Designated hitter role for Piazza?

Designated hitter role for Piazza?

Mike Piazza has spent his entire Major League career as a virtual designated hitter in the National League.

The 2,042 hits, 419 home runs and 1,291 RBIs he has accumulated while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets and San Diego Padres make Piazza one of the most productive catchers in MLB history and a sure-fire Hall of Fame candidate.

Though a fair-to-middling receiver in his prime, the final years of Piazza's career might be spent as a DH -- and the Oakland Athletics could be his next destination.

"He'd be an interesting fit," A's assistant general manager David Forst told the Marin Independent Journal. "I'd say we are seriously considering him."

Negotiations are ongoing, but a source told the San Francisco Chronicle that Oakland is unlikely to sign Piazza, a Type-A free agent, until after Friday's arbitration deadline so the Athletics do not lose a draft pick. Piazza is believed to be seeking a two-year contract.

Piazza's agent, Dan Lozano, told that information is still being gathered from all teams interested in his client and signing with anyone is not imminent. The Philadelphia Phillies also are interested, but there is some question as to how many games the 38-year-old from Norristown, Penn., would be able to catch because his legs and knees have taken such a beating over the years.

He was part of a productive one-two tandem with the Padres last season, splitting time with Josh Bard. Piazza played in 99 games behind the plate, hit .283, slugged 22 home runs and drove in 68 runs for his best offensive season since 2002.

Whether it's Piazza, or someone else, whoever becomes the A's next DH has a tough act to follow.

Frank Thomas proved to be one of the best bargains of the 2006 season. He signed an incentive-laden contract with the A's and then went out and hit 39 home runs and drove in 114 runs. He departed via the free-agent door, recently signing a two-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who wanted to re-sign Thomas, explored the possibility of signing Moises Alou or Nomar Garciaparra as the Big Hurt's replacement. But both players are now off the market. Another option might be Barry Bonds, but Piazza figures to cost about half as much, and tote far less baggage.

One Bay Area report said the A's have made a one-year, $7 million offer, but that has not been confirmed, and Bonds reportedly wants at least $14 million to continue his assault on the all-time home run record.

Elsewhere on the Hot Stove circuit for Thursday:

Astros: Interest in Aubrey Huff is "waning," according to Houston GM Tim Purpura, mainly because Huff is looking for a three- or four-year deal worth more than $7 million per year. He is likely out of the Astros price range, and the club is leaning toward a possible platoon situation at third base with Morgan Ensberg and Mike Lamb.

Also, agent Randy Hendricks has said Andy Pettitte may make a decision on whether he wants to pitch in 2007 by Christmas.

Giants: Negotiations are ongoing with free-agent reliever Dave Weathers, a seasoned right-hander who could pitch in the eighth or ninth innings, depending on need. But the Phillies also need a dependable reliever and have shown interest in Weathers.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Thursday that an agreement in principle with infielder Rich Aurilia is not being delayed because of Friday's deadline for teams to offer their free agents salary arbitration. Aurilia, who played for the Cincinnati Reds last season, told the Chronicle that the Giants and his agent still are, "trying to tweak a few minor issues" in the contract, before making the deal official.

Yankees: Craig Wilson remains a possible option in the Yankees' pursuit of a right-handed-hitting first baseman. GM Brian Cashman has had a conversation with Wilson's agent, according to the New York Daily News, and the two are expected to talk again at next week's Winter Meetings. Wilson hit .212 with four homers and eight RBIs in 104 at-bats with the Yankees after being acquired from Pittsburgh for Shawn Chacon on July 31. Overall, Wilson hit .251 with 17 homers and 49 RBIs in 125 games.

Mariners: The Arizona Republic reported on Thursday that the Mariners, who are looking for a corner outfielder, might be interested in former Diamondbacks left fielder Luis Gonzalez. Baltimore, St. Louis and the Dodgers are also believed to be in the mix for Gonzalez.

Blue Jays: GM J.P. Ricciardi said on Wednesday that the Blue Jays weren't likely to be in the running for free-agent starting pitchers Vicente Padilla or Mark Mulder. Toronto previously had expressed interest in both hurlers.

Padres: A report in the San Jose Mercury News said the Padres will talk to the agent of free-agent second baseman Ray Durham at the Winter Meetings about their opening at the position. Durham reportedly wants two years and $18 million. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Giants and Orioles have interest in free agent first baseman/outfielder Ryan Klesko.

Rockies: Offers have been made to holdover relievers Jose Mesa and left-hander Tom Martin, according to the Denver Post, and the team also has inquired about free-agent pitchers LaTroy Hawkins and Rudy Seanez.

Jim Street is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.