The Athletics hit the jackpot last season by signing Thomas, who was coming off a couple of injury-plagued seasons with the Chicago White Sox. His health was fine, and his hitting brought back memories of a young Big Hurt as he belted 39 home runs and drove in 114 runs.Thomas accepted a lucrative contract offer from the Toronto Blue Jays, leaving the Athletics with a gaping hole in the lineup and hoping that their rich AL history lands them another future Hall of Fame player. Though Piazza is a 12-time All-Star catcher, the Athletics want him for his bat. "It depends on the makeup of the team, but coming in, he would be the third catcher if he were here," Forst said. "So, whether there are enough innings for enough games for a third catcher to get, I don't know. Obviously, we are thinking about him as the DH." Jason Kendall will return as the regular catcher, and Adam Melhuse, eligible for salary arbitration, figures to handle the bulk of the backup duties. While the A's wait for what they hope is a happy ending in their pursuit of Piazza, they also are preparing to make a move that could help absorb the loss of starting pitcher Barry Zito. Forst confirmed that the team is very interested in signing left-handed reliever Alan Embree, which would open the door for left-hander Joe Kennedy to move into Zito's spot in the rotation. Embree, 36, has pitched for eight organizations during his 13-year career, and this past season was one of his best. He had a 4-3 record and 3.27 ERA in 73 relief appearances for the San Diego Padres. "We have talked to Alan's representative," Forst said. "[Embree] is someone we're definitely interested in. He could be a good fit here. Putting him out there would free up some options, as far as the rotation is concerned. We have a lot of good internal options." The fact that Beane won't even arrive until the four-day meetings are three days old suggests that the A's are not going to be one of the busiest teams during these sessions. "We've got a good foundation in place," Beane told the San Jose Mercury News on the eve of the meetings. "We like our team, so there's no real sense of urgency on our end. Most of our team is already in place." Adding Piazza and Embree would practically put a bow on the total package.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.