seen them all yet – toiled last season on a razor's edge, mostly because of atrocious run support. That's a tough way to learn the craft, pitching away from mistakes and flukes and wind-blown doubles that become 2-1 and 3-2 losses. Their young hitters – most of them – haven't done much to justify the organization's commitment to them, and it's likely Beane is hoping to relieve them of some offensive burden.
So, they put Holliday in left field and in the middle of the batting order. The 2009 season doesn't hang around the necks of Daric Barton or Ryan Sweeney, or hinge on the shoulder of Eric Chavez, or wait on Travis Buck. So, they put up a few more runs, particularly if, say, in a very long shot, they get Furcal for the top of the order too. And, then, of course, they must assume Holliday is beginning to square up some of those Coors Field/Not Coors Field numbers, which were a little closer (but still significant) in 2008.
Here's Matt Holliday, boys. Professional hitter. Do what he does. Play like he does. Try to get on base for him. Throw some strikes. Trust there are runs out there.
That's the plan. It's the way it looks, anyway.
Of course, if it doesn't work, Holliday will be traded by the end of July and chances are Beane will get his Gonzalez/Smith/Street back, something a lot like it. He'll be out $10 million or so, but that's OK. It appears Beane believes Holliday will serve to hasten the development of a young franchise hoping to mature. If the A's push the Angels in the meantime, well, they'll take that maturity and, when Holliday goes, a couple draft picks. It's an interesting way to go about it. Standard, I guess, for Beane.
Notes: After witnessing Manny Ramirez's impact on the Dodgers and their fans, the Washington Nationals and GM Jim Bowden are promising everyone they're going to be players in the Manny bidding. So either they will be or they want everyone to think they are. Either way, the Nats would be better served spending their money on pitching. …
Sixteen years in an organization probably earns you a half-hour with the boss, but Trevor Hoffman was denied a meeting with John Moores, Sandy Alderson and Kevin Towers just before the Padres rescinded their contract offer. Hoffman's ERA was its highest in 13 years, but only about a fifth-of-a-run higher than Heath Bell's. Bell appears to be next in line for the ninth inning, assuming the Padres have any ninth-inning leads to hold. …
The Angels haven't yet made an offer to Mark Teixeira, but one is expected. Arte Moreno is very involved. …
Freddy Garcia, who experienced tightness in his neck and shoulder in his final start with the Tigers, is feeling better and is expected to begin pitching in the Venezuelan winter league shortly. …
With three days remaining in the exclusive negotiating window, the Yankees have yet to contact Bobby Abreu. Hint, hint. …
When Mike Maddux left the Brewers to become the pitching coach in Texas, the odds increased the Rangers would sign Eric Gagne, who pitched well for them in 2007. Gagne's overall numbers weren't great in Milwaukee, but Maddux won't forget that Gagne had a 3.52 ERA in the second half, 3.09 in September. It's safe to say the years of $10 million contracts are over, though.
- Billy Beane
- Matt Holliday