A's trade for Josh Willingham

Updated: December 16, 2010, 8:58 PM ET
Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics suddenly have a lineup that could make them a contender in the AL West -- if the oft-injured A's stay healthy, of course.

Oakland acquired outfielder Josh Willingham on Thursday from the Washington Nationals, who received a pair of prospects in the trade.

"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."

A's general manager Billy Beane certainly has worked to upgrade his lineup. Willingham is a middle-of-the-order hitter who should complement two other new faces: Hideki Matsui and David DeJesus.

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."

The 31-year-old Willingham finished last season on the 60-day disabled list as he recovered from surgery on his left knee. He was sidelined after Aug. 15 and played 114 games, 108 of those in left field.

While Oakland pursued Willingham earlier this offseason, trade talks took off in the 48 hours before the deal got done.

Willingham's agent, Matt Sosnick, said his player would be "very open" to talking to Oakland about a contract extension. Beane said he would soon begin conversations with Sosnick regarding Willingham's future but declined to elaborate.

The Nationals got right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown in the swap.

"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.

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.

Also on Thursday, the Nationals signed right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to a one-year, major league contract. He hasn't pitched since July 2009 and is trying to come back from right shoulder surgery. Wang originally signed with Washington in February, but was not tendered a new contract in December.

It's been a busy week for Beane to say the least.

The A's formally introduced Matsui as their new designated hitter Tuesday and have agreed to terms on a contract with right-hander Rich Harden, pending a physical.

Oakland manager Bob Geren will have options in the outfield, along with much-needed depth considering the histories of all the players expected to contribute regularly.

"We've had a number of injuries in the past and two outfielders didn't finish the year," Beane said. "We have to be a little bit gun shy. Now, we have the opportunity to rest guys properly and keep them healthy."

DeJesus, who came to the A's in a trade with the Kansas City Royals in November, could start in right field and Willingham in left, though Oakland also had penciled Ryan Sweeney into one of the corner spots. Sweeney agreed to a $1.4 million, one-year contract earlier this month.

Sweeney hit .294 with one homer and 36 RBIs in 82 games last season before being sidelined in July by a right knee injury. He has gone 117 games without committing an error.

DeJesus batted .318 with five homers and 37 RBIs in 91 games with Kansas City this year. He was sidelined for the final two months following right thumb surgery.

Starting center fielder Coco Crisp, whose $5.75 million option was exercised early last month, hit .279 with eight homers, 38 RBIs and a career-high 32 stolen bases despite being limited to 75 games. He spent stints on the disabled list with a broken left pinkie finger -- it kept him off the opening day roster -- and a strained rib cage.

The A's stayed in the AL West chase until late in the season, losing out to the AL champion Texas Rangers, and finished 81-81 for second place in the division. That was despite using the disabled list 23 times, two shy of the franchise record set in 2008.

Rizzo expects Rodriguez, who is out of options, to earn a spot in the bullpen out of spring training and perhaps work as an eighth-inning setup guy or closer at some point.

Brown probably will start 2011 at Triple-A Syracuse.

To fill Willingham's spot, Rizzo said the Nationals might go with a platoon of Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse in left.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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