And speaking of threats, Oakland A’s execs are apparently telling their players that they won’t talk about new contracts for 2012 until they know whether the team is getting a new stadium in San Jose. Or at least that’s what GM/part-owner Billy Beane told the agent for outfielder Josh Willingham:
“We gave the A’s an idea of where we were, and we were told they have interest in bringing Josh back, but before they did anything, they want to see what happens with the stadium,” [agent Matt] Sosnick said. “Josh and I both made it clear he’d like to stay, but at this point, I’m pretty sure he’ll test the free-agent market.
“We talked about a time frame, given that Billy would like Josh back, but it seems like Billy is sort of hamstrung right now.”
If this sounds familiar, it may be because you remember when the Florida Marlins signed then-third baseman Mike Lowell to a contract extension that would be nullified if the team didn’t get a new stadium approved promptly. They didn’t, but then they renegotiated Lowell’s deal to keep him anyway, and the whole issue went away. (The issue of Lowell leaving, that is — the Marlins kept pressing for public stadium money, and ultimately got it.)
In the A’s case, either owner Lew Wolff genuinely thinks that the San Francisco Giants ownership shakeup could open the door to approval of an A’s move to San Jose, or he’s trying to put pressure on MLB to get the Giants to quickly resolve a deal, or both. Though to be honest, it’s hard to see how the rest of baseball is going to quake in its boots at the prospect of the A’s not having Josh Willingham, notwithstanding his agent’s insistence that he’s “the one guy on the team who would be the most difficult to replace” — especially when you consider that MLB’s next collective bargaining agreement is likely to penalize teams that take revenue-sharing money without spending it on payroll.
Another interesting note from Susan Slusser’s San Francisco Chronicle article: She writes that “according to one person familiar with the team’s thinking,” the A’s would likely cut spending if they moved to San Jose, since they’d move into rebuilding mode to try to have a winning team by the time a new stadium is ready; if they stay put, they’d be more likely to spend on players to get any fans they can coming through the gates in Oakland in the short-term. That actually makes a fair bit of sense, but it would mean that the threat here is really that if the A’s can’t get a new ballpark, they will re-sign Josh Willingham. Maybe they should threaten to sign Mike Lowell, too, just for good measure.