Ryon Healy

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.”

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.”

Healy hits home run No. 25, but A's come up short in Boston

Healy hits home run No. 25, but A's come up short in Boston

BOX SCORE

BOSTON -- Drew Pomeranz knew it was likely the last batter he'd face. He figured he had to make one of his best pitches.

Pomeranz threw six innings of one-run ball, finishing by striking out Matt Olson with the bases loaded, and Andrew Benintendi had three hits and drove in three runs to lead the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox past the Oakland Athletics 6-2 on Thursday.

With two outs, a full count and the game tied at 1, Pomeranz got Olson swinging on a high, 92 mph fastball.

"In that big situation, making a big pitch is a huge deal when you can wiggle your way out of a jam" Pomeranz said. "He wasn't chasing the curveball. I got 3-2 on him and I gave all that I have left to make one good pitch and he swung. Luckily, he missed it and that's what I wanted."

The added reward was that his teammates took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the inning, setting him up for the win.

"Another quality start on his part," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "There was a number of big moments in this game and for Drew himself, probably the last pitch he threw today, the strikeout to Olson, that was going to be his last pitch of the day."

Pomeranz (16-5) allowed five hits, walking three and striking out five to raise his record to 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last six starts in Fenway Park. He also tied teammate Chris Sale and two others for the AL lead in victories.

Christian Vazquez hit a solo homer and Mitch Moreland added an RBI double for the Red Sox, who have won six of eight. Boston began the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees.

Ryon Healy hit a solo homer for the A's, who fell for just the second time in eight games. The loss assured Oakland (64-82) of a losing record for the third straight season.

"We had some opportunities, and we had a couple base running mistakes early in the game that cost us," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

Benintendi doubled high off the Green Monster, chasing Daniel Gossett (4-9) and scoring Dustin Pedroia to make it 2-1 in the sixth.

Trailing 1-0, Boston tied it when Vazquez's drive completely left Fenway over the Monster seats leading off the fifth.

The A's had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning on Josh Phegley's sacrifice fly.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: OF Khris Davis left the team to be with his girlfriend for the expected birth of their first child.

Red Sox: LHP David Price (left elbow inflammation) was activated off the 10-day disabled list. He had been sidelined since July 28. Farrell said the plan is for him to work out of the bullpen. ... Farrell inserted 2B Pedroia into the DH spot to get him off his troublesome left knee that landed him on the DL for nearly two weeks last month and sat struggling regular DH Hanley Ramirez.

STREAK CONTINUES

Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 27 games against Oakland. During the streak, which started July 14, 2013, he's batting .421.

FIRST IMPRESSION

Gossett gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings in his first career Fenway start.

"It was awesome. Great environment, tons of people. Historic park," he said. "I got to be a part of something special. Not everybody can say that they pitched at Fenway. I got to sign the (Green) Monster, do everything. So that was special."

RUNNING MISTAKES

The A's had two runners cut down on the bases - Chad Pinder in the third and Mark Canha in the fifth - both on cutoff plays on balls hit to the outfield.

UP NEXT

Athletics: RHP Daniel Mengden (0-1, 7.07 ERA) is set to make his first career start against Philadelphia on Friday when the A's face RHP Mark Leiter Jr. (3-5, 4.84) and the Phillies.

Red Sox: LHP Sale (16-7, 2.76 ERA) is in line to start against Tampa Bay RHP Matt Andriese (5-3, 4.46) Friday when the Red Sox open their final road trip of the regular season. It's scheduled to be the Rays' first home game since Hurricane Irma hit the area last weekend.