The Oakland A's signed 12-time All-Star Mike Piazza to a one-year, $8.5 million contract to replace Thomas. The A's were willing to give Piazza a two-year contract, but the former catcher wanted a one-year deal in case he didn't like the American League or being a full-time designated hitter.
"We always felt that may be the way with him," former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda told The Sacramento Bee.
"The catching, the running, it all takes a toll. I thought (DH) was the position that he'd probably end up playing one day.
"He can still hit," added Lasorda, who is Piazza's godfather. "Look, last year he hit more home runs than any catcher. And now all he's got to worry about is hit? That's great."
Piazza hit 22 homers, his most since 2002, with a .283 average and 68 RBIs in 126 games last year for the Padres. He would frequently get replaced late in games because his throwing was so poor.
A's general manager Billy Beane said Piazza will be the DH "99.9 percent of the year." Jason Kendall would remain the starting catcher and Adam Melhuse would serve as the backup.
"We need a right-handed bat, and we need one in the middle of the order," Beane said.
"A guy like Piazza fits that bill. We are intrigued by what this guy can do if he just goes out and hits. For a guy his age to catch as much as he did, get 400 at-bats and hit 22 home runs is pretty productive. (If) he gets 150 more at-bats, that extrapolates to a pretty good year."
Piazza has never played in the AL, but he's hit .340 with 35 homers and 101 RBIs in 146 interleague games. He's a career .304 hitter in 191 at-bats as a DH. He torched the A's last season in a short interleague series in San Diego.
--LHP Alan Embree signed a two-year contract with the A's with an option for a third year. Embree lives just outside Portland, Ore., and was happy to remain on the West Coast. Embree appeared in 73 games last year but threw just 52 1/3 innings. GM Billy Beane told Embree he didn't like the way Embree was used in San Diego, citing a 2 1/3-scoreless-inning outing against the A's in interleague play for how he should be used. Embree agreed and was excited to hear it.
--LHP Joe Kennedy, a reliever last year, could move back to the rotation with the signing of LHP Alan Embree. Kennedy will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation with LHP Brad Halsey and RHP Kirk Saarloos. The A's also have a handful of Triple-A options, including RHPs Jason Windsor and Shane Komine. They are all candidates for a long relief job.
--OF Ryan Goleski was obtained in a trade with Tampa Bay, which selected the outfielder with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft and dealt him to the A's for a reported $100,000. Goleski hit a combined .306 with 27 homers and 106 RBIs last season for Double-A Akron and Class A Kinston in the Indians organization. The trade is a strong signal the A's are committed to keeping Goleski on their major league roster all season, which must be done to retain him. If not, he must be offered back to Cleveland. There are unconfirmed internet reports that Goleski underwent wrist surgery this off-season and won't be ready for the start of spring training. According to these reports, the A's were unaware of the injury when Goleski was selected.
--RHP Jared Burton was lost in the Rule 5 draft to Cincinnati. Burton went 6-5 with a save and 4.14 ERA at Double-A Midland, and he also pitched well in the Arizona Fall League.
--The A's also drafted with the 14th pick LHP Jay Marshall from the White Sox organization. Marshall went 5-1 with a 1.02 ERA in 58 relief appearances at Class A Winston-Salem, but it would be a tough jump for him to go all the way to the majors.
--OF Jay Payton's tenure with the A's has ended, as he agreed to a two-year, $9.5 million deal with the Orioles. The A's will move Nick Swisher back to the outfield to join CF Mark Kotsay and RF Milton Bradley. Bobby Kielty returns as a fourth outfielder, and Ryan Goleski or Hiram Bocachica would be cheap options as the fifth outfielder.
--RHP Juan Dominguez, acquired in a three-team trade that cost the A's LHP John Rheinecker and INF/OF Freddie Bynum at the end of spring training, was released. Dominguez was 5-10 with a 5.85 ERA in 17 games at Triple-A Sacramento, then went on the disabled list July 7 with a strained right ankle and missed the rest of the season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 419 -- Career home runs by Mike Piazza, marking the second consecutive year the A's will have added a 400-plus-homer free agent in the offseason. Last year it was Frank Thomas with 448 (at the time).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The priority for me was a competitive team close to home and not have to worry about being too far away. It made sense that Oakland was there. I've always liked how Billy Beane goes about his work. I respect him as a GM. It seems the A's are always in contention, even with their budget." -- LHP Alan Embree, on signing with the A's.