The Oakland Athletics will have a few decisions to make about players this offseason, including the fate of free agents like Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, Hideki Matsui, and David DeJesus.
Oakland’s entire starting outfield group is up for free agency and with richer teams moving in on guys like Willingham and Crisp, the A’s may feature a completely different outfield setup in 2012.
Willingham, Oakland’s leader in home runs (29) and RBIs (98), is figured to receive a few offers from various teams throughout the league this offseason. But for Oakland, keeping a guy like Willingham should be their number one priority.
Not since Frank Thomas have the A’s had a powerful presence in their lineup, and Willingham, who set career highs in home runs and RBIs, is a guy who can hit for power.
In 136 games this season with the A’s, Willingham posted a slash line of .246/.332/.477 and proved to be Oakland’s most dangerous hitter. He collected 26 doubles, seven more than 2010’s total and had a .232 ISO (Isolated Power) for the A’s this season. On the site Walk Like a Sabermetrician the author, Phil, suggests that ISO is a good indicator of a player’s contributions to his team through power hitting.
For a team that doesn’t have much power to begin with, the A’s should, at the very least, consider bringing back Willingham for 2012. Of course, depending on what type of market Willingham commands, there’s always concerns regarding Oakland’s payroll flexibility.
While he did post a pretty low .246 batting average, Willingham’s value going into the offseason should be high nonetheless. Teams looking for right-handed power will be jumping all over Willingham this offseason, pushing the A’s into a very tough spot. Willingham was a big part of Oakland’s offense in 2011, so it’ll be interesting to see if the A’s go to any extreme lengths to keep Willingham in the green-and-gold.
With the team mired in a tough stadium situation, Oakland’s offseason could be dictated by strict financial limitations and the team could ultimately lose Willingham to free agency. But where’s there’s a will, there’s a Willingham. Isn’t there?
What do you think? Should the A’s go to extreme lengths to keep Willingham or should they let him walk and take the compensatory draft picks?