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01/08/09 4:45 PM EST
A's should post big numbers in 2009
Giambi, Holliday join healthy Chavez, incumbent slugger Cust
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Having already added an in-his-prime superstar in Matt Holliday and a still-productive slugger in Jason Giambi, the A's have every reason to believe that their 2009 offense will be much-improved over the unit that scored the fewest runs in the American League in 2008.
Add to that the franchise-wide optimism that third baseman Eric Chavez, 31, will wake up from his three-year, injury-riddled nightmare and return to the form that helped him average more than 30 homers and 100 RBIs from 2001-05.
Recovering from shoulder surgery, Chavez has been hitting in the batting cage at his Phoenix-area home and wowing everyone who's seen him swing.
"Everyone I've talked to says he looks incredible," A's manager Bob Geren said on Wednesday. "I mean, really, really good. Better than anyone expected."
And then there's Jack Cust. All he's done the past two seasons is lead the A's in home runs and RBIs while drawing more than 200 walks.
"I want guys who are patient, guys who hit homers, guys who get on base," A's general manager Billy Beane said.
Beane noted that nobody epitomizes that combination more than Giambi, 38, but Cust, 29, is a decent facsimile, as is Holliday.
The youngest of the big bats projected to fill the 3-4-5-6 spots in Oakland's lineup, Holliday, 28, is a career .319 hitter who averaged 31 homers and 113 RBIs with a .400 on-base percentage over the past three seasons.
"We're going to bring some offense here and put some runs on the board," Giambi said of himself and Holliday. "This team needs offense."
Do they need more? Beane seems to think so.
Holliday and Giambi were two of his three primary offseason targets, with shortstop Rafael Furcal being the other. The Furcal pursuit having come up short, Beane isn't exactly standing back to admire the stout middle of his lineup and declare his winter work complete.
"We still have a lot of the offseason left, so I think we're going to still be looking for opportunities to get some more offense," Beane said.
In what form? Shortstop seems like a logical assumption; the team put incumbent Bobby Crosby on unconditional waivers, ready to part with the former AL Rookie of the Year for nothing, but all 29 other teams passed on Crosby's $5.5 million salary for 2009.
Free agent Orlando Cabrera's name has surfaced in some recent A's-related rumors, although Beane on Wednesday said he isn't pursuing anything at the moment at shortstop. And if Beane were to add a free-agent shortstop, given the fact that nobody bit on Crosby for free suggests that trading him would be extremely difficult, and that means the A's would be carrying a $5.5 million backup.
Free-agent outfielders Bobby Abreu and Garret Anderson have been mentioned as possibilities for Oakland, too, but with Giambi in the mix as a first baseman and designated hitter, Cust figures to spend some time in what's already a fairly crowded outfield.
One way to enhance the offense, or at least maximize its impact, would be to strengthen the largely unproven pitching staff.
In addition to expressing a desire to add bullpen depth, Beane has said he's open to adding an established starter, and there's no shortage of those still out on what's shaping up to be a payroll-friendly market, including Ben Sheets, Randy Wolf, Pedro Martinez, Paul Byrd, Jon Garland and rehabbing former A's ace Mark Mulder.
"We'll always," Beane said, "continue to hunt to improve the team."