Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor
The A's were quiet in free agency last offseason with the re-signing of Bartolo Colon the only significant move while a two-year, $6.5 million deal for Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima didn't work out as he spent the entire season in the minors.
Finding an inexpensive replacement for Grant Balfour, who should get a nice payday elsewhere after two strong seasons as the A's closer, might be at the top of the priority list this time around.
Here's a list of potential free agents the A's could target this winter.
Josh Johnson, SP: Pitchers hoping to rebuild their value won't find too many better destinations than Oakland, where they'd get to pitch a majority of their games at spacious Oakland Coliseum and several others in the pitcher-friendly ballparks of the division rival Angels and Mariners.
Johnson, after posting a 6.20 ERA in 16 starts with the Blue Jays while allowing 15 homers in 81.1 innings, could be the potential high-reward value the A's are looking for to replace Colon.
Jesse Crain, RP: If Balfour's price tag is too high for Oakland, then so will the price for fellow free agents Joaquin Benoit, Edward Mujica, Joe Nathan, Fernando Rodney and Brian Wilson. Crain (pictured), on the other hand, could come at a reduced rate because he missed half of the season with a shoulder injury and he has never been a closer during his career.
The 32-year-old, who was pitching as well as any reliever in baseball until the injury, could also give a discount to any team willing to offer him a closer's job.
Ryan Madson, RP: The 33-year-old has missed two full seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery due to several setbacks along the way. Prior to the injury, he had established himself as a reliable closer, posting a 2.37 ERA with a 2.4 BB/9, 9.2 K/9 and 32 saves in 37 chances for the Phillies in 2011.
But after wasted seasons with the Reds and Angels, teams willing to give him a closer's job could be few and far between. The A's are one of a handful of small market teams, however, that could be willing to take a flyer on Madson.