Athletics

This A's team will stay intact

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This A's team will stay intact

OAKLAND -- The players weren't the only people taking notice when the sellout crowd gave the A's a standing ovation after their final game. The front office saw it too. "I think we are in good shape," A's general manager Billy Beane said. "The satisfying thing about the crowd's response last night is that they by and large are going to see this team again next year." That has to be a refreshing comment for a fan base used to rooting for laundry instead of the players wearing the uniforms. This team won 94 games, the American League West, has just four free agents and a very low payroll. It seems they are well set up for the future. "If there's moves made the idea would be additions," Beane said. "I've had situations where we've had great season and I knew the team wasn't going to be back though free agency and things like that. To try to continue the momentum in the winter we should be able to build on this next year."
RELATED: A's exit to standing ovation
While fans cringed and lost hope last offseason as All-Stars Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey were traded, now they can see why the moves were made. Those trades brought guys like Josh Reddick, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Ryan Cook, Derek Norris, and stacked the farm system. The reshuffling of the deck has the A's playing a strong hand now. "There certainly were some raised eyebrows going into the season as to what this team might be," Beane said. "To see them from start to finish, despite coming up short last night, to see what they accomplished and what the staff accomplished was somewhat satisfying." Pretty much every important player is cost controlled or already signed. The A's starting outfield isn't going anywhere. Yoenis Cespedes and Reddick won't be free agents until 2016. Coco Crisp is signed through next season. Seth Smith isn't a free agent until 2015. "The pieces are here to carry this forward and the expectations for next year should be higher because of it," Melvin said. The A's pitching staff is in great shape. Brandon McCarthy is a free agent, but the team has expressed interest in bringing him back. Brett Anderson will be back next year, and Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Travis Blackley are all under team control. "The young pitchers were great but because they are so young there's room for improvement," Beane said. "We are going to cryogenically freeze all of our pitchers and tell them not to raise their arms above their hips."The A's have a 4.5 million club option on Grant Balfour for next season. Beane strongly hinted that the A's Australian closer will be raging in Green and Gold next season. "There's some things that seem like common sense, you can pick and choose as to which of those would be considered no brainers," Beane said when asked if Balfour would be back. "Some things you don't have to think too long about they are pretty obvious." The fans may be pessimistic after seeing many of their favorite players unceremoniously shipped out in trades, or not resigned as free agents, but this team really won't require much offseason tinkering. This roster exceeded all expectations and complimentary parts will likely be added in the offseason. The 2012 Oakland Athletics shattered many of the outsiders' expectations. Did they really shock the A's front office? "Privately when we were in Spring Training I think Bob and ourselves thought we were better than everyone was giving credit, but there is no sense in saying that," Beane said. "There's no upside in telling anyone that." "I knew we had a chance to get better and that was the expectation for myself and the staff," Melvin added. "To continually get better throughout the season and kind of find out who you are at the All-Star Break and go from there."
RATTO: Oakland rekindles love affair with baseballThat's pretty much exactly what they did. It started a little earlier than the Mid-Summer Classic though. From June 2, on the A's had a 72-38 record which was the best in baseball. After the All-Star Break the A's led Major League Baseball in home runs and runs scored. They were 13 games back on June 30, and five games back with nine to play, yet they somehow won the American League West. It was a special season. "I've been with plenty of teams, I've been with a World Series team, I've been with a young team in Arizona that won in 2007, but not like this," Melvin said. "This was a very unique group of guys that came together very quickly." Billy Beane was on the 1989 A's. He assembled the A's playoff teams of 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006, heck, Hollywood even made a movie based on what he did in 2002. So if he says this year was special, then you better listen. "Personally for me it was arguably the most enjoyable year I've had," Beane said. "Given the entire baseball season, the winter, the amount of transactions we made."The credit goes to the players. Beane will typically remind you of that point. Yet, this team doesn't stand a chance at doing what it did without the leadership of Bob Melvin. During the A's champagne celebration after winning the AL West, third baseman Josh Donaldson pulled me aside, made sure my recorder was ready and went on an impassioned rant about why Melvin deserves manager of the year. Melvin had that strong of an impression on the team. Every player on the A's would run through a brick wall for Melvin. "Bo-Mel preached it from game one in Spring Training, one game at a time, 27 outs," Cliff Pennington said. "There's a lot of people and a lot of managers that could say something like that and it would just be talk. This team, it was everything we were about." Melvin was communicative, had his lineups posted early every day, openly answered any question asked by the media, and even gave us the microwave in his office so we could heat up our food in the press box. Manager of the Year? Uh, yeah. "Obviously I am biased, but with all do respect, I think Buck Showalter has done a phenomenal job, I can't imagine anyone other than Bob Melvin being manager of the year," Beane said. "That statement from me says it all." Beane's vote of confidence in Melvin is huge. Traditionally the A's GM has employed more passive managers. His hiring of Melvin was a departure from that strategy and it has worked. "When a manager takes a club where the team is expected to lose 100 games and the team wins the toughest division in baseball" Beane said. "I don't know what somebody would have to do to win manager of the year."Melvin is also under team control. He signed a three-year contract prior to this season. The A's had Major League-leading 14 regular season walk-off wins, had the best July (19-5) in franchise history. They tied an Oakland record with 12 consecutive road wins. They had the lowest starting pitcher's ERA (3.48) and bullpen ERA (2.90) in the franchise's last 12 years. "They were pretty amazing," Melvin said. "The turnover and everything that happened during the course of the season, the strength of the organization showed up based on how many guys we did end up using so we are proud of that." The A's have a lot to be proud of. They may have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs but they plan on being back. As players sauntered into the clubhouse to pack up their clubhouse stalls it definitely felt like something was missing. The players, coaches, and clubbies were there, but there was no game to play. "It's a pretty empty day, Melvin said. "I didn't plan on spending my day like this today it never crossed my mind." There remains some questions to be answered. Will Stephen Drew test the open waters of free agency? How does Scott Sizemore fit in at third base with Josh Donaldson? What becomes of Jemile Weeks? Will the A's be able to bring back Jonny Gomes, or make room for Brandon Inge? Does McCarthy choose to come back, will he be ready? What the heck is going on with the A's stadium issue? Perhaps most importantly, can they do it again? We'll find out soon enough.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

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AP

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.