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Willingham among five A's to hit open market

Willingham among five A's to hit open market

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Willingham among five A's to hit open market
OAKLAND -- Stuck in wait-and-see mode because of a stadium decision that's been looming for nearly three years, the A's were forced to let Wednesday's exclusive negotiating window with their own free agents pass without any movement.

Now, outfielders Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus, designated hitter Hideki Matsui and right-hander Rich Harden are all on the open market and able to sign with any team.

Willingham's departure, though expected if a stadium decision doesn't come soon, would be the biggest hit for the A's, who got a team-leading 29 home runs -- 15 coming in the pitcher-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum -- and 98 RBIs from the first-time free-agent.

Willingham's agent, Matt Sosnick, said Thursday that he "got a good amount of calls last night and this morning" on his client, who is seeking a three-year deal and one preferably closer to his home in Florence, Ala.

"He's played his whole career year to year, so he would like the security of a multi-year deal, and our goal is to get him those three years," Sosnick said. "He and his wife, Ginger, the two of them really do make their decisions together. I think what will happen is, three or four weeks from now, we'll lay out what his options are, and we'll let them sit down and decide what they're most comfortable with from a career standpoint and for their family."

The A's are expected to offer the 32-year-old Willingham arbitration, meaning he would bring Oakland two Draft picks thanks to his Type-A status if he signs elsewhere. He has already been linked to several teams, including the White Sox and Rockies.

"We certainly expect it to be a long process, and I can't imagine anything happening before teams offer arbitration to players," Sosnick said. "I think Josh realizes the market is short on power this year, and it's certainly short on right-handed power. He hit a lot of home runs and drove in a lot of runs on a team that was very offensively challenged in a very difficult ballpark, and I think there are a lot of teams that could use a 3-4-5 hitter that's going to hit 30 home runs."

Oakland is likely to be without such a player next year, as the absence of Willingham -- and probably Crisp and DeJesus, too -- may very well lead to a youth phase that could bring about an outfield boasting the likes of Chris Carter, Jai Miller and Michael Taylor.

In the meantime, Sosnick will stay in contact with A's general manager Billy Beane -- the two of them live in the same neighborhood and their families even went trick-or-treating together on Halloween -- but admitted, "Unfortunately, they're just not in a position to offer Josh a multi-year deal right now, or to anyone."

"Beane and [assistant GM David] Forst are both great guys," Sosnick said. "They've been totally upfront and forthright the whole time about what's going on. They haven't misled us at all. All you ask is for everything to be laid out in as direct a way as possible, and that's what they've done."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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