A's make '11 decisions on 3 players

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics are bringing back key veterans Mark Ellis and Coco Crisp for the 2011 season while cutting ties with third baseman Eric Chavez.

The move with Chavez is not a surprise considering all his injuries in recent seasons. He said in early September he may be forced to retire after 13 years in the big leagues with the franchise. He was the longest-tenured member of the A's.

"We're incredibly appreciative of everything Eric gave this organization," assistant general manager David Forst said. "He literally gave us everything his body could handle. I hope he is up to playing next year because I know that's what he wants."

Ellis will now be Oakland's longest-tenured player. The second baseman will be paid $6 million in 2011 while Crisp will earn $5.75 million under club options exercised by the team.

The A's paid Chavez a $3 million buyout instead of exercising a $12.5 million option. Chavez just finished a $66 million, six-year deal.

Ellis hit .291 with five homers and 49 RBIs last season and committed just three errors in 116 games at second base.

"Mark is still one of if not the best second basemen in the game," Forst said. "He showed late in the season what he's still capable of doing offensively."

Having Ellis and Crisp in the fold for next season gives the young A's two proven veterans.

Crisp hit .279 with eight homers, 38 RBIs and a career-high 32 stolen bases despite being limited to 75 games because of injuries. The outfielder 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.

"There's no denying when he was on the field he was one of our best players and brought a different element to our club," Forst said. "For both him and Mark it was an easy decision. Both guys in terms of their work ethic set a great example."

Chavez is a six-time Gold Glove winner who hit .267 with 230 homers and 787 RBIs since being called up in 1998. His last four seasons were cut short by injuries.

The 32-year-old Chavez was playing rehab games in the Arizona Rookie League this season when he had to stop because two bulging disks in his neck became too bothersome each time he batted. It also affected his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Relegated to a designated hitter role this year because of all his injuries, Chavez played in only 33 games. He played eight last season, after only 23 games in 2008 and 90 in '07.

He has undergone five operations since Sept. 5, 2007, including two microdiscectomy surgeries in different spots in his back. He has also undergone three shoulder surgeries.

He said before this year began that if he sustained another serious injury, it would likely be time to walk away from baseball.

Chavez had been experiencing spasms on both sides of his neck since getting hurt during a spring training drill in which a minor leaguer collided with his right shoulder. The impact jerked his neck to the left in what Chavez described as a "whiplash" motion.

Chavez won six straight Gold Gloves at third base from 2001-06. He is a career .267 hitter with 230 home runs and 787 RBIs in 1,320 games.

Next on the to-do list for Forst and GM Billy Beane is hiring a bullpen coach, head athletic trainer and filling the team doctor position. Also, free agency began Tuesday.