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A's looking for insurance in Meetings

A's looking for insurance in Meetings

Club needs:
ROTATION INSURANCE -- The A's won't come out and say it, but they could use a veteran starting pitcher to provide some stability and leadership for a unit that returns exactly nobody with more than one year of rotation experience. General manager Billy Beane says it's not a priority, but he's been known to change his plans in a hurry.

MORE HITTERS -- Publicly, the priority is to add more punch to an offense that's already been upgraded by the acquisition of Matt Holliday. Free-agent SS Rafael Furcal is the top target, and there's also interest in free-agent first baseman Jason Giambi. Oakland also could use some insurance for 3B Eric Chavez, who is coming off four surgeries in less than a year, and Beane is forever on the lookout for ways to improve his bullpen.

Whom they can or need to trade:
SS Bobby Crosby -- He's entering the last year of his contract, which will pay him $5.5 million, and if the A's add Furcal or another shortstop, Crosby almost certainly will be moved. There aren't many untouchables on Oakland's roster, including oft-injured, arbitration-eligible All-Star RHP Justin Duchscherer, but Duchscherer isn't being actively shopped.

Top prospects:
RHPs Trevor Cahill and Vince Mazzaro, LHP Brett Anderson, 1B Chris Carter -- Cahill, Mazzaro and Anderson could very well be the backbone of the Oakland rotation for years to come, so they'll only be moved as part of a monster deal. Carter had a monster year in the low Minors, and is the latest "first baseman of the future."

RHPs Craig Italiano and Jared Lansford, OF Javier Herrera -- Italiano and Lansford aren't far behind the aforementioned trio of pitching prospects, and scouts still love the oft-injured Herrera's five-tool package. These prospects are more likely to be included in any winter trades.

Big contracts they might unload:
Chavez, who turns 31 on Dec. 7, has a limited no-trade clause, and the A's are confident he'll be healthy enough to help them in 2009. But he's due $11 million next season, $12 million in '10 and there's a $3 million buyout on the $12.5 million club option for '11, so the A's might be open to moving him if the return package included a younger, big league-ready third baseman.

Arbitration eligible:
Duchscherer, DH Jack Cust, C Rob Bowen -- Bowen would be a non-tender candidate if there were a healthy young catcher ready to step in as iron-man starter Kurt Suzuki, but there isn't, so Bowen likely is safe.

Payroll summation:
Including pro-rated bonuses, it was under $50 million at the start of 2008. Holliday, Chavez and 2B Mark Ellis will make nearly $30 million combined in '09, and Duchscherer and Cust will get nice bumps from the $1.2 million and $410,000 they made, respectively, in '08. Adding Furcal and Giambi would likely push Oakland north of $50 million, but everyone else on the current roster -- save Crosby -- is making close to the big league minimum, so expect something in the neighborhood of $60-65 million depending on what moves are made.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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