|The Athletics got little production out of their corner outfielders in 2010, so general manager Billy Beane has taken steps to improve the club’s outlook for 2011. He surrendered hard-throwing righty reliever Henry Rodriguez and toolsy Triple-A center fielder Corey Brown to the Nationals to acquire left fielder Josh Willingham. Last month, Beane exchanged two young pitchers for the Royals’ David DeJesus. The A’s also signed veteran DH type Hideki Matsui away from the Angels.
Both DeJesus and Willingham will be under club control for 2011 before they can become free agents.
|Henry Rodriguez, rhp
Born: Feb. 25, 1987 in Zulia, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 220. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Athletics, July 18, 2003.
Rodriguez’s second tour of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League went much better than his first one did in 2009, and the A’s rewarded him by keeping him in the big league bullpen for most of the second half. He lives off his fastball, which sits in the upper 90s and can hit 100 mph. He also has a hard slider with tilt, though he struggles to throw it for strikes. His wildness led to his undoing a year ago, and Rodriguez’s command still wasn’t ideal this year. He still flies open in his delivery, though he didn’t overthrow as often and was much more under control on the mound. His fastball and slider give him the chance to be a big league closer—if he can refine his control and command.
|Corey Brown, cf
Age: 25. Position: CF (104 G), RF (12 G), LF (3 G).
Born: Nov. 26, 1985 in Tampa.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205. Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: Oklahoma State.
Career Transactions: Selected by Athletics in supplemental first round (59th overall) of 2007 draft; signed June 19, 2007.
Brown attracted interest as a wide receiver coming out of high school but chose to play baseball full-time at Oklahoma State. He struggled out of the gate in Triple-A in 2010 but recovered to have his most productive year yet in Double-A. A .267 career hitter entering the season, Brown finished third in the Texas League batting race and was second in on-base percentage. Brown has always tantalized with his physical tools, but he focused on having a more mature approach last season. He has a smooth lefty swing with leverage that generates power to all fields. He shortened his swing last year, began using the opposite field more consistently and developed a better two-strike approach. While he sacrificed some power to do so, the A’s believe it could return as he gets more comfortable. He did hit three homers in seven games in his brief return to Triple-A at the end of the season. Strikeouts remained an issue though, and he showed a tendency to pull off balls against lefthanded pitchers. Brown is an athletic defender with enough speed for center field and a strong arm. His speed serves him well on the bases.
|Josh Willingham, lf
Age: 31. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2011 ($4.6 million salary in ’10).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.