A’s acquire Nats slugger Willingham
The A’s, continuing their quest to upgrade their offense, have acquired outfielder Josh Willingham from the Nationals.
Willingham, 31, is Oakland’s third major offensive addition of the offseason. The team acquired outfielder David DeJesus from the Kansas City Royals in November and recently signed free-agent DH Hideki Matsui.
"I think this team is ready to win," said Willingham, who expected to be dealt during the recent winter meetings. "And the organization, with the moves it has already made this offseason, proves it is ready to win also."
In addition, the A’s reportedly made a five-year, $64 million offer to free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre last month. The team neither confirmed nor denied the proposal, and it is not known whether the offer remains on the table.
The Nationals, seeking to clear payroll for other moves, will get RHP Henry Rodriguez and minor-league OF Corey Brown from the A’s. Willingham stands to earn a raise from $4.6 million in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent.
"The decision to trade Josh was not based on his salary or money whatsoever," said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, who acknowledged the injury played a role in the move.
The A’s, however, would not necessarily be adding Willingham short-term. Willingham’s agent, Matt Sosnick, lives one block away from A’s GM Billy Beane in Danville, Calif. Sosnick represents several A’s players, and frequently signs his clients to long-term extensions.
The plan for the A’s in 2011 is to use Willingham in left field, Coco Crisp in center and DeJesus in right. Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson would be the team’s extra outfielders.
The increased depth will benefit the A’s in other ways. Against certain left-handers, Jackson could spell Daric Barton at first base and Willingham could replace Matsui at DH.
Willingham batted .268 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs last season, his second with Washington after five years with Florida.
The A’s hit just 109 homers and scored 663 runs last season, their second-fewest in the last 28 non-strike seasons.
"We think we’re better," Beane said. "If anything, it’s a deeper lineup with more balance, too."
Willingham underwent surgery on his left knee last season and did not play after Aug. 15. In the past five seasons, he has averaged 20 homers, 66 RBI and an .845 OPS, missing significant time with injuries in 2008 and ’10.
Washington said the 23-year-old Rodriguez threw a pitch at 103.2 mph in 2010, when he went 1-0 with a 4.55 ERA in 29 appearances for Oakland. He had 11 saves and a 1.69 ERA in 20 appearances at Triple-A Sacramento. The 25-year-old Brown hit a combined .283 with 15 homers, 11 triples, 69 RBIs and 22 steals in 131 games at Sacramento and Double-A Midland.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.