Chad Pinder

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.”

A's power past Phillies, flex their way to series win on the road

A's power past Phillies, flex their way to series win on the road

BOX SCORE

PHILADELPHIA -- Joey Wendle hit a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning to lift the Oakland Athletics to a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.

Wendle was one of three rookies to hit a home run for the Athletics. With the Athletics trailing 3-2 with two outs in the sixth, Wendle lined the first pitch he saw from reliever Edubray Ramos into the right-field seats, quieting the crowd of 28,054. Oakland had loaded the bases with two walks and a single. The grand slam was Wendle's first home run of the season and the second of his career.

Fellow rookies Chad Pinder and Matt Olson hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning, erasing an early 2-0 deficit. Olson has homered in three consecutive games and has 17 home runs since Aug. 11.

Sean Manaea (11-10) lasted five innings to earn the win. He gave up three runs and struck out four. Five Oakland relievers combined to throw four hitless innings to preserve the win. Blake Treinen picked up his 11th save after a scoreless ninth.

Phillies starter Henderson Alvarez (0-1) made his first start since May 22, 2015 when he was with the Miami Marlins. He worked into the sixth inning but allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base and was removed. Both runners scored on Wendle's grand slam.

The Phillies scored first on a fielding error by Matt Chapman in the first inning. Maikel Franco had three hits, including two RBI singles.

Oakland improved to 66-83 with the victory and has won eight of its last 11 games. The Phillies dropped to 58-91.

LONG TIME COMING

Alvarez missed over two seasons while returning from shoulder surgeries. He signed with but never pitched for the Athletics last year and spent the beginning of 2017 with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League before the Phillies signed him.

RECORD USAGE

Alvarez became the 31st pitcher used by the Phillies this season. That broke a team record set in 2015.

UP NEXT

Athletics: RHP Jharel Cotton (8-10, 5.81) takes the hill Monday to start the Athletics' three-game set vs. the Tigers, who will throw RHP Buck Farmer (4-3, 6.62) in Detroit.

Phillies: RHP Nick Pivetta (5-10, 6.75) pitches Monday at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who toss National League ERA leader LHP Clayton Kershaw (17-3, 2.12). Pivetta debuted against the Dodgers in April, allowing two runs in five innings.

Kaval: 'Signing the nucleus' of A's young talent will be key for new ballpark

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USATI

Kaval: 'Signing the nucleus' of A's young talent will be key for new ballpark

BOSTON — A’s president Dave Kaval believes the team has the ideal location to build a new ballpark.

He’s also confident the A’s current core of young players will become the seasoned group of veterans that ushers in that new ballpark, which is slated to open for the 2023 season if all goes according to plans the A’s unveiled Wednesday.

“I think the biggest thing you’re going to see, and it’s something (V.P. of baseball ops) Billy (Beane) has talked about, is really signing the nucleus of young players,” Kaval said in a phone interview Thursday. “We’re aiming to have them through the arbitration, and even the free agent years. We want to have those players together as a unit as we break ground and then move in.”

Figure that group could include players such as Ryon Healy, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder (who’ll all be eligible for free agency leading into that 2023 season), Matt Chapman (2024) and perhaps others. Those baseball-oriented decisions will come with time. Before they do, Kaval and the A’s have to push the ballpark project down the road from concept to reality.

That’s far from a given. The A’s settled on a site in Oakland currently occupied by the Peralta Community College District headquarters, just off Interstate 880 and down the block from Laney College. They need to negotiate a deal to buy the land; satisfy the concerns of the surrounding business owners and residents near the potential site; complete environmental impact reports; and get construction underway. The A’s don't plan for the first shovel to hit dirt until 2021.

“There’s a long road ahead of us,” Kaval said. “There will be good days and bad days. We’re celebrating and at the same time rolling up the sleeves.”

Though the A’s will be moving from the relative isolation of the Coliseum complex into a more urban setting on the edge of downtown Oakland, they aim to keep the game-day experience similar in some respects.

Many fans are curious about whether there will be areas for tailgating. Kaval says yes: Some in traditional parking lots, some in picnic areas that will be located near parking structures.

“Obviously the space won’t be as big as the Coliseum, but I think we can do it where it can be a win for everybody,” he said, noting that fans will have dining options within walking distance of the new ballpark that don’t exist at the Coliseum.

The nod to some of the franchise’s all-time greats will carry over, with the playing surface at the new venue to be called Rickey Henderson Field as it is now. There’s also the possibility of an A’s Hall of Fame.

As the A’s were considering multiple sites to build around Oakland, one concern over the Peralta/Laney site was a lack of parking in the immediate area. The A’s plan to build parking structures, but Kaval also thinks an advantage of being closer to downtown is that there will be more parking available around the city, and with cars likely to be spread out more, traffic congestion will be lighter.

Weather also played a key role in the A’s choosing Peralta. Candlestick Park-like conditions were feared at Howard Terminal, right on the water. Peralta isn’t subject to the marine layer that can sometimes require fans to bring jackets to Coliseum night games.

“Peralta really was the Goldilocks site with the weather — not too hot, not too cold,” Kaval said.

While still calling the Coliseum home for the next five seasons, the A’s will keep making upgrades to the aging facility as they have in 2017.

“We have a lot of that on tap for next year as well,” Kaval said. “And every year here we’ll continue to do that, to make sure people have a reason to come here now, and to test things (for the new ballpark). We may learn something here.”