Athletics

Athletics

Editor's note: The above video is from Billy Beane's media availability on Oct. 5.

One of the main items on the A’s offseason to-do list is figuring out how to handle third base moving forward.

That might come as a surprise to those who assumed Danny Valencia secured the starting spot with an excellent two-month finish to the 2015 season. But A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said Friday that he still considers Brett Lawrie a possibility there.

Lawrie began last season at third but shifted to second base in August shortly after the arrival of Valencia, who hit .284 and packed 11 homers and 37 RBI into 47 games after being claimed off waivers from Toronto.

“I think our biggest question, (third base is) an ideal spot for Brett too,” Beane told CSN California. “Internally we’ve gotta figure out what’s the best thing for the team. Where’s the best place to play them? That’s Brett’s best position as well. We put Brett at second to get him in the lineup. But Brett would probably tell you he wants to play third base. That’s something we have to figure out.”

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Lawrie came to the A’s last offseason in the Josh Donaldson trade from Toronto, where he had experience playing both positions. He was Oakland’s primary third baseman until Valencia arrived Aug. 3 and began hitting so well that he forced his way into the everyday lineup. Lawrie shifted to second, where at times he put his athleticism to terrific use on plays, while at other times he made mental errors.

 

Lawrie hit .260 with a career-high 16 homers and 60 RBI, and, importantly, stayed off the disabled list for the first time in his career. He did commit a career-high 24 errors – 18 at third – and that overall total was second-most in the American League behind teammate Marcus Semien.

Worth keeping in mind: The revelation of clubhouse chemistry issues that arose during the 2015 season, the A’s desire to rectify those issues, and how that might affect roster decisions.

Valencia, for one, arrived to the A’s with questions about his attitude having surfaced before in his career. And there was chatter among those in team circles about how well Valencia may or may not have meshed after joining Oakland. But whatever chemistry issues existed surely involved more than one player. And it’s undeniable that Valencia’s play on the field delivered a shot in the arm for a team that badly needed it when he arrived. Valencia’s 37 RBI in 47 games are the most in franchise history by a player with fewer than 60 games played, and that production will surely be taken into account when it comes to decisions about third base.

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Beane said that chemistry is a consideration moving forward, partly because the A’s have some promising young players coming up through the farm system, and when they arrive, it’s important they enter a healthy clubhouse environment.

“You’ve got to balance out all of that,” Beane said. “Some of your best players are not always gonna be the best (clubhouse) guys. (But) we’re going to have a lot of young players, and this would apply to everybody -- it’s important to have a good clubhouse atmosphere.”

Lawrie is due to make $3.9 million in arbitration and Valencia $3.4 million (according to projections by mlbtraderumors.com). Were the A’s to trade one of them and play the other at third, it stands to reason they might then be in the market for a second baseman.