- Associated Press - Thursday, December 16, 2010

OAKLAND, CALIF. (AP) - The Athletics were close to finalizing a trade with the Washington Nationals on Thursday to bring outfielder Josh Willingham to Oakland for two prospects.

Two people with knowledge of the deal confirmed to The Associated Press the sides were working out final details of the swap. They spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement by both sides wouldn’t happen until doctors signed off on all the players involved and those players were told.

Willingham gives the A’s, determined to upgrade their offense heading into 2011, another solid middle-of-the-order hitter. He batted .268 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs last season, his second with Washington after five years with Florida.

The 31-year-old Willingham finished last season on the 60-day disabled list as he recovered from knee surgery. He was sidelined after Aug. 15 and played 114 games, 108 of those in left field.

The Athletics formally introduced slugger Hideki Matsui as their new designated hitter Tuesday and has agreed to terms on a contract with right-hander Rich Harden pending a physical.

Oakland manager Bob Geren will have options in the outfield, along with much-needed depth considering the injury histories of all the players expected to contribute regularly.

Newly acquired David DeJesus, who came to the A’s in a trade with the Kansas City Royals in November, could start in right field and Willingham in left, though Oakland also had penciled in Ryan Sweeney in one of the corner spots. Sweeney agreed to a $1.4 million, one-year contract earlier this month.

Sweeney hit .294 with one homer and 36 RBIs in 82 games last season before being sidelined in July by a right knee injury. He has gone 117 games without committing an error, the sixth longest streak ever by an Oakland outfielder.

DeJesus batted .318 with five homers and 37 RBIs in 91 games with Kansas City this year. He was sidelined for the final two months following right thumb surgery.

Starting center fielder Coco Crisp, whose $5.75 million option was exercised early last month, hit .279 with eight homers, 38 RBIs and a career-high 32 stolen bases despite being limited to 75 games because of injuries. He spent stints on the disabled list with a broken left pinkie finger _ it kept him off the opening day roster _ and a strained rib cage.

The A’s stayed in the AL West chase until late in the season, losing out to the AL champion Texas Rangers, and finished 81-81 for second place in the division. That was despite using the disabled list 23 times, two shy of the franchise record set in 2008.