Billy Beane

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


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.

New A's ballpark likely wouldn't be as pitcher-friendly as Coliseum


New A's ballpark likely wouldn't be as pitcher-friendly as Coliseum

With all the speculation about where the A’s will build their new ballpark, much less attention has been given to the potential characteristics of the playing field itself.

It appears all of that vast foul territory that is a hallmark of the Coliseum — and such a safety net for pitchers — will be left in the past.

A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said he anticipates the foul ground to be reduced considerably once the A’s start designing the playing surface in a potential new ballpark.

“I think most people would say that you’re trying to create intimacy, so minimizing foul territory is probably the direction most teams and stadiums have gone and are gonna continue to go,” Beane told NBC Sports California. “You want to create an experience for fans that’s as close to the field (as possible).

“Some of that is stuff, it’s utilitarian — what’s the advantage baseball-wise for us? (But) what we would consider as baseball guys, (team president) Dave (Kaval) will be looking at from the fan standpoint.”

Before any of this becomes a factor, the A’s first need to announce their location in Oakland to build. Kaval says that will happen before this calendar year ends. The three locations being considered: one right across the street from the Laney College baseball field, just off Interstate 880; the Howard Terminal site that’s a short walk from Jack London Square; and the current Coliseum site.

Beane said in-depth conversations about the playing field itself have yet to take place, such as the outfield dimensions, location of the bullpens, etc. But he talks as if a much smaller foul territory is a given, and that would mark a significant change for the A’s when they play at home.

Seats at the Coliseum are located so far back from the field, and that spacious foul ground makes the venue arguably the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the majors. Pitchers who join the A’s often comment on the foul territory being a huge positive in their decision to sign with Oakland.

Of course, there’s a flip side. Free agent hitters who get frustrated that so many Coliseum at-bats result in foul pop-outs might view the A’s more favorably if they provide a more hitter-friendly home ballpark.

Beane said he believes he and his baseball operations staff will definitely get their say in what characteristics they want the new field to have. But creating a cozier atmosphere, with fans sitting closer to the action, is a key element for the A’s wherever they build.

“To take fans farther away from the game in this day and age would probably be crazy,” Beane said. “… I think we’re all gonna be on the same page. When you get a new stadium, the reason you build it is to get people to come watch games. You have to keep in mind that the fan experience is probably the first thing.”