My hunch is that Matsui will be back, and none of the team's other five free agents will. A theme of my writing here the past two years is that the A's are beholden to MLB more than any other team in the league until their stadium is sorted out. So if MLB wants them to travel to Japan to open the 2012 season, and re-sign their aging, unproductive DH for some good publicity, and sign all their draft picks to slot-level deals, and pick up the scraps of free agency (Ben Sheets, Brian Fuentes) to keep the ML payroll at $60M+ and placate the MLBPA, we can be sure those things will happen.
Unfortunately, the draft pick situation has soured a bit since my last post here on Aug. 16. Crisp and Matsui have definitely dropped below Type B status, and Dejesus' continued struggles make it unpalatable to offer him arb, unless he were to agree to decline an offer from the team. While it is possible Dejesus would agree to this, those types of handshake agreements are usually struck in a previous contract negotiation, or with a player who has years of tenure on the team and lots of goodwill built up. This is not the situation with Dejesus and the A's, so I don't think the team can risk the empty-handed arb offer and be faced with Dejesus returning for ~$6.5M.
This means that Willingham is the only A's free agent who will yield compensation picks in the 2011 draft. As a Type A, Willingham would yield two picks if he were to sign with other team. I actually think the team is encouraging this scenario, given their public 'woe is me' statements about the stadium situation. It's the perfect excuse, and much better than holding a press conference and announcing, "We would much rather have two high draft picks than to pay injury-prone 33-year-old J.W. on a 2-3 year deal in an obvious non-contending year." So, this hypothetical is assuming that the A's best hitter is gone.
There are currently 45 guys on the 40-man. If you decline wuertz's option, and let djj, crisp, Willingham, and Harden all walk, that's 40. But the outfield is painfully thin: Taylor, Sweeney, and Jai Miller are the only true outfielders remaining. However, Brandon Allen and Adrian Cardenas can play left field very capably, and I expect one or both guys to make the Opening Day roster. Matsui can play left in a pinch, and Carter can as well. What that list is missing is one more Cf candidate, since we can't rely on Sweeney and Jai Miller to play 162 games there. My vote would be to remove Sean Doolittle and Pedro Fugueroa from the 40-man roster, since both guys have burned two precious option years with injuries and are unlikely to contribute going forward. This team will already be carrying several injured pitchers on the 40-man over the offseason. You can absolutely justify that with Anderson, Braden, and Devine; with two lower-tier guys, I don't think you can.
With those last two roster slots, I'd like the team to protect Jermaine Mitchell from the upcoming Rule 5 draft, then stash him AAA to start the year as a guy who gets called up when the outfield inevitably suffers an injury. The last slot? I've got my eye on Jordan Danks of the White Sox, a good defensive center fielder who hasn't hit enough to break through. Danks is Rule 5 eligible this offseason, but the Sox haven't protected him yet, so there's a chance he remains freely acquirable in early Dec, in which case I hope the A's pounce. If the Sox do protect him, I would still like the A's to swing a deal from him, since he's the 6th guy on the Sox 2012 depth chart and would have a chance to be the A's starting cfer or 4th Of. Danks has just enough warts as a hitter to possibly be acquirable from the perennially win-now White Sox.
I like Anthony Gose of the Blue Jays more - probably everyone does - but I see three problems there: the Blue Jays are building for the future, we're unlikely to come out ahead in a trade with AA, and Gose is good enough that the return cost would be painful.
So, that's my update guess at the 2012 roster. No grandiose moves, mostly internal promotions, lots of wide-open competition in camp. $50Mish payroll, as the team braces for another year with the lowest attendance in the league. The glass-half empty view - a projected sixth straight season of no playoffs, with no end to that streak in sight. Half-full: this low-budget franchise has somehow avoided any 90-loss seasons since 1997. That streak will grow to 15 years next season, with a new stadium and increased revenue and competitiveness finally on the horizon.