For The A's, Furcal Or Bust?

The A's are in the midst of a free agent battle, an unusual position for the usually low-spending team.

The Oakland A's are one of several clubs -- including the cross-bay rival San Francisco Giants -- vying for shortstop Rafael Furcal. Agent Paul Kinzer has confirmed the A's interest, and adding a shortstop makes sense for the A's, even with Bobby Crosby still on the roster.

Crosby, who has been hurt much of his career and who has underperformed the past two seasons when healthy, only has one year left on his deal. The A's have no sure-fire shortstop prospects waiting in the wings, at least not everyday big-league shortstops. Adrian Cardenas, acquired in July's Joe Blanton deal, has played short in the Arizona Fall League the past two months, but he appears to be best suited to second base, and the A's other shortstops in the upper levels of the minors are probably backups at best.

In addition, Furcal would not cost the A's draft picks to sign because he is not a ranked free agent. That means he wouldn't hurt the team's ongoing rebuilding efforts. He's believed to be looking for a minimum of four years, but considering Oakland's lack of young talent at the position, that's a term that might be doable for the club.

And the A's have some money to spend after cutting back on salary the past two years, so spending $40 million or more on Furcal isn't as crazy as it might sound for a team that usually watches its budget tightly. The A's might even be willing to pick up some of Crosby's deal in an effort to move the onetime AL Rookie of the Year should he be become extraneous.

The rebuild goes on, particularly considering the large number of young pitchers Oakland will feature. But by adding Matt Holliday earlier in the month and potentially Furcal, the A's might get back above .500 more quickly than anticipated.

A's News and Notes

--RHP Chris Schroder, a minor league free agent, signed a major league deal with Oakland. The 30-year-old reliever was at one point considered a potential closer with the Nationals, but he worked only five innings for Washington last season. He posted a 3.97 ERA in 43 appearances in Triple-A. The A's have lost two experienced relievers since the end of the season, declining LHP Alan Embree's option and trading RHP Huston Street in the Matt Holliday deal.

--RHP Ryan Webb, a 22-year-old starter, was added to Oakland's 40-man roster. Webb had an ERA of 5.14 at Double-A Midland last season, striking out 94 and walking 44, and he allowed 165 hits in 130 innings. He is unlikely to be in the mix at the big-league level, at least for the start of the 2009 season.

--C Kurt Suzuki will feel the loss of bench coach Don Wakamatsu the most keenly after Wakamatsu was named the Mariners' manager. Suzuki credited Wakamatsu, a former catcher, with the major strides he made defensively in his second season in the major leagues. Under Wakamatsu's tutelage, Suzuki established himself as one of the league's best young catchers.

BY THE NUMBERS: 112 -- The most big-league innings posted by any Oakland reliever after the team declined Alan Embree's option and traded Huston Street. RHP Santiago Casilla has thrown 112 innings in his 106 major league appearances.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not like they're self-destructing, like Spinal Tap's drummers, but we're definitely having to find new ones every year." -- A's general manager Billy Beane after bench coach Don Wakamatsu was named the Mariners manager. Oakland is looking for its eighth bench coach in as many years.

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