Billy Beane

Despite stadium uncertainty, Beane stands by long-term plan for A's youngsters

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USATSI

Despite stadium uncertainty, Beane stands by long-term plan for A's youngsters

The deterioration of ballpark talks at the Peralta site won’t affect the A’s grand plan on the baseball side of things.

At least that’s what vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane told reporters Monday as the Winter Meetings opened in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The A’s promoted a number of highly regarded minor leaguers last season who showed promise that they could be future foundation pieces. Along those lines, Beane and his staff planned to target some of those youngsters for long-term contract extensions, with an eye toward generating momentum as a new ballpark was built near downtown Oakland.

The A’s will still look to lock up some of those players, Beane said, even after last week’s news that the Peralta Community College District board halted negotiations for the team to build a new ballpark on land that sits near Laney College.

“I think it’s still a strategy we try to embark on,” Beane said of signing young players.

Consider third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson, who both entrenched themselves last season as rookies, as two obvious candidates for long-term deals at some point. But they aren’t the only two.

When could the first deals come?

“Realistically, the sooner the better,” Beane said. “Certainly we’ve got between now and spring training to introduce the idea. But probably more sooner than later.”

It’s an uncertain time for this franchise. Will the A’s look elsewhere to build in Oakland? They don’t seem thrilled with the idea of revisiting the current Coliseum site or Howard Terminal as possible locations. Could majority owner John Fisher consider selling? And if so, does that open the door to the franchise leaving the Bay Area? It doesn’t seem any scenario should be counted out right now.

No one representing the club, including team president Dave Kaval, has spoken publicly about ballpark plans since the Peralta talks abruptly ended Wednesday.

As far as baseball operations go, it only makes sense to continue down the path that they recently committed to. The only bad course of action for the A’s is not to take any action at all.

Beane and general manager David Forst need to stay the course and continue their commitment to young players, crossing their fingers that the business side of the operation can pivot and find a new direction for building a ballpark.

Beane: Signing A's young core long-term is already being discussed

Beane: Signing A's young core long-term is already being discussed

OAKLAND — Judging from the comments of Billy Beane and David Forst during their season-ending press conference Monday, it’s obvious the A’s top two baseball officials are pleased with the long-range direction their club is headed.

That plan definitely includes locking up some of their young cornerstone players with long-term contracts at some point, and Beane says those conversations already are happening.

“First, we want to make sure we’re identifying the right guys,” said Beane, Oakland’s executive VP of baseball operations. “I’ll just say it’s probably a conversation we’ve already started. We’ve had that discussion already. It’s going to be important for us to do it.”

Surely such talk is music to the ears of A’s fans who have grown accustomed to watching the team’s top players either get traded or sign with other teams in free agency. Signing multiple young players to long-term deals would represent a shift in organizational philosophy.

But that’s exactly what A’s president Dave Kaval, the front office and manager Bob Melvin have been talking about throughout this past season — there’s a commitment that things will be run differently and the A’s will try to retain some of their best talent moving forward.

However, the execution will be tricky given the team isn’t planning for its new ballpark to open until 2023, and that’s assuming no hurdles delay the project. Beane talks about the need to have a competitive team stocked with homegrown players ready by the time the A’s move into that ballpark. But how can the team start making a financial commitment to players when that anticipated ballpark is still so far down the road?

“When you’re talking about building a club for a stadium that’s six years off, and if you’re talking about locking them up, then you’re looking to have to lock them up for a long time,” Beane said. “So that’s sort of the trick and the balance that we have to address this offseason, if we’re going to embark on that.

“I think right now we’ve just got to operate that (the ballpark) is going to happen (on time). The other option is one we’ve done my entire career here, which is constant churn. I’m churned out.”

The young players that figure to warrant consideration for long-term deals include, but aren’t relegated to, designated hitter Ryon Healy, third baseman Matt Chapman, first baseman Matt Olson and utility man Chad Pinder. And it’s not like they all have to be inked right away.

Healy, Olson and Pinder won’t even become eligible for salary arbitration until the winter before the 2020 season. They’ll be due for free agency heading into the 2023 season, and Chapman’s timeline is a year behind those three. On the flip side, the earlier the A’s can get guys locked up, the more team-friendly those deals are likely to be from a cost standpoint.

It’s the young core of position-player talent, and the belief that other top prospects (pitchers and hitters) aren’t far away from the bigs, that drives the A’s optimism. A 17-7 finish put a positive spin on a 75-87 overall record and another last-place finish in the AL West.

One area the A’s will certainly look to address this offseason is their starting rotation, which could use a veteran innings-eater. But Beane and Forst were pleased with how several of their young prospects emerged and complemented productive veterans such as Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce.

“We have a long way to go, but anytime you have young players, you have a chance to get better,” Forst said. “I don’t think we put any ceiling on that. I think we wait and see where it goes. But these guys believe in themselves. They have a manager that believes in them, and they have talent. So all of those things go a long way toward getting better.”

Beane explains Melvin's extension: 'We couldn’t have a better man' as manager

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AP

Beane explains Melvin's extension: 'We couldn’t have a better man' as manager

ARLINGTON, Texas — As the A’s continue their youth movement on the field, they feel their current man in the dugout is the right guy to lead that charge. Manager Bob Melvin was given a one-year extension Thursday that takes his contract through the 2019 season. That means he’ll get the chance to continue guiding a young core that’s generated some optimism with a strong September.

“We couldn’t have a better man for the position than Bob,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive V.P. of baseball operations. “He comes to the park everyday with the same mindset, no matter who he’s got on the roster. He finds a way to be prepared.”

It’s been a rough go for the A’s since a three-year run of postseason appearances from 2012-14. They’ll need to sweep the Rangers in Arlington in a season-ending four-game series that began Thursday night to avoid a third consecutive last-place finish.

Along the way, their roster constantly has been in flux. The trade of four All-Stars before the 2015 season, including third baseman Josh Donaldson, was a drastic makeover. Each season since then has brought the trade of numerous veterans at the July deadline as the team has faded from contention.

However, a group of highly regarded position-player prospects has arrived at different points over the past season-and-a-half, including designated hitter Ryon Healy, third baseman Matt Chapman, first baseman Matt Olson and utility man Chad Pinder. That group has won together in the minors and is showing signs of being a core that the A’s can build around moving forward.

Since being hired in June 2011 to replace Bob Geren, Melvin has been awarded a three-year extension and a pair of two-year extensions prior to this. His current deal was set to expire after next season, and extending him removes that as a potential storyline as the year unfolds.

“I appreciate it from (principal owner) John (Fisher) all the way to Billy and (GM) David (Forst),” Melvin said. “Everybody for the fact that they have the faith in me to keep me around for another year.”

Beane, Forst and Melvin are all on contracts that run through 2019. The logical expectation is that the A’s can finally start making an upward climb in the American League West standings.

“We’ve had a little down period here after a three-year upswing,” Melvin said. “We’re moving in the right direction, definitely. I don’t want to put a number on what we expect next year. Certainly there will be some moves this offseason to try to enhance the roster as well. But I’m really excited about the potential we have here.”

Beane said he’s been encouraged by the play of the youngsters the A’s have promoted, and they “look forward to further integrating young players over the next year. We’ve got a number of kids knocking on the door.”

Melvin is one of just seven managers in history to win Manager of the Year awards in both leagues. He did so in 2007 with Arizona and the A’s in 2012.