David Forst

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 win thriller, set course for future with arrival of Matt Chapman

A's win thriller, set course for future with arrival of Matt Chapman

OAKLAND — At the end of an extremely long day, the A’s were rewarded with their fifth walk-off victory of the season.

Moving forward, Thursday’s events will be remembered much more for what happened before the A’s even took the field against the New York Yankees, and how those decisions could help shape their future.

Longtime pitching coach Curt Young, a part of the organization for 33 years as a player and coach, was shown the exit, replaced by bullpen coach Scott Emerson. Veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe was designated for assignment, ending his short tenure in an A’s uniform and making way for highly regarded prospect Matt Chapman to assume the everyday third base job.

What a contrast of emotions heading into Thursday night’s game: It was an ending of sorts, with the departure of two very popular clubhouse presences in Young and Plouffe. But it was also a new beginning, with Chapman soaking up the atmosphere of his major league debut and very much expected to be a part of the A’s long-term future.

General manager David Forst acknowledged the A’s youth movement that has gradually been set in motion.

“You look out on the field, it’s obvious what’s going on,” he said before the A’s 8-7 victory over New York in 10 innings. “Jaycob (Brugman) came up over the weekend. Daniel (Gossett) came up to pitch. Matt’s here now. It’s time for us to see some of these guys. I don’t have a timeframe for anyone (to be promoted) beyond Matthew.

"But it’s clear, starting frankly, with Ryon (Healy) last year at the All-Star break, and Chad (Pinder) earlier this season, that we have some opportunity for these guys and it’s up to them to see what they can do. … We’re not bringing them up to sit.”

It was an emotional start to A’s manager Bob Melvin’s day. Breaking the news to Young, who’s been Oakland’s pitching coach for all but one season since 2004, was not easy. Melvin called Young “maybe my closest confidant” on the job. Melvin added that a key with his roster now is finding the right mix of youth and veterans that can contribute to keeping the A’s (28-38) a competitive bunch with 3 1/2 months of season left.

But the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline likely will alter the roster even more, with second baseman Jed Lowrie, first baseman Yonder Alonso and perhaps starter Sonny Gray among those who could be dealt.

Melvin was asked about the shift toward promoting younger players that will continue, with middle infielder Franklin Barreto and first baseman Matt Olson among those that figure to eventually join the big league club.

“That’s the direction,” Melvin said, “and this is a group of guys we kind of identified a couple of years ago, a core group of guys we feel like we can build around into the future.”

The A’s turned in one of their strangest games of the season Thursday, letting four different leads slip away, then eventually walking off in the 10th on Khris Davis’ two-out two-run bloop single that glanced off the glove of Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro. Gray, who gave up three runs over 5 1/3 innings, said players couldn’t afford to be distracted by the personnel and coaching staff shakeup.

“There were definitely a lot of things going on around here,” Gray said. “But at the same time, when it gets to 7 o’clock, we kind of have to focus on the task at hand.”

Chapman went 0-for-3 with two walks, scoring the first run of his career but striking out against Yankees closer Dellin Betances with the bases loaded and the game tied in the ninth. He also showed off his terrific throwing arm, rifling a throw across the diamond to retire Aaron Judge in the seventh.

Before the game, the 24-year-old Chapman described the excitement of his first big league call-up.

“I don’t know if it all really hit me until I got to the field today, showing up and seeing your jersey in the locker,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. definitely a dream come true.”

Forst said he’s hopeful Chapman, a first-round pick in 2014, can provide the stellar defense he’s been known for throughout his minor league career, adding that the A’s will be patient with any growing pains in the batter’s box.

“We’ve said all along that we wanted to give him time to develop so when he came here, he was more than ready,” Forst said. “Whether or not that’s the case, he’s here now. It’s his time to play.”

A's not rushing Barreto despite Semien's injury: 'That time is not now'

A's not rushing Barreto despite Semien's injury: 'That time is not now'

OAKLAND — The long-term wrist injury to shortstop Marcus Semien does not mean the A’s will rush top prospect Franklin Barreto to the majors.

Semien will be sidelined into June at least after he undergoes surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured scaphoid bone in his wrist. But A’s general manager David Forst said that doesn’t mean Barreto’s timetable at Triple-A Nashville gets accelerated.

“He has all of 59 at-bats at Triple-A,” Forst said Monday afternoon. “Let’s be fair to the kid and let him get the development he needs. When the right time comes, we’ll consider it. But that time is not now.”

Barreto, 21, has impressed enough in major league spring camp to suggest his time is coming very soon. He spent the large majority of last season with Double-A Midland, and the A’s want him to log more time with Nashville and continue to play innings at both shortstop and second base.

He entered Monday’s play hitting .310 with two homers and eight RBI in 11 games with Nashville. Worth noting, he’s struck out 15 times in 42 at-bats, more than one-third of the time. He’s committed one error, having played eight games at short and three at second.

Shortstop has been Barreto’s primary position in professional baseball, though some scouts feel he’s better suited for second base long term.

Forst was asked how long he thinks Barreto needs at Triple-A.

“It’s hard to say,” he responded. “It’s not science, it’s an art, knowing when a player is ready. We’ve had enough guys come through that they’ll tell you when they’re ready. You look at what Healy did last year, his performance told us when he’s ready. You hope that the player forces your hand and says it’s time.”

The A’s current plan is for Adam Rosales to get the majority of time at short with Chad Pinder also seeing some time there.