Free agent outfielder Josh Willingham won’t be sporting green-and-gold colors next year. He signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Minnesota Twins on Thursday after passing on Oakland’s arbitration offer.
He leaves an A’s team that will likely enter 2012 with a completely different starting outfield and joins a Twins team coming off a down year. Willingham, 32, played just one season in Oakland, but he injected the A’s lineup this year with some much needed power.
He led the team with career highs in both home runs (29) and RBIs (98), and was easily the team’s best player offensively. He was reminiscent of the 2006 version of Frank Thomas, who helped guide the A’s to the playoffs that season.
The A’s will receive a supplemental pick as a result of losing Willingham during the first round of the amateur draft. The A’s will also get a pick in front of Minnesota during the second round of the draft.
Still, losing Willingham is not an easy thing to recover from if your the Athletics. With David DeJesus gone as well, two-thirds of Oakland’s 2011 starting outfield is now gone. Other players like Michael Taylor, Jai Miller, Jermaine Mitchell, and Ryan Sweeney figure to get a shot next year in Oakland’s outfield.
In 136 games this year, Willingham posted a .246/.332/.477 slash line with 29 HR and 98 RBIs. Over the past three seasons, Willingham has proven to be a very durable offensive player, hitting .257/.360/.479 with 69 HR and 215 RBIs.
The Twins, who lost Michael Cuddyer to the Rockies, get a very respectable player in Willingham for, to me at least, on the cheap.
Oakland lost a true offensive presence in their rather lifeless lineup, so it’ll be crucial for guys like Taylor, Miller, Mitchell, and Sweeney to step up and produce in 2012.