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Thinking Beyond Furcal: A Brief Winter Meeting's Primer

It's been a crazy off-season so far and with Beane and Company heading into the Winter Meetings in Vegas beginning tomorrow with a seemingly totally different set of priorities than they (reportedly) had even days ago, it's sure to get even crazier in the coming days. As has been reported in multiple outlets, Rafael Furcal turned down the A's offer of 4-years for between $35-$40 million. That action obviously necessitates a re-thinking of the current shortstop conundrum. The A's are willing to spend on the free agent market to get some production out of the position, however Furcal would seem like the only candidate who could really do that, at least offensively. I would hope that the A's would avoid the Orlando Cabrera's, Nick Punto's and David Eckstein's of the world. Cabrera - because he'll cost a draft pick, is 34 and has no power. Punto - sub.700 OPS career hitter, no upside. Eckstein - no power whatsoever. Basically, all of the free agent alternatives to Furcal are varying degrees of Bobby Crosby, but are much older and arguably worse defenders. Beane made a competitive offer to the only free agent shortstop worth pursuing, so it's understandable that he's now backtracking a bit, waiting out the market and paying lip-service to the idea of "sticking with Bobby Crosby on '09. Beane could look to trade for a shortstop such as Miguel Tejada or JJ Hardy, but Tejada is a shell of his former self and would cost a decent prospect or two in addition to his $13 million 2009 salary. Hardy would likely cost several premium prospects, if he's made availabe at all.

In the meantime, Beane, ever the bargain-hunter, is shifting focus to veteran starting pitching and corner/DH type sluggers - both of which are not lacking in this year's free agent class - thus, both of which are likely to come at reasonable prices. Randy Johnson reportedly piques the most interest in the former category, while Jason Giambi, Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell are garnering interest in the latter category. Any of these guys, on short-term deals, will help the A's win more games in 2009. The question then becomes: what should be the team's priority going into the 2008 Winter Meetings?