Athletics rumors: Oakland has 'meaningful interest' in Nelson Cruz

Tom Pennington

Cruz's name isn't the only one floating around in the East Bay; the Hot Stove in Oakland appears to be heating up on several fronts.

The Oakland Athletics have "meaningful interest" in free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz and are also busy scoping things out on the trade market, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nothing is believed to be imminent on either front, but the wheels are now definitely turning in what has thus far been a quiet offseason in Oakland.

It was reported on Tuesday that Cruz is seeking a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $75 million. While that kind of money doesn't necessarily rule out a small market club like the A's, it would mark the biggest free-agent signing in the team's history by a fair margin, so it's probably safe to say a contract of that magnitude is unlikely. That Oakland's biggest contract to date -- the six-year, $66 million pact with Eric Chavez -- worked out so terribly probably doesn't work in Cruz's favor either.

Oakland already has three outfielders -- Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes -- under contract for 2014, but down years from Reddick and Cespedes could explain the club's interest in a player like Cruz. Despite their disappointing seasons and injury concerns, however, both A's outfielders are relatively cheap and under team control for at least two more seasons -- 2016 for Reddick -- so Oakland would likely have to either really love Cruz or get bowled over by a trade offer to make a deal happen.

For now, the A's "most obvious" trade piece is left-hander Brett Anderson, who was relegated to bullpen duty this late last season because of sub-par performance and lingering injury concerns. The southpaw isn't cheap -- he's owed $8 million next year and has a $12 million option (with a $1 million buyout) for 2015 -- but he's already drawn interest from the Royals, who are likely hoping he can be a bounce-back candidate like Ervin Santana was for them this season.

Anderson, who will be just 26 next season, posted a very uncharacteristic 6.04 ERA over 44⅔ innings of work in 2013. Over the four previous seasons, the southpaw amassed a much more reasonable 3.56 ERA in 406 innings when healthy, which wasn't often. He's eclipsed the 100-inning plateau just twice in his career, the last time coming in 2010.

Cespedes and shortstop Jed Lowrie have also drawn "significant" trade interest from other clubs, but the A's aren't expected to part with either of them.

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