While A's fans are counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report to sunny Phoenix, let's take another look into the offseason mailbag. Here are this edition's selected questions:
What happened to Eric Chavez's shoulder? He was supposed to stay in Oakland to have it checked; did he have surgery? I also saw an interview with Jason Kendall, and he implied he was having knee surgery. Why?
--Chuck K., Pleasanton, Calif.
The whole deal with Chavez's shoulder is a bit of a mystery right now. You're right about him staying in Oakland after the season to have it checked, but the A's haven't announced anything. And Chavez, who is normally one of the easiest-to-reach guys on the team, isn't returning phone calls this winter.
There was a lot of speculation about the third baseman's shoulder late in the year, and surgery was obviously being considered. I wish I could tell you more, but I just don't have any information. And out of respect for Chavez, a first-time father with a very young boy at home, I'm not going to pester him about it during his down time.
My guess is that even if he did undergo surgery, it wasn't a big deal. If there was major damage in there, he wouldn't have been able to play through it the way he did all year. In fact, it might have been similar to what Kendall had done to his knee. The catcher had arthroscopic surgery a few weeks ago to "clean some things out," and that's a fairly common offseason practice for pros.
Until it's announced otherwise, you can assume both will be at 100 percent come Spring Training.
Rich Harden has been somewhat injury-prone the past couple of years. When should the A's start worrying about his durability?
--Alex S., Cambridge, Mass.
There has to be some concern already, doesn't there? He's only 23, and that lat strain was obviously a major injury. He looked fine when he finally got back on the mound, but nobody ever seemed to be able to explain exactly what happened and why, and that's cause for concern, too.
If I'm running the show, I'd tell Harden to back off on the weight training and have all mirrors removed from his offseason home. That's not to suggest that Oakland's strength coach and athletic trainers don't know what they're doing, but Harden is a very muscular guy, and being too muscular can limit your flexibility. That's why a lot of pitchers, especially those who performed "back in the day," stayed away from weights.
I think Harden would be smart to focus on flexibility and core and leg strength and stay away from a lot of upper-body work.
By the way, in case anyone missed it: The one surgery that the A's have announced is the procedure Harden had done on his left (non-throwing) shoulder a few weeks ago. Remember a couple years ago when it partially separated? This should prevent that from happening again.
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I saw that Keith Ginter was outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento. Does that essentially end his time with the A's? Isn't the team on the hook for about $1 million with him next season? Why did they give up on him?
-- Henry C., Bend, Ore.
I think it's pretty safe to say that we've seen the last of Ginter, but it's not a lock because he does indeed have a guaranteed contract for 2006.
Here's how it works when you're outrighted: you're put through waivers, and if you clear them, you can either accept a Minor League assignment or opt to become a free agent.
Not suprisingly, Ginter cleared waivers because nobody wanted any part of that guaranteed deal. What surprised me a little but maybe shouldn't have is that Ginter accepted his assignment -- and the guaranteed money -- rather than explore the open market.
I know it would have cost him some serious dough to go the free agent route, but I got the impression that Keith wasn't going to be happy in the minors no matter what. I thought that he'd have taken less money to go somewhere that he had a real shot at regular playing time, and despite his subpar numbers last season, I think he'd have drawn some interest from teams in need of infield help -- particularly in the National League, where teams tend to use their benches more.
Instead, Ginter could be a $1 million man in Sacramento in 2006.
As for why the A's made the move, it's pretty clear that they prefer Marco Scutaro as their backup infielder, and that the A's were willing to part with Ginter might further suggest that Chavez's shoulder isn't a huge concern.
You have talked about Kirk Saarloos (did more than anybody expected last year) and Joe Kennedy (not impressed) for the fifth spot in the 2006 rotation. What about Juan Cruz's chances?
--Steven G., Danville, Calif.
Cruz's situation is an interesting one because he's eligible for arbitration, which means the club could non-tender him and cut him loose. In doing that, however, they'd be giving up on one of the three players they got in the Tim Hudson trade, and that trade looks one-sided, in Atlanta's favor, thus far.
Cruz obviously won't get a huge raise in arbitration, so there's certainly a chance he'll be brought back and given a chanced to compete for a spot on the roster. Another option would be to sign him back and package him in a trade, because we all know that the A's aren't going to be able to do much in the free agent market.
I don't see him in Oakland next year because I don't think the coaching staff trusts him. So maybe general manager Billy Beane can convince a fellow general manager that Cruz's live arm just needs the old "change of scenery."
When are the A's going to sign Huston Street to an extension? What type of contract do you think Beane will offer him?
--Reno A., Union City, Calif.
I have no idea when the A's will start talks with Street, but recent history suggests that it will be fairly soon. There's no rush, though, because the A's control the rights to Street for the next four or five years. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mark Ellis and maybe Joe Blanton and/or Nick Swisher in line for extensions ahead of Street, who will probably get something along the lines of what Dan Haren got this fall.
Mychael Urban is a
national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.