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UPDATE: Rays negotiating with free agent Josh Willingham

Dec 5, 2011, 4:13 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics batter Josh Willingham hits a two-run home run during the first inning of his MLB American League baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Oakland Reuters

4:10 p.m. EDT update: Crasnick is still on the Willingham beat; he reports that the Rays are making a “serious run” at the free agent. He’d presumably replace Johnny Damon as their primary designated hitter, though they could try turning him into a first baseman, and he’d likely bat cleanup behind Evan Longoria in the order.

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal adds that the nothing is close, but that the Rays are one of the three or four finalists for Willingham.

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that nine teams have expressed interest in free agent Josh Willingham, including the Red Sox, Reds, Indians and Twins.

Willingham, who turns in 33 in February, was seeking a three-year deal at last check. He set career highs with 29 homers and 98 RBI in what was likely his lone season with the A’s in 2011, but his .810 OPS was actually his worst mark in his six years as a regular.

Willingham’s history of back problems make him a risk on a long-term deal, but he does have a more potent bat than fellow free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. A three-year deal worth about $8 million per season is realistic. He’d probably be the top candidate to step in as Boston’s primary designated hitter if David Ortiz left. The Reds would use him in left field, while the Indians could try him as a first baseman. Minnesota likely views him as a fallback option in case Cuddyer exits.

  1. clydeserra - Dec 5, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    I am sure the A’s would love the Twins if they signed him.

  2. bozosforall - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    Red Sux still trying to buy another title.

  3. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    If he stays healthy, 3/$24 is a steal for Willingham.

    • natstowngreg - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:44 PM

      The operative phrase being “If he stays healthy,…” Something he hasn’t done. In 6 full seasons, he’s played 142, 144, 102, 133, 114, 136 games.
      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/willijo03.shtml

      Balancing his production (which should increase at the Orange Juice Can) vs. health risk (back issues), 3 years/$24 million might be the best he can get.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Dec 6, 2011 at 10:37 AM

        I think he’s worth the signing if he averages 135-140 games a year.

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