Athletics

Beane: A's 'aren't one player away yet,' focused on ballpark, future

Beane: A's 'aren't one player away yet,' focused on ballpark, future

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Are the A’s searching for a center fielder?

Absolutely.

Will they trade Sonny Gray?

Time will tell.

Those are the main talking points surrounding the current state of this team as the winter meetings unfold along the shores of the Potomac River. But clearly, the future is also on the mind of Billy Beane, the rest of Oakland’s baseball staff and ownership.

Beane said he’s had numerous conversations with A’s principal owner John Fisher, who took over managing partner duties after Lew Wolff stepped down. The result is a big-picture focus in which Beane says more money will be directed toward scouting, player development and international efforts. And that’s a mentality Beane says he truly believes in — it’s not a directive coming down from Fisher.

The goal is to be ready to field a contender, and have the financial capability to retain players, by the time the A’s hope to be moving into a new ballpark.

“It has to be in the back of your mind that if you’re going to rebuild and you’re going to have a (new) venue, you make sure you have a good young team that’s sustainable,” Beane said. “Finding players has never been a challenge for us, it’s retaining them. And we’re operating with the idea that we’re going to be able to retain them.”

If this storyline sounds familiar, it should.

Beane talked of a similar philosophy in years past when the A’s held hopes of building a ballpark in San Jose, which proved to be a false start. But Beane, addressing reporters Tuesday at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, said he senses a purpose behind the A’s current ballpark search that has a different feel to it than past attempts.

“It’s my 29th year here, and I would say right now as much as anytime I feel a real internal momentum that they’re trying to get something done in Oakland,” Beane said. “It’s not something I’m working on — I’ve got my hands full trying to find a center fielder. But I can tell you there’s a real commitment of trying to figure something out.”

A’s fans know to view any ballpark optimism with caution given this odyssey has extended more than a decade without a single pile of dirt being moved. And the reality that Major League Baseball is stripping the A’s of their revenue sharing, a result of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, can’t be ignored. It figures the A’s weren’t going to start spending wildly on big league payroll in light of that news.

But it appears the A’s will invest more in their scouting and player development.

Beane and general manager David Forst said it was too early to gauge what the 2017 payroll would be. The A’s badly need a center fielder and are engaged in trade talks involving Kansas City’s Jarrod Dyson. They could also use a veteran starter, though Beane considers that a secondary task.

What he does feel is vital: Fortifying a scouting department that he claims has languished at the bottom of the majors in terms of manpower.

“There’s a real commitment to invest long term into the operation, and some of it’s gonna be based on David’s and (my) recommendation,” Beane said. “If I personally felt there were one or two players that put us (over the top), I think we’d have full support with the major league payroll. I’m not quite sure we’re ready, so I think maybe some of that investment is better served in building out the operation.

“I just don’t think we’re one player away yet.”

That won’t exactly fire up a fan base that’s waiting for the day the A’s splurge on the major league roster like so many other franchises do. But if you’re worried about Gray being the latest big-name player to be traded, it’s no certainty that will happen.

“Where we are right now, I think we have to listen, consider everything,” Beane said. “What we would like to do long term as much as possible is hold on to the group of our younger players just now starting to get to major leagues. (As far as) a player being untouchable, it’s all sort of relative.

“(But) we didn’t come down here with the idea to trade Sonny Gray. That wasn’t on our to-do list.”

A's Matt Chapman undergoes shoulder surgery, will swing again in six weeks

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USATSI

A's Matt Chapman undergoes shoulder surgery, will swing again in six weeks

Matt Chapman had his second surgery of the offseason on Friday and underwent a successful procedure on his left shoulder, the A's announced. 

The Gold Glove-winning third baseman will begin physical therapy next week, and is expected to be able to swing a bat in six weeks, according to Dr. William Workman, who performed the surgery. Six weeks from the surgery is Jan. 25, 2019, or about two weeks before the start of spring training. 

Chapman recently felt discomfort in his shoulder during off-season workouts, according to the A's. In October, Chapman underwent surgery on his left thumb, and was expected to make a full recovery. 

Chapman emerged as one of the most important A's last season, and arguably the best defender in baseball. He led all of MLB with 29 defensive runs saved, and was voted the winner of the AL Platinum Glove. 

The A's need his glove -- and his bat -- healthy for spring training, no matter how the rest of the offseason shakes out. 

A's in no hurry to sign starting pitchers as MLB free agency progresses

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AP

A's in no hurry to sign starting pitchers as MLB free agency progresses

Right at the beginning of this offseason, A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane identified starting pitching as the club's top priority. General manager David Forst and manager Bob Melvin both echoed that sentiment.

So why has the team yet to add a single starting pitcher?

"I don't think there's a need to be knee-jerk right now because some of these guys will still be on the board till the end," Melvin said at the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings this week in Las Vegas. "Our guys have been pretty good about identifying the right fits here. So it doesn't look great right now as far as our rotation, but I think our guys have a pretty good handle on it."

Added Forst: "We have sort of targeted conversations, free agents and trades, and kind of go at our own pace. I don't know that any external forces are going to change that."

[RELATED: Sources: A's, Kelley's reps have 'positive dialogue']

The A's did meet with several agents at the winter meetings, and they remain interested in a handful of starters, including Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson from last year's squad.

But while some teams feel a sense of urgency to wheel and deal at the winter neetings, Oakland preferred to take a more cautious approach.

"There are certainly good things about being [at the winter meetings], but we also want to get out, look at what we've done in the light of day and make sure it's the right thing," Forst explained.

Said Beane: "Things don't always get done [at the winter meetings], but a lot of groundwork is laid and a lot of things happen right after."

That explanation might not satisfy fans, but the strategy has worked for Oakland in the past. Last year, the A's waited until March to sign Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. They didn't add Edwin Jackson until June.

Even if other teams go out and spend big money on starting pitchers, Oakland won't let that affect its negotiations.

"We kind of set our price," Forst said. "We know what we can do within the confines of our payroll and try to stay on that."

[RELATED: Former A's top pick goes No. 1 overall in Rule 5 Draft]

As for the current roster, the A's actually do already have five or six viable starters. Everyone in the organization agrees top prospect Jesús Luzardo is ready to pitch at the big-league level. Add Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt and Paul Blackburn, and you have a starting five.

The A's also recently acquired 25-year-old right-hander Tanner Anderson from the Pirates, and they expect him to compete for a rotation slot. 22-year-old righty Grant Holmes is another possibility.

Of course, some of Oakland's best pitchers are injured, though prospect A.J. Puk and Jharel Cotton should be able to return midway through the season.

"We feel really good about the depth we have," Melvin said. "Now, granted, a lot of these guys are hurt right now, and you never really know how you're going to respond. But there's a whole host of guys who are going to be back (between) spring training (and) the end of the year that we're really excited about."

That's not to say the A's will fail to add a few more starters to the mix, either through free agency or trade. It just might not happen as soon as fans would like.

But remember, it's a long offseason.