Josh Willingham Channeling His Inner Frank Thomas?

Deal or No Deal? Will the A's bring back Willingham, or will another team try to snatch him up? (Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP)

The A’s made a few moves before the start of the season, and acquiring Josh Willingham in a trade with the Nationals will probably go down as being Oakland’s best move this season. For starters, other moves like the acquisitions of Hideki Matsui and David DeJesus haven’t exactly panned out.

Matsui has picked it up in the second-half, hitting .322/.385/.479 with 6 HR and 37 RBI’s since the All-Star break, but has seen a decline in his power numbers (just 12 home runs this year).

DeJesus, meanwhile, has really struggled this year. The veteran outfielder, a catalyst in Kansas City for years, just hasn’t performed up to his abilities this season in Oakland.

Perhaps it’s the cavernous Coliseum that’s had an impact on DeJesus’s numbers this year, but all I know is that DeJesus will likely want to put the 2011 season in the rear-view mirror and forget about it.

He’s hit just .236/.320/.369 on the year with 9 HR and 41 RBIs. Oakland certainly expected a little more from DeJesus, who hit .318 last season while the Royals. He has managed to stay healthy for most of the season, however, so I guess he has that going for him this year.

The one guy that Oakland really scored on is Willingham. Willingham, nicknamed “The Hammer” back in D.C., has been Oakland’s best offensive player this season. His average is a little low at .253, but with 27 HR and 92 RBIs on an A’s team that doesn’t possess a ton of power to begin with, I think we can let his mediocre batting average slide this time.

Willingham has been everything Oakland has wanted him to be. He’s proven himself capable of hitting in the spacious Coliseum, as his home/road splits are not too different. In fact, despite Oakland’s pitcher-friendly ballpark, Willingham has more home runs at home (15) than on the road (12).

The A’s really haven’t had a guy like Willingham on offense since 2006 when they had Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas. If you remember, Thomas went deep 39 times that year, and drove in 114 runs. Also, 2006 happens to be the last season in which the A’s appeared in a playoff series.

With the way he’s been hitting lately, Willingham definitely has a shot at reaching the 30-home run mark. He’s already set career-highs in both home runs and RBIs this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he reaches 30 homers this year.

Oakland faces a big decision regarding Willingham this offseason. The veteran outfielder expects to be a very hot commodity this offseason, and many teams are probably going to show an interest in Willingham’s services.

The A’s would receive compensatory draft picks if Willingham signs elsewhere, as he’s projected to be Type-A free agent. So that could entice the cash-strapped A’s to let Willingham walk and explore the open market.

The A’s would be smart, however, to at least consider bringing back Willingham for another round next year. The team could definitely benefit from having a guy with 20-25 HR potential on offense next year.


Tags: A's Billy Beane Frank Thomas Josh Willingham Josh Willingham A's Lew Wolff MLB Contracts MLB Rumors Coliseum Oakland Athletics San Jose SF Giants Willingham Willingham Extension

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