With several contracts coming off the books, what are your thoughts about the possibility of the A's going after Adam Dunn for the big bat? I know he strikes out a bunch, but I would much rather have him than Jack Cust. Do you think he would consider Oakland?
-- Chris C., Terra Linda, Calif.
I don't think Oakland would be Dunn's first choice, but that doesn't mean he won't consider it. The team likely to get that top spot will be the one willing to let him play the field. Dunn has stated publicly that he'd rather see time at first base than in the designated-hitter slot. He has experience in both outfield corners, however, so the A's could be enticing if given the chance in either left or right field. Still, he's sure to have plenty of other suitors who could make good use of him at first base, including the Orioles and Cubs.
Much like Cust, Dunn does strike out a lot -- his 199 whiffs this year were only outnumbered in the Majors by Mark Reynolds -- but he does have that 30-plus home run tag of which the A's are in dire need. In fact, his career numbers have him averaging 40 long balls a season, not to mention RBI totals hanging around the 100 mark. This guy drives in runs, period, and I think the A's recognize that. Whether Dunn will seriously recognize them, though, is another matter. He's expected to land one of the bigger deals of the offseason.
What do you think of the chances of the A's signing Hideki Matsui? He could pose as a threat who still has some much-needed pop in his bat. Use him primarily in the DH slot, which would work best for him at this stage in his career.
-- W. Tanaka, San Bruno, Calif.
There's no doubt Matsui will strictly be limited to DH duty. That being said, if the A's choose to let go of Cust as they're expected to do, I believe Matsui could be a strong option as a secondary power bat to aid the middle of the lineup. It's widely assumed that this club needs more than one added lineup threat to stay within contention, and Matsui could nicely complement whomever else the A's choose to bring into the fold. He's nearing the end of his career, but you're absolutely right in saying he could represent a true threat, likely in the lower middle of the lineup. If healthy, he can give you 20 homers and 80-plus RBIs.
Furthermore, Matsui may be one of the few free agents who actually has interest in Oakland, especially if fellow Japanese native Hisoshi Iwakuma comes to terms on a contract with the club in the next month. Either, or both, would lend the A's a new dimension, one that has potential to expand the fan base. Nevertheless, I think Matsui is a viable option for the low-budget A's, and he isn't expected to bring out as many bidders as the likes of Dunn and Jayson Werth.
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Is Matt Kemp on the A's radar? He's young, right-handed, has some pop and is a guy that has been rumored to be acquirable. Any chance we see him in the green and gold next year?
-- Erik R., Jackson, N.J.
I like where your head's at, Erik. Kemp may be slow to agree because of his well-known love for Los Angeles, but he could play a large role in what could ultimately be a very sensible trade between the A's and Dodgers. The former needs hitting. The latter needs young pitching. Sounds like an easy swap to me.
Kemp's average was way down last year, but I see him facing an upward trend in 2011 and posting a .280 average with 27 homers and 90 RBIs. Aside from the first number, not one A's player reached the second two figures in 2011. So you trade for Kemp and acquire your other bat via free agency, and the A's will be able to keep their checkbook intact.
And Rihanna gets to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day.
I think that Lance Berkman would be a great addition to the A's lineup. He has good power and has the potential for a high batting average and RBI numbers. He is a true No. 3 hitter and brings a solid veteran presence. What do you think of this possible addition?
-- Steele W., Auburn, Calif.
You make a good case, but I'm not completely sold on Berkman in green and gold. Without a doubt, his veteran stature would be great for the clubhouse, but unfortunately, I picture his numbers fizzing. That seems to be a veteran trend in Oakland, where Berkman might do nothing more than create flashbacks of Frank Thomas, Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra's latter days. He'll get plenty of other suitors, though.
I don't see Chris Carter anywhere on the Venezuelan League Web site. Is he playing there or did he go somewhere else?
-- Ken S., Oneida, N.Y.
Carter is still planning to play winter ball in Venezuela, but not before he finishes physical therapy on his left thumb. The A's want to make sure he's 100 percent healthy before going down there, and you can't blame them given both Carter's potential and their history with injuries. It's the same thumb that kept Carter off the field for weeks while still with Triple-A Sacramento and then later bothered him during the last weeks of the season with the A's. Not many people know the extent of pain with which Carter was playing in those final days -- he often rated the pain a 5 or 6 on a 1-10 scale -- but wasn't about to let it get in the way of making a lasting impression. Luckily, he was able to do just that.
Do you think the Giants' success this year will have a significant impact on the A's when it comes to attendance? I can't stand the Giants, especially since their ownership's No. 1 agenda is to drive the A's out of the area.
-- Ashraf C., San Jose, Calif.
Based on the latter comment, it seems like you're probably a worried about more than attendance, but that's all I'm going to touch upon for now. I truly don't believe the A's attendance will be affected by what the Bay Area-rival Giants accomplished. The oomph that comes from the stands will still come from the same dedicated A's fans who make it out every year. There may not be a lot of them, but those who are present really do care, and I know the players appreciate them.
Of course, there are going to be some bandwagon fans who changed colors (and not because of Halloween), but that's to be expected. You also have to remember the A's and Giants only play at home at the same time for one or two weekends out of the season, so the best of both the American League and National League worlds can easily be seen.