David DeJesus has been on Oakland’s radar for a while now. They like his near-perfect defense, baserunning and consistent bat.
The A’s acquired the outfielder from the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday for right-hander Vin Mazzaro and minor league lefty Justin Marks. General manager Billy Beane immediately said he’ll start in one of the corner outfield spots.
”He’s a guy we’ve always liked,” Beane said. ”He’s been a well respected guy and does everything very well. I think he’s just another good player to add to the mix of players out there.”
One of Beane’s priorities this offseason was to find a capable hitter who could help the A’s score more runs for their talented pitching staff.
DeJesus, while not the power hitter Oakland’s seeking, batted .318 with five homers and 37 RBI in 91 games with Kansas City last year. He was sidelined for the final two months following right thumb surgery.
Beane said the A’s researched his surgery and physical therapy information and are confident DeJesus will have no restrictions this winter getting ready for spring training. A left-handed hitter, DeJesus had resumed taking batting practice late in the season.
The 30-year-old DeJesus — who started 67 games in right field, 19 in center and one in left — didn’t have an error in 88 games in the outfield. He has a 241-game errorless streak dating to his last one on Sept. 15, 2008.
While Ryan Sweeney played right field when healthy, Beane said the A’s would discuss whether to keep him there or move him to left and have DeJesus play right.
What does this mean for the other outfielders on the roster, such as Conor Jackson and Rajai Davis? Beane said with the team’s injury history in recent seasons, he doesn’t plan to unload everybody.
”We are a little bit gun shy because of the injuries. We have to be careful,” he said.
Mazzaro had three stints with the A’s in 2010. He was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento on Sept. 10, only to be called back up four days later. Oakland already has solid, proven starters in Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Ben Sheets, signed to a $10 million, one-year deal before last season, won’t pitch in 2011 following elbow surgery, but hasn’t ruled out trying to return to baseball the following year.
Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma could fit into that fifth starter spot. Oakland won a bid for the negotiating rights to the pitcher from the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League, MLB announced Monday.
The A’s then got 30 days to reach a contract agreement.
”We think we have a little bit of depth,” Beane said. ”Hopefully the negotiations with Iwakuma are successful and we should be in pretty good shape.”
The 29-year-old righty was 10-9 with a 2.82 ERA in 28 games this season with four complete games and one shutout. He struck out 153 and walked 36 in 201 innings.
Left-hander Josh Outman, who missed last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, also could be an option to start. He made a good impression in the instructional league this fall.
The A’s stayed in the division chase until late in the season — losing out to the AL champion Texas Rangers — and finished 81-81 for second place in the AL West. That was despite using the disabled list 23 times, two shy of the franchise record set in 2008. Oakland fired head athletic trainer Steve Sayles, so finding his replacement is also on the to-do list. Beane said the A’s would begin interviewing candidates next week.
Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore said Mazzaro will be in the team’s rotation next season. The 24-year-old right-hander went 6-8 with a 4.27 ERA in 24 appearances, including 18 starts, last season. When Anderson was sidelined with an elbow injury, Mazzaro moved into the rotation June 8 and made 17 consecutive starts.
”This deal allows us to further increase our pitching depth at the major and minor league levels,” Moore said. ”Vin Mazzaro fits into our rotation for next season while Justin Marks is a young left-hander who we see starting 2011 at (Class-A) Wilmington.”