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Inbox: Any free-agent surprises up the A's sleeves?

Beat reporter Jane Lee answers fans' questions

Could the A's jump out and surprise the world by signing a guy like James Shields, Max Scherzer or Asdrubal Cabrera?
-- Jake H., Piedmont, Calif.

Unless the A's found their stockings full of cash -- and lots of it -- on Christmas, they are not signing Shields or Scherzer. This shouldn't come as a surprise, given their financial restraints. Even still, as much as they'd love to have either arm, the A's do already employ an enviable rotation, led by Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir.

As for Cabrera, he ended up agreeing to a deal with the Rays at the end of December.

Submit a question to the Inbox.

How are Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin? Are they going to be available next season?
-- Joe M., Bainbridge, Pa.

Video: Lee on how the A's rotation stacks up for 2015

Parker and Griffin are both on schedule from Tommy John surgery and expect to join the A's rotation midseason. This would be the best-case scenario for both, and there's always uncertainty in how each will respond to the later stages of rehab. Both, of course, will be watched closely and handled with care -- particularly Parker, who has now undergone two Tommy John surgeries.

That being said, there's reason the A's have so heavily stocked their rotation depth this winter, knowing they can't depend on Parker and Griffin but only hope they can contribute at some point in 2015.

Imagine a hypothetical scenario in which the A's won the Wild Card Game and kept winning all the way to the World Series. Would general manager Billy Beane still have dismantled the team the way he has, given the realities of the second-half collapse, the competitive division and aging roster?
-- Colin R., San Francisco

Yes, and for all of the reasons you mentioned. Beane has stated that he sensed the club was regressing even before fans witnessed it, which is why he acquired not just Jeff Samardzija but Jon Lester, and at the cost of Yoenis Cespedes and two of his top prospects in Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. Neither could save the A's from yet another postseason departure, and when it came time for Beane's front-office army to examine the roster at season's end, with eight free agents headed out the door, it was clear to them that continuing on with the same group in a division that's only getting better by the year would not bode well for either the short term or the long term.

What ever happened to the shortstop the A's signed out of Japan a few years ago? Last I knew, he was in the Minors. Is he in the mix for shortstop in 2015?
-- Russ M., Reno, Nev.

Hiroyuki Nakajima is returning to Japan on a three-year deal with the Orix Buffaloes, after spending the last two years in the A's organization without playing in a single big league game. He was recently quoted in the Japan Times as saying, "I wanted to play in the Majors, but I didn't want to spend another year not knowing what I had to do to get promoted. I didn't think it was going to be useful just hanging around."

The 32-year-old finished his Minor League career with a .267 average and 10 home runs over 175 games, 102 spent with Triple-A Sacramento and 73 with Double-A Midland.

Jane Lee is a reporter for
Read More: Oakland Athletics, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin