Eric Chavez is so discouraged by the latest in a series of setbacks that he has talked about retiring if he hits more speedbumps - but in reality, Chavez is too much of a competitor, and has too much on the table financially, for that to be more than the "worst-case scenario" rantings of a frustrated man. I do not believe that Chavy will go gently into that good night, but I do believe that he is at a true crossroads in his career and that he and the A's need to get the next turn right.
Assuming his physical condition is not good enough to excite a trade partner and not bad enough to get him to limp away from the game right now, there are really only about three choices facing Chavez and the A's:
One option is for Oakland to cut ties with Chavez, accepting the rest of his salary as a "sunk cost" in exchange for the certainty that they are simply looking for a new player now and that's that. This option is not only expensive, but it makes little sense for the A's, a light-hitting team without nearly enough power, to give up easily on one of the few established hitters they have.
Another option is for the A's to send Chavez under the knife yet again for reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder, probably writing off part of 2009 in the hopes of finally getting back their slugging, gold-glove 3Bman for all of 2010 - just in time for Chavez to near the end of his contract and the end of his peak years, and either go help someone else (or decline for someone else, or decline with Oakland).
A third option is one I think the A's and Chavez need to seriously entertain, and that is just to try to get him to the point (with or without surgery) where he can hit and catch similar to the old Chavez, for the 2009-2011 A's - and that means protecting his shoulder from throwing. Which means a move to first base. (The problem with moving him to DH is that you then cannot entertain getting hitters like Frank Thomas and Mike Sweeney on the cheap when they become available, and I don't know that the A's want to narrow their available hitting resources to exclude hitters who cannot play the field.)
The consensus is that throwing has caused Chavez' latest shoulder setback, and that the pain caused by throwing then affected his swing. But it appears likely that if he does not have to throw, Chavez has a real chance to enter March, 2009 with his back (which will have had 1.5 years of very little wear and tear) at or near 100%, and his swing at or near 100%.
It seems to me as if Chavez would make an ideal 1Bman, in that he has already showed gold glove range and hands at a corner infield position, and he has the kind of batting potential (.270/.370/.470) you associate with the position. Put me in the camp that believes that if he were pain-free, Chavez could still produce similar numbers to the ones he put up as a healthy hitter - maybe not 30/100 but perhaps 25/85, and could make a pretty seamless transition to playing 1B. And boy would that help the A's.
Unfortunately, as nice a solution as it would be you can't just move Barton over to 3B because he is not good enough defensively, so moving Chavez to 1B would leave the A's currently with two 1Bmen and no one (sorry, Jack) at 3B. Thus, moving Chavez means considering where Barton fits into the A's plans, and also means aggressively solving the immediate need for a 3Bman. Which is why the A's need to figure this out right now, not in March, 2009.
What do folks think about the possibility of the A's committing to moving Eric Chavez to 1B in 2009, knowing that they have a promising young 1Bman in Daric Barton, and no major-league ready 3Bman, currently in the mix?