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Oakland Athletics pitcher Jerry Blevins, left, and outfielder Chris Carter laugh after speaking with reporters in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The A's future is so bright, they have to wear shades. Or perhaps the new uniforms are an issue.

"It's blinding me right now," offseason acquisition Josh Willingham said Thursday, clad in a screaming gold jersey at a meet and greet with local media.

Have you heard the news? The A's are apparently back in the baseball business. Willingham, an assertive bat obtained from the Washington Nationals last month, was just one of the new pieces showcased in the Coliseum's East Side Club.

Reliever Grant Balfour was another. Right-handed starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy was another. Holdovers Brad Ziegler, Josh Outman and Kevin Kouzmanoff were on hand, as were manager Bob Geren and members of his coaching staff.

The sky was clear. The temperature was mild. Spring training was visible as a spec on the horizon. When it comes to sunny optimism as it relates to the local nine, it can hardly get better than that.

The problem with the A's the past four years is that January was about as good as it got. But this year will be different, or so the brochure says.

"This is the deepest, most talented team we've had," Geren said. He might be right. His first four A's teams averaged 76.8 wins -- 11th among the 14 American League teams, and third in the West.

Those teams seemed to lack form as well as function. Eric Chavez was the third baseman, except that he wasn't. Matt Holliday was the clean-up hitter, but only until he was peddled on the open market. The Next Great Thing would arrive from Triple-A Sacramento on a Tuesday afternoon, and be shipped back on Sunday evening. And don't get us started on the disabled list.

"You know the story," Geren said. "The injury train got out of control."

At this point, on a sunny January day, you can make out the vague outline of a well-considered roster. Take the outfield. Coco Crisp and newcomer David DeJesus are more than adequate as top-of-the-lineup guys and fly-chasers. Willingham knows his way around the heart of the order. Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson provide depth.

"Of the five, not one played the entire season (in 2010) because of injuries," Geren said, before someone else could say it first.

Designated hitter Hideki Matsui, a free-agent signee, is no longer Godzilla. But he's a marked upgrade over Jack Cust, who has struck out in 39 percent of his 1,812 major league at-bats.

It wouldn't be a shock if the holdover infield of Kouzmanoff, Cliff Pennington, Mark Ellis and Daric Barton started on opening day.

Returning starting pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson were a combined 51-37 last year. McCarthy and Outman are among those who could contend for the fifth spot in the rotation. Set-up men Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour have been added to buoy All-Star closer Andrew Bailey. Ziegler, Breslow and Michael Wuertz are back for more.

"There's not a CC Sabathia on the staff," Willingham said, "but it led the league in ERA (in 2010) with an average age of 23." More like 25.7, but we'll cut Willingham some slack; he's new here.

Strong pitching at both ends of the game. Functional hitters. Top-drawer defense. Don't laugh -- the A's ranked second in the American League last season in the new-age Ultimate Zone Rating, trailing only Tampa Bay. (For us flat-earth types, Oakland was fifth in the league in fielding percentage).

This is starting to sound like the pie-in-the-sky flattery we were dropping on another local team about this time last year.

"I guess you could make a parallel (to the Giants) with what we did (this offseason)," Geren said.

"They've put together a team without a lot of superstar-type guys," Willingham said, still speaking of his new team in the third person, "but one that has a chance to win every night."

No, the A's haven't constructed a dynasty. But general manager Billy Beane has constructed the framework of a team that might win more games than it loses. Hey, it beats a stack of hopes and dreams piled high on Ben Sheets' right shoulder.

"Playing four years in Florida, and three years in Washington," Willingham said, "there was not a whole lot of talk about winning division titles. It's exciting at this point, before the season, to have expectations."

And worth its weight in gold -- screaming or otherwise.

Contact Gary Peterson at gpeterson@bayareanewsgroup.com.